2008-03-14 / Sports

Rockaway Fisheads Kickoff Rugby Play-offs At Home

The Rockaway Fisheads will attempt to parlay their Division 2 Regular Season Rugby Championship into play-off success this Saturday at Fort Tilden.

A perennial play-off club with an impressive won lost margin over the last 5 seasons, the locals have yet to take the next step and win at the stepped-up post season level.

Having lost some very close and some not-so-close play-off decisions both at home and on the road in recent years, the Fisheads are confident this year will be different.

"We were 3 points from being undefeated in our league last season. A tie and a 1 point loss on the road were all the difference. Do the math. We very nearly had a perfect season." So said a somewhat tense Grouch McCann to this reporter last Saturday at the team's training headquarters on the grounds of Fort Tilden.

Rockaway had just finished a practice match against the Division 1 powerhouse, Long Island RFC, in preparation for this week's showdown vs. the visiting Bayonne Bombers. Rockaway was throttled by the elite Long Island side but McCann had a reason for matching his team against the Division 1 power.

"When a fighter prepares for a tough bout, he brings in tough sparring partners. We have a friendly relationship with the Long Island club and have watched them grow into what they are today," McCann said.

"They are ranked #25 in the entire nation, according to the latest issue of Rugby Magazine. That is an incredible ranking. It was only a few short years ago that we were beating them fairly regularly in Division 2. They got younger, better and moved up after winning Division 2 a few years back."

McCann said this tough matchup should get the Fisheads fired up to play.

"Now they are a power in Division 1. Who better to get us ready for a playoff match? We didn't expect to beat them and we didn't. We expected to learn a few things, be competitive and shake off the rust.

"We did those things and more than held our own physically. Mission accomplished. We got just what we needed from the match and we thank them for their help."

Coach Bob Johnson concurred with the Grouch and shared his optimism.

"We have the problem of the northeast weather to contend with. We finish up a fall season and have to wait for spring to play our play-off matches. Needless to say, you can and do lose whatever edge you may have had," Johnson said. The play-offs match the best clubs after a long winter lay-off. The Fisheads are looking to get their groove back, and this match with Long Island will pay dividends for the next match against Bayonne.

The visiting Bombers have always been a troublesome opponent for Rockaway, although the Fisheads have won the most recent meetings.

Kick-off is at 1:00 p.m. with a post match party to follow. Be there and support the Fisheads as they begin their play-off drive for a championship long overdue.

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