Rugby United New York defeated the New England Free Jacks 29-19 in a Major League Rugby Eastern Conference match on Sunday, May 23 at Cochrane Stadium in Jersey City, N.J. The match was broadcast on CBS Sports and internationally on The Rugby Network.
It was a grilling day, yet the fans from the New York and New England areas flowed to Cochrane Stadium and baked in the humid, sunny day with temperatures over 90 degrees. There was a sizeable crowd who witnessed Rugby United New York U23 Academy claiming a narrow 28-26 win over the New England Free Jacks Academy U23s, which preceded the MLR match.
The Academy teams will meet again when New York travels to New England to play the Free Jacks.
Photos below: Keith Killeen and New England Free Jacks of Academy teams.
The Eastern Conference saw some separation after week 10. With the win, Rugby United New York stays in second place, while the New England Free Jacks drop to sixth. In this very competitive conference, teams will need to play their best for the remaining 7 matches, as the standings have flipped during the season.
Rugby United New York opened the scoring after mauling after two Free jacks penalties. New York’s Nick Civetta was a key ariel target and team captain Dylan Fawsitt displayed his try-scoring form of the 2019 season. Harry Bennett added the extras to take a 7-0 lead in the 7th minute.
Five minutes later after a RUNY scrum, the ball moving quickly wide left and New England was penalized at the breakdown for a player not supporting their weight. Andy Ellis quickly tapped and Ben Bonasso offloaded to Joel Miranda for a try to push the lead to 12-0 after Harry Bennett’s conversion attempt drifted wide left in the strong wind.
It was then New England’s turn to attack with RUNY defending well, despite under pressure. Ben Foden punished Beaudein Waaka with a crunching tackle, which took him a while to shake off the hit. The Free Jacks had an attacking lineout 5-meters out after a penalty advantage with Joe Johnston powering his way over for a try. After John Poland’s conversion, the score was 12-7.
New York surprised the Free Jacks with a restart grub kick by Bennet, which was recovered by New York. The attack had Apensia Cakaubalavu motoring down the left wide channel to within a few meters of in-goal. Two Free Jacks penalties later, Cakaubalavu finished with a try to push the lead to 17-7.
In the 34th minute, RUNY advanced the ball to the Free Jacks’s 22-meter line, but Nick Civetta knocked on during the tackle and left the match with an injury. He was replaced by Kara Pryor with Evan Mintern shifting to lock.
The Free Jacks suddenly had RUNY on their back foot in the scrum and after the penalty, mauled from a lineout from midfield. New York’s attempt to stop the ball was for naught, with Wian Conradie seizing the ball and going to the blindside for a try in the right corner, 17-12. This score held up before halftime.
For most of the first half, New York’s set pieces were dominant. The Free Jacks were also penalized numerous times at the breakdown. Credit New England for turning the late momentum around as they entered the break.
The opening restart found Will Leonard being drilled by Aleki Morris-Lome while he was catching the ball in the air, resulting in a yellow card for the latter,
During a Free Jacks’attack, an offload went to the ground, and Hanco Germishuys grubbed ahead. he chased and tackled Waaka and created a turnover. The ball shifted from Kara Pryor to Ben Foden to Harry Bennett for a try and in the 43rd minute, New York claimed a bonus point with their 4th try. Bennett’s conversion, however, was ruled no good but appeared to curl over the posts, 22-12.
The match was a physical one and Beaudein Waaka will be sore after the match. He lingered on the ground for some time after a punishing Cakaubalavu tackle, which was ruled to be a no-wrap one. The Free Jacks attacked from a lineout and following a quick tap after a penalty by New York, Wian Conradie dove over the ruck for a try in the left corner with Beaudein Waaka converting to cut the lead to 22-19.
The ensuing short restart kick was claimed by Cakaubalavu and a chase was contested with Apensia tackled by Johnston. A RUNY intercept attempt had Conradie and Cakaubalavu shoving each other with the latter being sent to the bin after his retaliation.
A Free jacks penalty for hands in the ruck, had New York attacking from a lineout from short-range with Kyle Sumsion gathering and Dylan Fawsitt scoring a brace from the maul. Chris Mattina added the extras to lead 29-19.
That’s the way it would end and RUNY returned to the top of the Eastern Conference standings for a few hours before Rugby ATL’s victory over Seattle.
Both teams will be involved in Memorial weekend Eastern Conference matches. On Saturday, May 29, the Free Jacks will host the Toronto Arrows at Union Point Stadium at 4 pm ET, and on Sunday, Rugby United New York travels to face Old Glory DC at Segra Field in Leesburg, Virginia at 1 pm.
Team’s need to be resilient during matches as injuries and tactics may be a factor. Andy Ellis, who was MLR’s selection as the Man of the Match, switched to flyhalf when Conor McManus entered the match and Harry Bennett left. The impending international tests will also see some adjustments with players departing during the playoff push near the end of the MLR season. New York will likely be the most impacted team in the league with several players targeted. Country announcements should follow soon.
The league and referees are to be commended for being able to listen to an explanation of penalties when viewing broadcasts or streams. That is not always accessible when attending matches and sometimes will view a match that I’ve witnessed on replay for these explanations.
Yesterday I asked non-officiating MLR referees to clarify a specific play. They were accommodating and the explanation provided demonstrates that referee interpretation is really an art.
What is apparent also to viewers, is the work that needs to be done before and after matches. The post padding needs to be assembled and taken down, water distributed, … These tasks are handled by players that are not on the matchday roster. It doesn’t matter whether that person is a star or an hourly player, or if it is a staff member. Rugby is a team game and the responsibilities are shared.
With the Summer heating up and people making plans, consider attending the Rugby United New York next home matches on Sunday, June 13, against Rugby ATL at 2 pm and on Saturday, June 19 against Utah Warriors at 2:30 pm. Both are contending teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences, respectively.
Rugby United New York will conclude their regular-season home matches in July with 2 pm Saturday matches against Houston SaberCats and NOLA Gold on the 10th and 17th, respectively.
Squads with Player Article Links & Match Preview
Rugby United New York: 1 James Rochford 2 Dylan Fawsitt 3 Samu Tawake 4 Nate Brakeley 5 Nick Civetta 6 Hanco Germishuys 7 Ben Bonasso 8 Evan Mintern 9 Andy Ellis (c) 10 Harry Bennett 11 Apenisa Cakaubalavu 12 Will Leonard 13 Fa’asiu Fuatai 14 Joel Miranda 15 Ben Foden 16 Rob Irimescu 17 Anthony Parry 18 Wilton Rebolo 19 Kyle Sumsion 20 Kyra Pryor 21 Conor McManus 22 Quinn Ngawati 23 Chris Mattina
New England Free Jacks: 1 Quentin Newcomer 2 Pieter Jansen 3 Erich de Jager 4 Josh Larsen (c) 5 Jackson Thiebes 6 Justin Johnson 7 Joe Johnston 8 Wian Conradie 9 John Poland 10 Harrison Boyle 11 Harry Barlow 12 Aleki Morris Lome 13 Dougie Fife 14 Poasa Waqanibau 15 Beaudein Waaka (VC) 16 Vili Toluta’u 17 Spencer Krueger 18 Kyle Ciquera19 Tera Mtembu 20 Evan Geist 21 Tom Brusati 22 Ewan Brumwell 23 Tuidraki Samusamuvodre