NEW ENGLAND SHINES BRIGHT IN CLOSE MATCH WITH RUNY
- Free Jacks defeated 35-38
- First match sets up future rivalry with New York
- New England gets its first taste of professional rugby before an action-packed spring schedule
South Weymouth, MA – History was made this weekend when the New England Free Jacks took on Rugby United New York in their first ever home event at Union Point Sports Complex. The preseason scrimmage was a tune-up for both sides with differing timelines, as New York will enter Major League Rugby this coming January with the Free Jacks formally joining the following year. The game featured a modified format for development, with four quarters of 20 minutes and 25+ players a side.
The match kicked off with New England threatening in New York’s half. However, a quick turn of events saw Rugby United gain possession and cross the pitch and score the first try of the day. The score would remain 7-0 for the remainder of the first quarter as both sides battled back and forth. Early in the second quarter, the Free Jacks powered down the field thanks to a 20-meter maul to position themselves in a threatening spot. Eventually, inside center Peter Lupton stiff-armed a player and dragged two more into the try zone to score the first points of the day for New England. Captain Tadhg Leader hit the conversion to tie the match up. New York would eventually respond by pounding it in with their forwards. At the end of the half, with RUNY down a player due to a yellow card, Lupton found himself with the ball again near the try zone. A hard dummy fake opened up a line in the defense, and he dove through to score his second try of the day. Leader tied up the match at 14 as both sides regrouped for halftime.
Coming out in the third quarter, RUNY quickly scored two tries to jump out to a margin of 14-28. The Free Jacks showed their grit and responded to the sudden deficit. Off of a scrum, Leader swung it out wide to former AIC player Christian Adams who fended off a player to dot it down in the quarter. Leader continued his streak of successful conversions. Again, Leader took the role of a playmaking number 10 by kicking ahead to winger Steve Dazzo who offloaded well to fullback Danny Collins who finished off a highlight reel try. Leader tied up the score to go into the final period.
Shortly after restarting, RUNY regained the lead with another try. New England responded when Adams blocked and picked up a RUNY punt. After being passed through the hands, Ahmad Harajly found himself with the ball and ran through a defender to get the home side on the board again. Leader impressively hit his final conversion to stay a perfect 5 for 5 on the day, with 4 conversions coming from near the touchline. The match remained at a stalemate for ten minutes until New York converted a penalty to go up by three. With no time remaining, the Free Jacks regained possession off the kickoff. However, after three minutes of continuous phase play, the ball was knocked on to end the match. The final score was New York 38-35 New England.
With only a handful of weeks of practice under its belt, the Free Jacks put on an impressive performance that demonstrated the potential of the club and the strength of rugby in the region. Captain Tadhg Leader was named the man of the match through his ability to threaten defenses and create game-changing plays through his kicking abilities. Danny Collins held the last line of defense at fullback by making a number of hard-hitting stops. Forwards Owen Hundt and Diego Maquieira were a danger to the defense with the ball in hand which provided steady go forward for New England’s attack. The 17 reserve players introduced into the match maintained a high level of play and cohesiveness which speaks to the strength of the Free Jacks’ depth.
The Free Jacks will head into 2019 with high spirits thanks to a strong on-field performance and an even stronger fan presence at the match. The boisterous crowd of over 700 strong was treated to a fantastic exhibition, with a local brewery and food trucks providing a memorable game experience. The club will now turn its attention to the Spring Series against the Irish provincial “A” sides. Location and ticketing details on these events will be released in January 2019.