NEW YORK, NY – Without question, the New York Rugby Club‘s Annual Thanksgiving 7s Tournament is the standard for which all others should aspire. Truly, a magnificent Rugby Day – one in which the smiles were as bright and fresh as the sun-splashed pitches of this beautifully refurbished rugby oasis that New York City’s Randall’s Island has become. The weather trumped all superlatives while the views were tres magnifique and the rugby was simply excellent. As far as these events go, this one was sublime.
From the burgers, dogs and chili being cooked fresh in what longtime NYRC member Jim Witter calls, “The Engine Room,” to the kits and costumes of the squads and fans from as far as Fiji, there was one happy face after the next.
The respective Cup Winners certainly had their share of the happy faces, especially for the Schuylkill River Exiles and NYRC Women, who earned top honors on the day:
Men’s Premier: Schuylkill River Exiles (PA) 33 – Old Blue (NY) 19
Women’s Premier: New York Rugby Club (NY, US)
Men’s Club: CRQ Sevens (QC, CAN) 15 – Brantford 12
Men’s Social: Brome Lake Ducks (QC, CAN) 21 – Mount Baron 19
Women’s Social: Olde Love (NYRC, US) 5 – Ottawa 0
Men’s Collegiate: Stony Brook (NY, US) 21 – BOHICA 10
Women’s Collegiate: Falcons (MA, US) 21 – Yukon 10
Boys U19: NJ Blaze (NJ, US) 38 – Greenwich 7
Girls U19: Beaconsfield Red (QC, CAN) 17 – Hull-Volant Girls 10
Yet, while the above and all other winners and finalists (which you can see by clicking this) were indeed smiling smiley faces, this tournament was not unlike the Rugby World Cup in terms of a referee, a team the fans fell in love with and a controversial player-ejection penalty!
The NYRC Old Starzz, with an average age of 44 years, defied all Sevens Logic by making it to the Bowl Final of the Men’s Social Division by not playing 7s. Their opponents in that final??? The plucky French PARCO ensemble from Quebec, Canada with an average age of… 24.
After getting walloped in the first match of the day, the Old Starzz regrouped and played 15s style rugby within a 7s framework. With their player/coach imploring them to “Tear their limbs off and beat them with the bloody stumps!” the ancient warriors simply controlled the ball and went on to roll-over their next three unsuspecting and unbelieving younger opponents.
The crowd believed, however, and with a cold pint of McSorley’s Ale and a chance at history beckoning, this ragtag bunch now faced their biggest challenge yet: PARCO – the biggest things out of Canada since Loverboy.
The pitch for this now-historic match favored the young Canadians – it was the speedy Field Turf that benefits young legs. The NYRC contingent preferred the old stuff – grass – but they were not about to let a pitch or another reality check from Father Time keep them from their date with destiny. The whistle sounded and with a gasp from the crowd, this epic battle was on. [Sidenote: It’s been said that Gordon Tietjens, the legendary coach of the New Zealand 7s Team, was monitoring via Twitter]. But back to the match… For a brief moment, the elder side forgot their game plan and the fleet French made them pay with a score in the corner. But a Jarl Ginsberg try put the old timers right back in it as the NYRC squad settled down to their more comfy 15s style of 7s…
That’s when Alain Rolland showed up. With a quick toot of his whistle, the referee slapped the Old Starzz prop, Pete Kelly, with a Yellow Card. With everyone, including Kelly, scratching their heads and looking for an explanation, the referee said that he’d warned Kelly’s Heroes twice for leaving their feet. Obviously, he got the call wrong, because the one thing Old Boys can’t do – is leave their feet… unless they fall down. Further, Alain II got ticked when pressed for exactly how long the Sin Bin Death Sentence would be. After some kerfuffle, it was questimated at about “Two minutes or so.”
Sure enough, PARCO parked one in the try zone to go up by two trys. All was seemingly lost… Or was it? With a calm that only age and experience can allow for, the Old Starzz bit back with a try and a conversion. But time was now a factor. Suddenly, Clint Tomlinson scooped up a PARCO muff and darted uncontested for the try zone. 50, 40, 30, 20 and… BAM! A sniper! Sniper? No… It was his bloody hamstring. Time stood still as the air went out of the air.
The final whistle blew, the French Canadians went wild. The NYRC Old Starzz looked around, cheered for the PARCO and the over-zealous referee, clapped the victors of the pitch and shook their heads…
A too-close-to-the-vest call had ruined one of the game’s great strories… Again.