NEW YORK, NY– While the start of a new year brings much to look forward to, it’s also a good time to look back a bit. So, before we roll out our Class of 2015 later this week, let’s breakdown our USA Rugby Class of 2014, review the year they had and see if our predictions were correct.
Molly Kinsella: Molly was our 2014 Women’s Player of the Year. The 6’3″ rangy lock had a mixed year. She won the English women’s premiership with her club, Richmond RFC. Unfortunately, she was not able to part of Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014 team. So she will be looking to have a productive season on the club front again and to try and force her way in the USA Rugby national team considerations once again.
Adam Siddall: Adam was our 2014 Mens Domestic Player of the Year. He also had a mixed year. When available, he had very solid performances for the USA. However, he did miss an incredible amount of time due to concussions and injury. In our humble opinion his talent and versatility assure him a place in the 2015 RWC squad. At what position? We cannot be sure .
Cam Dolan: Our 2014 Men’s Overseas Player had a solid 2014. When he was signed by Northampton Saints of the Aviva Premiership, there were high hopes of immediate impact for him. However, he joined Northampton at a time of great depth in the backrow, so the club ended up looking to get him ready for 2015 when they would lose that depth. Combine this with the learning and the adjustment to his game Northampton requested of him and it didn’t look good for Cam. Then came an injury. However, he has been able to play a much more tight game in practice and in the reserve league as requested. His performances had the Saints fan forum on fire. So, after a frustrating 2014, we expect a big year for Dolan in 2015.
Shaina Turley: The Women’s Sevens Player of the Year had good season with the National sevens Team. She was a member of the Women’s Sevens World Series squad. However, she also had some of her time with the sevens team interrupted by selection to the Women’s Rugby World Cup. She was named the team captain for the WRWC 2014 and led the team to a 6th place finish. So, Shaina had a solid season for both national teams.
Brett Thompson: It was a solid year for our Men’s Sevens Player of the Year amidst a disastrous campaign for the sevens side. The 7s star turned into a fifteens hero when he scored the game-winning try in the USA-Canada summer match. He followed that up by signing a contract with Edinburgh Gunners of the Pro 12. So, though it wasn’t a great 7s campaign for Thompson, it was a great 2014 for the young man.
Megan Bonny: Our Women’s Young Player of the Year, had a solid season with the USA 7s side. She spent 2014 as member of the USA Rugby 7s residency program and made two appearances over the season and seems to be adjusted. It wasn’t a massive season for Bonny but it was a good one. Expect her to build on it and have an even better 2015.
Kyle Sumsion: On the back of a solid college career and impressive trials with the Men’s Eagles, Sumsion made a name for himself. At 6’2″ 240lbs, he was used as a lock in college but shifted to flanker for the USA. He had a very impressive Americas Rugby Championship and followed that up by making the best of his chances during the autumn internationals. He is not a first-choice option yet but he has proven himself to be a solid contributor that is continually improving his game. He stands a good likelihood of forcing his way into the RWC squad.
University of Northern Iowa was our Women’s College Club of the Year. The small school from Iowa with a very solid program had a great year. When you consider their size and their achievements for a program that is not varsity, it is really impressive. They competed in Division 1 of the ACRA (American College Rugby Association) Championships. ACRA was formed by a large contingent of representatives from women’s collegiate teams after years of informal discussion and months of research and formal conferencing. UNI finished 3rd in 2013 and followed up in 2014 by finishing 8th, losing in the Elite 8 round to Indiana, 7-0. Though it is not necessarily improvement, it speaks well of the program to be competitive consistently.
St. Edward’s University was our Mens College Club of the Year. They are such a tiny school that they are actually members of NSCRO (National Small College Rugby Organization). A key to the growth of the program has been that St. Edward’s University’s administration has seen an increase in applications and matriculating students who target the school because of its rugby program. As a result, more support has been put behind the rugby program, with a great focus on coaching, administration and recruiting. In the latest NSCRO standings for 2014, released in December, St. Edward’s is officially ranked 4th in the nation.
The HARC (Houston Athletic Rugby Club) were our Women’s Senior Club of the Year. They came second in the Red River Rugby (Texas Rugby Union) Conference RRRC (ACR4) in D1 to the Austin Valkyries. Due to the unique structure of the conference, this sent them into the quarterfinals of the Women’s division 2 championship. Unfortunately for them, they ran into the buzz-saw that were the Sacramento Amazons, who didn’t lose until the final. However, closing the gap on Austin is a big step forward for the program and making the quarterfinal is very positive. The SHARCs (She-HARCs) will look to build on that finish and go from strength to strength and become the premier women’s club in Texas.
Seattle-Old Puget Sound Beach RFC were our Men’s Senior Club of the Year. To begin with, they are now Seattle Saracens as they have joined the Saracens (U.K.) Global Network. With the creation of the Pacific Rugby Premiership (PRP) and Seattle’s exclusion from the PRP, the team decided to focus its efforts on the British Columbia (Canada) second division. Despite have a great regular season record, they lost the playoff final and thus couldn’t get promoted. A key reason for their lose was that the match was played on the weekend of a USA International and Seattle had 6 players on international duty that weekend. They will look to play in BC again this season and win promotion as well as have their second team compete in USA Rugby.
Pete Steinberg was our Women’s Coach of the Year. In a Rugby World Cup year, Steinberg went under the microscope. He managed to lead the USA women to a 2-3 record in the world cup and a 6 place finish. The opening round loss to Ireland was a close and painful one but the team did bounce back to gain a respectable finish. Steinberg is also the coach for the Penn State Women’s team and they won a national championship. So it was a good year for Steinberg altogether.
Phil Bailey was our Men’s Coach of the Year. Bailey serves as the defense coach for the Men’s national team and became head coach at NYAC. With NYAC, they lost the Men’s D1 quarterfinal to Life University and came second to life in the inaugural season of the American Rugby Premiership. With the USA national team there seemed to be a solid effort on defense. Minus the All Blacks game, the USA defense was never really under fire from fans or pundits. It was the attack which created the most frustration and that was not Bailey’s department, so it was a good year for Bailey.
COLLEGE COACH: Austin Hall was our College Coach of the Year. It was business as usual for Hall and his Norwich side. They defeated Rutgers 36-10 to win the ACRA women’s collegiate 7s in May. Then they lost the ACRA USA Rugby College 15s final to Penn State. That sounds bad but considering the size of the the two schools, it wasn’t. Though both programs put a lot of resources into their program. The lost to Steinberg’s Penn State may hurt Hall as he moves up in USA coaching circles. He has already coach the USA Combined services side, so he may end up with an All-Americans position next. He is a bright talent in coaching so USA rugby would be wise to nurture it and develop it.
PRP Management: The Pacific Rugby Premiership (PRP) was and still is the talk of USA domestic rugby. The league had a very positive first season. It garnered so much attention that the top clubs on the East coast started the American Rugby Premiership, to help keep the top USA players on the East Coast. The league still has farther reaching goals but for a first season, it laid a great platform. The only shame is that Seattle is still not a member of the PRP, loads of pundits believe that if Seattle were, it would create a great argument over the number of Seattle players in the USA squad.
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And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.