TAMPA, FL — On Saturday, 29 June, the Atlanta Rhinos (2-2-0) rounded up the Lakeland Renegades (1-4-0) with a decisive 40 to 12 win on Atlanta’s home field at Silverback Park. Further south, the Jacksonville Axemen (5-0-0) benefited from the Southwest Florida (SWFL) Copperheads (2-3-0) weather-related forfeit. As a result, the Axemen conducted a home field, nine-on-nine inner-squad scrimmage to placate their fans who had hoped to see their club in action on the UNF Soccer Fields. As for the USA Rugby League’s (USARL) Southern Division’s fifth club, the Tampa Mayhem (1-3-0) took Saturday’s bye.
Rhinos Round up Renegades
Atlanta Rhinos captain and owner Nick Newlin Spoke with Rugby Wrap Up about his team’s performance Saturday against the Lakeland Renegades:
On Saturday, the Atlanta Rhinos defeated the Lakeland Renegades by a final score of 40 to 12. At the half, Atlanta led score 40 to 0. Due to the length of the trip, Lakeland traveled to us a little light on players. In fact, this was just like we did to them our first game of the year. However, we were more than happy to help provide a few players as they did to us in week one to assist and make sure we had a good day of Rugby League. Also, this game wrapped up our home regular season games for the year, as we had all four back to back this season.
Given our club’s schedule, these home and away Saturdays proved to be both a challenge and an interesting twist to the season. So, we will finish our 2019 USARL Season Schedule with three-straight match-ups on the road in Florida. For the first half, we stuck to the game plan and also played great defense. Actually, this included a few try line stands. As a result, we kept it east on offense setting them up by attacking the middle the first few in the set. Then, we saw it open up wide for our play-makers.
Unfortunately, we went away from that in the second half and that showed with zero points on the scoreboard. Sometimes, that just happens with a young team that gets a good lead. Then, the club tries to do too much second half. Of course, we give Lakeland a lot of credit. Obviously, they never folded. In the second half, Lakeland came out ready to show us that they didn’t travel seven hours to leave with a zero on the board. As usual, their center #4 was their standout player.
Yes, we had a few players with good games. But, standing out for us, I’d say was Hiko Malu again leading us around the field as our only half and having some big line breaks. In addition to Malu, our other standout was Mario Johnson in the middle. For us, he’s a big strong guy who loves to hit and has deceiving speed. Also, he sets up our offense in the middle all game and played great defense. This season, it’s been awesome to have him back the last two weeks. In fact, he just recently returned from his long stint in Kuwait on a contract deployment. In the end, the Rhinos Round Up Renegades with a 40 to 12 win.
Brandon Young led the Lakeland Renegades in points, scoring two of his club’s three tries.
Jacksonville Benefits from Southwest Florida Forfeit
Following SWFL’s weather-related forfeit Friday afternoon, the Jacksonville Axemen conducted an inter-squad scrimmage to appease the fans. Unaware of SWFL’s sudden decision to remain in Lehigh Acres, Jacksonville’s supporters were there to cheer for the Axemen as they took on the Copperheads at the University of North Florida’s (UNF) Soccer Fields.
From Jacksonville’s perspective, Axeman Brian Lowe takes over coverage of his club:
Despite the SWFL letdown, this was nonetheless a fun event which started with a race instead of a coin toss between two of Jacksonville fastest wingers, David Washington and James Williams. Washington outran Williams by a step for the advantage. Along with the Axemen’s nearly 30 registered players, there were a few former players who showed up to take the field. Among them, Will Fletcher (2018 National Championship team) and Saif Kareem, (long-standing player turned photographer/videographer) joined their current teammates for some nine-on-nine action. Also, as always willing to help out the Axemen, former UNF and Jax Men’s player Tristan Morhous laced up his boots.
In the game, Coach Sean Rutgerson got his turn at officiating. As Rutgerson sent players off the field, they had to perform burpees while the fans counted prior to taking the bench. In contrast to normal USA Rugby League rules, each squad’s try scorer those who score the tries also had to kick the conversions. In the end, the score settled with side “Super Slovers” defeating team “Chop City” 42 to 36.
Axemen Co-Owner and General Manager Drew Slover offered insights into Saturday’s Plan Shift
Drew Slover, Jacksonville co-owner and general manager, said that “We haven’t canceled a game in 14 years. And, we weren’t about to let our fans down. As with every Rugby League season, we are dedicated to our fans and sponsors. So, we can’t thank them enough for coming out to support the team in what was a very disappointing forfeit from the Copperheads. In the end, this turned out to be a really fun event, and we were able to showcase all of our players. With the inte-squad scrimmage, this was not just the 19 named to the original roster. As always, the Axemen will always show up, whether our opponents do or not.” Of note, Slover has no plans to try and reschedule any matchup against the Copperheads.
Action that Lies Ahead for this Saturday’s USARL Southern Division
This coming Saturday, the Tampa Mayhem will host the Atlanta Rhinos at Tampa Catholic High School. Also, this weekend, the Jacksonville Axemen play a home match-up against the Lakeland Renegades on the UNF Soccer Fields.
Wrapping up Saturday’s USARL Southern Division’s coverage, the SWFL Copperheads will take its second Saturday in a row off. Hopefully, this will give the Copperheads enough time to regroup prior to hosting the Atlanta Rhinos 13 July. As always, SWFL will play its home game at Lehigh Senior High School.
Links to more information about the clubs, the USA Rugby League Southern Division (USARL SD), and RWU
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To learn more about the Lakeland Renegades, the USARL SD’s newest club, please visit the team’s Facebook page.
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