TRAVERS ISLAND, NY – This weekend featured the English Premiership or Aviva Premiership Final and the Super League Semi Finals in the USA. And while these respective top levels couldn’t be more different, the result was the same: a great day of rugby.
Aviva Premiership: Hats off to the Harlequins, who bested Leicester – our pick to win – in an exciting match. After owning the first 30+ minutes, the ‘Quins looked ready to cave in as the seasoned Tigers came roaring back. A 14-13 Harlequin lead at halftime promised and exciting final 40 minutes – and it was. England captain Chris Robshaw’s side surprised many – including us – by pounding their way to a sizable lead and then weathering a ferocious onslaught by their capable opponent for their championship. Robshaw is now the common denominator in turning clubs into winners, leading both on and off the pitch in exemplary fashion. His Kiwi mate, Nick Evans, also had an outstanding match for the winners, kicking for 20 points with an unflappable calm that set the tone for his side at a sweltering Twickenham.
The heat was also an issue across The Pond. When seasoned rugby reporter/photographer Ed Haggerty and veteran Assistant Referee Greg Gilliam tell you that their respective footwear felt like it was melting onto their feet, the conditions are probably not suited for rugby, especially a Super League 15s Semi Final between the Life Running Eagles and the New York Athletic Club. The latter dominated on their home pitch just north of New York City, winning 38-12.
“In the searing heat our guys didn’t allow a try, even when our lead seemed safe and they battled for 80 minutes.” said Head Coach Bruce McLane of his winning NYAC side. “[AJ] MacGinty & [Neil] McMillan were a bit worried pre-game, grumbling about how the weather in Ireland doesn’t get this like this. But they got through it well. Very proud of our guys.” added McLane.
Assistant Coach Matt Persanis commended the defense led by James Denise, that held Life and their Kiwi center Aza McMaster in check.
“Like Bruce said, there was a third opponent today in the heat. But these guys work hard for moments like this and they know it won’t get easier next week. We’ll enjoy this tonight and then get back at it.”
Flanker Lou Stanfill, who also plays for Team USA, plopped down on the sideline and was gallant in his attempts to chat with us but clearly, he was spent.
“That was brutal. All I want to do is get in the shower.”
On this day, we gladly conceded as our feet started to quickly cook on the heat-soaked artificial pitch.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, the Old Puget Sound Beach RFC handled the San Francisco Golden Gate RFC with relative ease, winning 39-6. SF was on top early, 6-5, but OPSB rattled off 39 unanswered points. A side note and very cool subplot was that Waisele Serevi took the pitch. Yes, that Serevi! For a more detailed breakdown of this match, check out Alex Goff’s RugbyMag.com’s coverage by clicking THIS.
Also on hand was former NYAC Head Coach, Mike Tolkin, who is now helming the Team USA 15s program.
The Super League Final should prove exciting, with a sprinkling of Team USA 7s & 15s stars on both sides. Aside from Stanfill, 15s scrumhalf Mike Petri and potential Eagle and offensive star for NYAC, Toby L’Strange will be up against OPSB’s Team USA vets Miles Craigwell, Mike Palefau, Andrew Durutalo and Alipate Tuilevuka. And of course, Serevi looming on the bench, holding back Father Time.