Team USA Eagle 7s star, Matthew “Polar Bear” Hawkins, who is also now working with Serevi, contributes weekly on Rugby Wrap Up – technology permitting.
SEATTLE, WA – This weekend I had the privilege of making my way to Seattle for the Super League final. The final was to be played between Old Puget Sound Beach (OPSB), who were unbeaten on the West Coast and the New York Athletic Club (NYAC) who were unbeaten on the East Coast. Both had watched each other a lot of film, but based on their respective schedules and opponents, they had no real yard stick with which they could measure up against. I got to the field early and chatted with the few diehards that were already there and there was much speculation.
The consensus was that it was the backline speed of OPSB versus the power of the NYAC forwards and on paper… yes. That is the way that it seemed. But I had seen quite a few of OPSB’s games and they were not lacking for quality in their forwards, so I wasn’t quite sold on that idea. As things drew closer to the starting whistle, it was incredible to see the droves of people descending on Magnuson Park. The OPSB administration must be applauded for the exceptional job they did this season because by the time the two sides were on the pitch waiting for play to start, 300+ people jammed around the field, squeezing and tilting in any way they could to get a better look at the action.
Right from the kick-off, NYAC marched down the field in smart fashion, moving the point of attack and forcing the OPSB side back at every point of contact. Eventually OPSB ran out of field and NYAC crashed over and there it was… the opening score. The crowd was left in silence and I think the OPSB side was a little stunned. Thus begun the see-saw battle that was the game.
NYAC completely starved OPSB of ball and did an excellent job of being patient and really just focusing on ball security. OPSB sat back and waited for their opportunity to pounce and took advantage at every opportunity they could. Head Coach Evan Haigh’s squad got a huge lift when fullback Mike Palefau scored a try that would compete with ESPN’s Top 10 Plays quite easily and not only were the NYAC team stunned by his magic, but the crowd was left in wonder and amazement. OPSB Head Coach Evan Haigh
As the game drew in to the last 5 minutes, NYAC sat with a comfortable 32-22 lead and I think most felt that was all she wrote, but in true OPSB fashion, that west coast squad burst out of their half and put the game within reach at 32-29 with about 3 mins to play. OPSB threw everything they had at NYAC in those last few moments, but a good team arrived in Seattle to take on the home team. They came with a solid game plan and they walked away 2012 Super League Champs, so hats off to them and their coaching staff for a job well done.
“The boys played with a load of courage and were able to maintain their patience and discipline to grind out a win against an extremely explosive OPSB team.” -NYAC Head Coach Bruce McLane
“Phenomenal game, would be a great showcase game for USA rugby. Personally I was very proud to be associated with the players, coaching staff and support staff of NYAC. I true team effort in the face of some extremely talented, very explosive players. Was great to see both teams fighting it out to the very last minute of the game. I may need to sleep for the next few days!” -A drained NYAC Assistant Coach Matt Persanis
On the other side, Team USA Sevens star Miles Craigwell was honest about the bittersweet defeat, “Man oh, man! To be so close kills! Losing is nothing nice. Losing in a national championship is heart-breaking! Our goal going into the season was to win a National Championship; nothing more, nothing less. Our lack of execution and poor mistakes robbed us of one. I truly believe the game could have gone either way. Credit goes out to the NYAC boys putting up quite the fight. Definitely was a great game to be a part of, and memorable one at that. All 30+ guys gave it their all and emptied every ounce of their tank. Really appreciate the OPSB rugby club for letting me be a part of such an awesome season. Kudos to all the fans and loyal supporters for your continued support! Will remember this lost, and will carry that bitter taste of defeat into every rugby game here after. Cheers to a great weekend of rugby! Onward + Upward!”
For this spectator, it was honestly one of the best 15’s games I have have witnessed here in the USA in a very long time.