Locals who cursed the presence of New Jerseyites here this summer can take a measure of revenge in the dispatching of the Montclair, N.J., Rugby Club back whence they came Saturday, courtesy of the Montauk Sharks by a 17-14 tally at Herrick Park in East Hampton.
Still, “a 3-point game in rugby is a pretty close game,” the Sharks’ coach, Rich Brierley, said Monday. And Montclair is a team that just moved up to the Empire Union’s Division 2, which, taken together, could signal rough waters ahead.
The Sharks finished the season last year ranked sixth nationally after a successful run into the Sweet Sixteen of the championship tournament in Pittsburgh. “Last year we were 8-0, which will be difficult to repeat. . . . Teams are gunning for us; we’re going to see their best games.” What’s more, “We’re depleted, numbers-wise. We’ve had some minor injuries. And people like to get married in September,” Brierley added, laughing.
“Most teams have 30 guys, and we’re in the mid to low 20s. It’s the same core, but that core of guys is getting older. It’s difficult when you get into your 30s playing this game. That’s why the numbers are so important — you can give your players a week off, especially the bigger guys. . . . We’re always recruiting.” Practices, by the way, are twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
But back to Saturday’s action. The Sharks’ first two tries were scored by the forwards Nick Lawler and Jim Abran “in consecutive phases of play,” Brierley said. “You get in close to punch it over.” The third was by Conor Miller. “He took a nice setup from Mike Bunce and made a 25-to-30-yard run to score.”
The seven-game season is young yet. The Sharks’ 2-0 record means they’re in a four-way tie for first place in the Empire Union. “The top 6 of the 12 teams make the playoffs,” the coach said. “That’s our goal.”
The Sharks’ next home game is on Oct. 6 at 1 p.m. But first, on Saturday, they’re set to tangle with more Jersey boys, which means a trip into the dark heart of Bayonne.