Montauk Sharks Upend Danbury

Sharks’ fullback
Erik Brierley, the Sharks’ fullback, scored twice on Saturday, in the first and second halves. Jack Graves

    Continuing to roll Saturday, the Montauk Rugby Club upended the Met Union’s Division II leader, Danbury, by a convincing score of 25-7.
    Danbury, which had beaten the Sharks last fall and edged them in the playoff hunt by 1 point, only managed one try on the home side’s Herrick Park pitch, the result of a momentary lapse after Brenden Mott, who had come in for Zach Brenneman on the wing, had made it 20-7 Montauk.
    Mott, who was to begin an Army tour two days later, scored again soon after, stripping the ball from a Danbury player near the Connecticut side’s try zone, and touching it down for the aforementioned 25-7 final.
    Rich Brierley, Montauk’s coach, said later, however, that “more than our backs, it was our defense that did it. We never let Danbury get the ball out. Their coach said later that their backs were knocking the ball on [fumbling forward] too much, but a lot of that could be attributed to our team defense. When there’s a ruck or a tackle, you have to reorganize quickly — as a team. You can’t go it alone —  your opponents will find a hole. . . . I think our defense is improving week after week.”
    Montauk has a bunch of athletic tyros who are learning quickly. Brierley singled out one of them, Jarrel Walker, as “the man of the match.” The flanker, a former C.W. Post lineman and arena football player from Bridgehampton, had been “a standout on both sides of the ball,” said Brierley. “He made many tackles, stopping their forward progress, and, offensively, it took three or four guys to bring him down. He only committed one faux pas, which earned him a yellow card, when he threw a shoulder and didn’t wrap up. But there were only five minutes left when he went out.”
    The other flanker, Hamish Cuthbertson, a coast guardsman who plays for Montauk “when he’s ashore,” was also outstanding, said Brierley. “He does a lot of things you don’t notice, like securing rucks and making tackles. He’s always in the mix.”
    When asked if there were other defenders who should be mentioned, the coach said, “It really was the whole team.”
    The locals, who improved as a result of the win to 3-0 in divisional play, only led 5-0 at the half. The margin could have been greater, but John Glennon, one of Montauk’s prop forwards, was prevented from scoring out of a five-meter scrum when the visitors “held him up,” i.e., prevented him from touching the ball down in their try zone.
    Erik Brierley, the Sharks’ young fullback, made the lone first-half try, taking a lateral from Ricardo Salmeron before streaking unmolested 25 yards down Montauk’s sideline with 10 minutes left in the period.
    Danbury had a chance to make it 5-3 soon after, but its fly half’s penalty kick from about 40 yards out hooked wide left of the uprights.
    “It was anyone’s game at the half,” said Rich Brierley. “Danbury has talented backs — they’re capable of scoring a couple tries very quickly. A missed tackle or a mistake of another kind and they would have been right back in the game.”
    But Montauk continued to put the pressure on in the second half. In the opening minutes, Erik Brierley blocked an attempted clearing kick, picked the ball up, and ran it in from the 22-meter mark. Gordon Trotter’s conversion kick was good for 12-0.
    At that point, another of the side’s coaches, Paul Cleary, shouted, “Concentration, now. Concentrate.”
    Moments later, after the visitors had run Montauk’s kickoff all the way back for their first score of the day, Cleary said to a spectator, “It’s a common occurence. Teams will score, lose focus, and give up a try by other side, just as you saw.”
    A penalty kick from 20 yards out by Trotter, which upped the margin to 8 points, gave the Sharks some breathing room however, and this time they not only held, but went on the attack, which ended with Mott’s second try of the afternoon.
    To make the playoffs, whose first round games are to be played in early November, the Sharks will have to finish among the eight-team division’s top three.
    “Lansdowne is next [in Yonkers this Saturday], and it will be a big hurdle,” said Rich Brierley. “They’re 3-0, as are we.