Sharks Feed on Princeton

Ricardo Salmeron
Ricardo Salmeron was one of those who rated praise later from Rich Brierley, Montauk’s coach, and Gordon Trotter, the side’s captain. Jack Graves

    The Montauk Rugby Club, playing before a large crowd at East Hampton’s Herrick Park on Saturday afternoon, defeated the Princeton Athletic Club 42-27 to improve its Met Union record to 2-0.
    The Sharks got off to a quick start and led 22-10 at the half, but let up a bit in the second half before finishing strong.
    The result encouraged Rich Brierley, the side’s coach, and its New Zealand-born captain and fly half, Gordon Trotter, who said afterward “the guys are putting it together. We moved Connor [Miller] out of the forwards and put him at inside center. He did very well there. Jarrel [Walker, a former C.W. Post lineman and arena football player] has come a long way. . . . It was the first home game for Zach Brenneman [a recent graduate of Notre Dame, where he was an all-American lacrosse midfielder]. He’s scored two tries in two games. . . . I’m loving it. We got soft at some point in the second half, probably because the captain [himself] ran out of gas.”
    Trotter, who first “retired” two years ago, added, with a broad smile, that “I’m playing one more season and I’m done.” It’s an oft-heard refrain in Montauk Rugby circles.
    Bert Wiegand, 56, whose sobriquet is Bert the Baker, one of those semi-retirees, was on the sidelines that day and said seeing all the young guys tearing about made him want to suit up again.
    He had called it sort-of quits after sustaining a concussion making a tackle in a friendly game here last spring with the Long Island Rugby Club, the team he’d founded in 1972. Later, when his wife asked him if, finally, he’d retired, “I didn’t answer.”
    “You should have said you weren’t retired — just a little tired,” Steve Brierley, whose son, Erik, was playing fullback, said helpfully.
    Chris Carney, another player who’s hung up the spikes, but not for good, subbed in among the backs in the second half, and it was good to see, for most of them, while quick, don’t have much experience.
    In the end, Rich Brierley said that while “their forwards had an edge, our backs [Brierley, Ricardo Salmeron, Steve Turza, Mark Scioscia, Brenneman, Miller, and Brian Anderson among them] were far superior. . . . Ricardo was excellent, Scioscia too. It was the first time Connor had played at inside center. It was a defensive move — he’s a good tackler.”
    Going in, he had thought Princeton’s backs would have been better, given the fact “they’ve got a 7s team in the summer.”
    Montauk scored six tries (worth 5 points each, rugby’s equivalent to touchdowns), to which Trotter had two penalty kicks (worth 3 points each) and three conversion kicks (worth 2 each).
    After Trotter had made good on a penalty kick early on to get Montauk on the board, Mike Bunce Jr., the number-eight man and the team’s M.V.P. in 2010, came out of a scrum from about 10 meters out for the Sharks’ first try and Trotter added 2 more points with his conversion kick through the uprights. Scioscia and Trotter had made it 17-3 by the time the visitors touched the ball down in Montauk’s end zone. Scioscia replied with a 60-meter scoring dash before the half ended.
    Tries by Salmeron and Trotter made it 32-10 before the aforementioned loss of concentration and Princeton’s determination resulted in three unanswered tries for the visitors before Brenneman, who was on the left wing, closed out the victory, gathering in a lateral from Trotter and streaking 40 yards down the left sideline for the decisive score.
    Danbury, a Connecticut side that edged out Montauk for a playoff berth by 1 point last fall, is to play here Saturday at 1 p.m. Last week, Brierley said he thought “the two Connecticut teams” (Danbury and the Connecticut Yankees) would prove to be the Sharks’ toughest division rivals this season.