The Montauk Rugby Club, by virtue of a 54-27 rout of Syracuse at East Hampton’s Herrick Park Saturday, remains one of the 12-member Empire Geographical Union’s top sides, with a playoff spot in the spring guaranteed.
The Sharks, who improved to 5-1 on the season, with one game remaining (on Saturday here with Bayonne, N.J., a lower-tier team), are tied with Rockaway for second place in the Union “record-wise,” and are third, behind Danbury, Conn., and Rockaway when it comes to total points — the chief criterion this fall, according to Rich Brierley, Montauk’s coach.
The Union’s top six will make the playoffs, and the top two are to receive byes in the first round. “If the playoffs were this fall, a bye would be nice, but since they’re in the spring that’s kind of moot,” said Brierley, who added that “of course we want to finish as high as we can.”
“We were slow getting started,” he said in recounting Saturday’s action.
“Their forward pack far outweighed ours and they mauled the ball over early off a 5-meter lineout. After that early score, however, we were able to counter, bringing up more guys and pushing them before they pushed us.”
“They couldn’t keep up with us in the open field, though. We scored eight tries [rugby’s equivalent of a touchdown], and the scoring was spread out among our forwards and backs. Flynn Gogan-Schneider, our outside center, who grew up in Scotland, and whose father owns the Zum Schneider beer garden in Montauk, was our ‘man of the match.’ He scored three tries. Connor Miller [the inside center] had two, Steve Turza [winger] had one, John Glennon [hooker] had one, and Erik Brierley [the fullback, Rich Brierley’s nephew] had one.”
“I forget what the halftime score was, but at one point, early in the second half, it was 49-5. They came on late in the game, scoring three quick tries, two of them when Gordon Trotter [Montauk’s captain and fly half] was in the sin bin [for a high tackle]. We got a second wind, though, and were the last to score, ending on our front foot, as they say.”
In the front row for the Sharks were James Lock, Glennon, and Jim Abran, who’d been moved up from the second row. Nick Finazzo and the Irish-born Ronan Curran were in the second row. Nick Lawler and Jarrel Walker were the wing forwards, and another Irish-born player, Shane O’Keeffe, was at number-eight.
The backs comprised B.A. Anderson at scrum half, Trotter at fly half, Miller at inside center, Gogan-Schneider at outside center, Turza and Chris Bunce at the wings, and Erik Brierley at fullback.
Zach Brenneman, who played a half, and James Rigby, a winger, began the game on the sidelines. Montauk’s numbers have been down of late, Brierley said. “We lost our South African kid to a shoulder injury in our first game, Scott Abran, Jim’s brother, is out with a hyperextended elbow, and my son Matt is out with a shoulder injury. They were all starters. On Saturday, three other starters were missing — Ryan Borowsky, Mike Bunce, and Steve Daige.”
The Irishers, Curran and O’Keeffe, who have been with the side “since last spring,” and who, Brierley added, were “not recruited,” have been a great help, he said, “even though they played Gaelic football in Ireland, not rugby.”
While the man-of-the-match award went to Gogan-Schneider, “there were a lot of guys who played really well — Jarrel and Gordon in particular. Syracuse likes to run at you and pass off the tackle [rather than go to the ground], and that makes you play defense while backing up [lest you be caught offside], which is difficult. Jarrel’s and Gordon’s tackles — he must have had a dozen — brought them down and thus stopped their forward progress.”
The Sharks, as aforesaid, are to finish out the regular season here on Saturday. Gametime will be 1 p.m.