Ruggers Are Warming Up for Sweet 16 in Pittsburgh

The Sharks presumably will face a stiff test over the May 12-13 weekend in Pittsburgh
The Sharks are steeling themselves for the Sweet 16 regionals next month in Pittsburgh. Jack Graves

   The Montauk Rugby Club’s warmups for next month’s national Division II East bracket Sweet 16 games in Pittsburgh began March 24 at a tournament held by the Village Lions on Randalls Island in New York City.
    The Sharks, who are the eighth seed in the East region, split on the 24th, defeating the New York Rugby Club 19-12, but losing 22-19 to White Plains, a loss that kept the side from advancing beyond pool play.
    Montauk is to meet White Plains, a solid D-I side, again in a friendly match to be played at East Hampton’s Herrick Park on April 21.
    The March 24 tournament — Montauk played in the Men’s Club bracket — drew Division I and D-II sides, including its familiar foes, the Connecticut Yankees and Danbury.
    “That tournament was only the beginning of our spring schedule,” said one of the club’s spokesmen, Charlie Collins. “We’ll be going back to Randalls Island on April 14 to take on the Village Lions. The Lions moved up to Division I after they went 7-1 the year before and secured the Northeast Division II championship. They lost 35-33 to Doylestown, Pa., in the first round of the national tournament.”
    The Sharks presumably will face a stiff test over the May 12-13 weekend in Pittsburgh. Their opponent in the first game will be the champion of the South Rugby Football Union, the region from which the last two national D-II champions have come. The South region’s tournament is to be held the weekend of April 28-29.
    “We’ll have our work cut out for us in Pittsburgh,” said Collins.
    Montauk last played in Division II’s national Final Four in 2006, in San Diego, where they were trounced by Santa Barbara. The Sharks played in the Final Four in 2005 as well, also in San Diego, losing to Pearl City, Iowa.
    To further prepare for Pittsburgh, the Sharks have scheduled another friendly game at Herrick with the Long Island Rugby Club, also a Division I club, on April 28. That evening, “to help defray some of the costs associated with making the trip to the Sweet 16 we’ll hold a Casino Night from 6 to 11 p.m. at the American Legion Hall in Amagansett,” Collins said. Tickets will be $60 per person, or $100 for two. “Besides the casino games, we’ll have a large raffle.”
    The Sharks swept through last fall’s Met Union schedule undefeated despite having a number of young players who either were new or fairly new to the sport. In the Northeast tourney, they defeated Portland, Me., 29-8 before being bageled 53-0 in the title game by defending-champion Middlesex, a Boston area side.
    At the time, Rich Brierley, a Montauk veteran and the side’s coach, said that loss “wasn’t the worst thing in the world. In the spring our young guys will be playing teams above them in ability, and that will be good for them. It will give them something to shoot for. So far, they’re handling it well. . . . These guys, Erik [Brierley, Rich Brierley’s nephew], Mark Scioscia, Connor [Miller] Zach [Brenneman], Brian Anderson, and the others have no idea how good they can be. They’ve been playing at nowhere near their potential.”
    At the club’s holiday dinner, Gordon Trotter, who led the Met Union’s Division II sides in scoring, was named the player of the year and the clubman of the year, attesting to all the organizational and promotional work the New Zealand-born fly half has done. Connor Miller was named the club’s rookie of the year.
    A close second in that competition, the elder Brierley said later, was Jarrel Walker, a former arena football player and C.W. Post lineman, who “improved so much over the course of the year.”
    Brierley said that while Trotter certainly was deserving of his two awards, “I can think of a couple of other guys who could have been player of the year — Ricardo Salmeron, who really stepped up, and John Glennon, our hooker.”
    Last fall marked the first undefeated Met Union season for Montauk in six years.