Sharks Stumble In First Outing

Stepping stone: Brierley
Zach Brenneman’s 30-yard breakaway led to a second-half try by Jay Short that trimmed Brooklyn’s lead to 21-19. Craig Macnaughton

   Saturday was the time for all good Montauk Rugby Club men to come to the aid of their side, and, for the most part, they did.
    Chris Carney, asked when he last played, said, “I dunno.” Jay Short said he last played “two years ago,” and Garth Wakeford, who’s 44, and Rich Brierley, who’s 54, and who nevertheless saw some action in the 35-19 season-opening loss to the Brooklyn R.C., made a point of reminding one and all of a recruiting party the Sharks are having this Sunday, from 4 to 6 p.m., at the Montauk Brewing Company.
    “Everyone’s welcome — of all abilities,” said Brierley, who ascribed the loss, “to a team that shouldn’t have beaten us,” to “a lack of fitness . . . that, and we had guys playing out of position.”
    “We played in fits and starts, and not as a team,” said Wakeford. “Their depth showed; they played more as a team.”
    Still, it was an interesting game. Brooklyn, a number of whose players had been playing 7s this summer, came out strong, and a number of penalties called against Montauk, largely for “failing to roll away from tackles and for being offsides, silly mistakes,” in the referee’s words, enabled the visitors to take a 21-7 lead by the half — the result of two tries, three penalty kicks, and one conversion.
    Montauk scored first, in the early going, as Danny Fagan, one of its forwards, bulled into the try zone from a 5-meter scrum after taking a feed from Bryan Anderson, the Sharks’ 25-year-old scrum half. That score James Stones, a native of West Meath, Ireland, a new addition to the Sharks, converted with plenty of room to spare, his kick almost sailing over the fence that separates Herrick Park from the Ladies Village Improvement Society’s property.
    Soon, though, Brooklyn, most of whose players were said to be in their mid-20s, began to pull away, abetted, as aforesaid, by Montauk’s loose-play errors.
    After Brooklyn blocked a clearing-kick effort by Wakeford, its fly half, Simon Fong, scored, though Pete Ostrower’s conversion kick was no good.
    No matter, for the first of Ostrower’s three penalty kicks was to ensue, giving the visitors an 8-7 lead, and 13 more unanswered points were to follow before the break.
    Montauk, it should be said, had its opportunities in the first half, moving the ball to the verge of Brooklyn’s try zone at least a couple of times, though Jarrel Walker, on one occasion, and Connor Miller, on another, were denied just shy of the goal line.
    Things went better in the early going of the second half, until, with about 15 minutes to go, it looked as if the locals, who benefited from scores by Wakeford and Short — the first following a penalty call on Brooklyn near its 22-meter line, the second the result of a 50-yard attack that began with Zach Brenneman’s 30-yard breakaway — might well wrest back the lead. Short scored in spite of the fact that Montauk was, because of James Rigby’s yellow-carding, playing a man-down.
    When Rigby returned, Montauk was trailing 21-19, but things went south in the final 15 as Brooklyn benefited from two breakaways by its fleet fullback, Craig McKenzie. His second try followed an 80-yard scamper that began with his interception of a long Anderson lateral that had been spun out toward one of Montauk’s backs.
    Mike Reilly, a Brooklyn flanker, almost tacked on another 5 points for the visitors in the final minutes, but fumbled before touching the ball down in the Sharks’ try zone.
    Montauk has a bye this weekend, and, as aforesaid, will be looking on Sunday at the Montauk Brewing Company for a few good men, 20-somethings presumably. This year is the 40th anniversary of the side’s founding by Charlie Whitmore.
    “It’s hard to lose to a team we’re better than,” Rich Brierley said in walking off the field. “Our fitness level is horrible. . . . We weren’t getting up after making the tackles, we were offsides, we weren’t attacking on defense. . . . Though this is just one game. We can use this as a stepping stone.”