Sharks Ran Out of Gas

A 44-19 rout
Brenden Mott, with the ball, reeled off big gainers Saturday, but, in the end, the New Haven Old Black Rugby Club wore Montauk down and prevailed. Craig Macnaughton

It’s always a numbers game with the Montauk Rugby Club, and while the side fielded a solid 15 at East Hampton’s Herrick Park Saturday, the New Haven Old Black R.C., in the absence of some key Montauk players sidelined by injuries, Conner Miller, perhaps, being the chief one, wore the locals down in the second half on the way to a 44-19 rout.

The 2-4 Sharks are playing in the Empire Geographical Union’s Division III, whose Connecticut sides — the Fairfield Yankees, Danbury, and New Haven — are especially strong.

New Haven, which won the Northeast region Division II championship last year, and which won the national Division II championship in 2002, played in four D-I Sweet 16 rounds between 2004 and 2009. The club joined the E.G.U. this year at the D-2 and D-3 levels. New Haven’s D-3 team has been beating up on most of its opponents, though it has losses to the Fairfield Yankees (by 35-25) and to Danbury (40-31).

In the beginning of Saturday’s clash here, it looked as if Montauk would avenge the 59-5 loss it suffered in New Haven on Sept. 12. The Sharks scored first, five minutes into the fray, as Steve Turza, the scrum half, touched the ball down in the visitors’ try zone.

New Haven replied five minutes later as its powerful left wing finished off an attack by ripping 20-plus yards down the left sideline.

Brenden Mott, who reeled off huge gains for Montauk during the afternoon, made it 10-5 moments later, as the result of a 40-yard romp. Shane O’Keefe’s extra point was good this time, for a 12-5 lead.

A little more than midway through the half, New Haven scored again, for 12-10, but Jim Abran, the number-eight man, bulled his way in from a 5-meter scrum near the end of the half for a 17-10 lead, to which again O’Keefe tacked on 2 more points.

During the break, one of the Sharks’ old boys, Kevin Bunce, said, “We’ve got to stretch it out. The forwards need to work a little less. We’ve got to get the ball out to our backs.”

You would have thought New Haven was listening, for that is exactly what they were to do in the second half, a 40-minute period during which the Connecticut side was to score 34 unanswered points.

Ten minutes into the final frame, the locals were still ahead, 20-19, but the writing was on the wall. In the final 20 minutes, New Haven tallied four tries, two of them followed by conversion kicks.

Mott ran through most of the visitors’ team from a scrum at Montauk’s 22-meter line with about 15 minutes to go, a 70-yard tear that ended with him being tackled close to New Haven’s goal line. Moments later, however, the ball was going the other way, the locals having given it up in a ruck.

Evidence as to Montauk’s slimness number-wise was provided near the rather bitter end when James Stone, who had been looking on in civvies, was asked to suit up, “just for nine minutes,” after Brendan Cosgrove, who had been injured, had to come out.

To add insult to injury, a knock-on of Mott’s at about the time that Stone entered the game was translated into New Haven’s fourth try of the second half. The kick was good for the 44-19 final.

The Sharks are to play the Fairfield Yankees away on Saturday. Hudson Valley, a side they beat 35-12 here on Sept. 26, Danbury, to whom they lost 41-6 here on Oct. 10, and the Village Lions, whom they defeated 33-29 here on Oct. 3, remain on the schedule.