--By David Conyers South Forward Coach
The American South Men’s rugby team recorded its first ever North American Caribbean Rugby Association (N.A.C.R.A) victory last Saturday at Life University in Marietta Georgia over the Mexican national team 50-23. It is also alleged that it was Mexico’s first international fifteen a side match on US soil at this level, thus creating history on two fronts.
Posted on 1/22/2013 12:31:47 AM
Both teams had limited preparation for the international due to the typical demographics of vast their territories. The visiting Mexican team informed me they had only two practice sessions before the game. Likewise the South who just two weeks prior, had to sift and sort through 111 enthusiastic trialists, then; select a team, manage the logistics, proceed to have just one only three hour session and host is remarkable, given the quality of the performance both teams put out there at various stages.
The game opened under the control of IRB referee Chris Henshell, who repeatedly penalized the South team for nervous infringements and a lack of discipline in the first stanza. Even so, the South got out of the blocks well and launched several impressive raids on the Mexico defense, however it yielded no fruit due to a lack of vision at times when the space was obvious. Impressive fly half Lucas Baistrocchi (UF) opened the scoreboard with a nice hole searching run and converted his own try to give the South a 7-0 lead after ten minutes. As the penalties mounted against the South it didn’t take long for Mexico to achieve good field position and subsequent points, a penalty goal and converted try gave them a 10-7 lead midway through the first 40. The South scrum and rucks had been under considerable pressure for the entire first half and were not able to give the backline any fast ball, consequently the pressure stifled any real opportunity until the 32nd minute when life Winger Clint Whitler finished off a nice passage of play by the forwards to score a converted try. This gave the home team a narrow 14-13 lead at the break after Mexico had kicked a further penalty goal.
Some stern words from the coaching staff at half time, especially a question mark over the work ethic of the tight five complimented by 20 unforced errors, soon made the team realize what they needed to do to improve on the first half of rugby.
“Boom”, the words were taken on board by the team and in the space of five minutes the South had added two explosive tries and a conversion to the total. Both these tries were scored by the flankers Derek Wolfe (Nashville) (captain) and Cathal Doyle(Life) who supported some great backline thrusts. The Wolfe try was exceptional after a very powerful run from Center Amir Kahn (UNC).
This passage of play is really where the win was secured for the South. Mexico who had been dogged all day, and surprised the hosts with a super strong scrum that had been built on heart from a lack of size, this and a resounding tenacity kept them in the game according to the Mexico coach. The dominating lineout combinations, of Doyle and Kurt Swanner (FSU) for South had been a real stabilizer for the team and this facet of the game helped win good clean ball.
Another boom passage of play occurred just 10 minutes later when Kurt Swanner, who also played very strongly during the game from the eight man position, scored a very determined solo try. Just three minutes later it was the backs turn, and Ben Winiarczyk (Auburn) showed his great speed at wing to score another 5 pointer. At this stage (38-13) the Mexican appeared beaten, but, as they had showed all day ,strung together some good continuity and scored a solid try. At 38-18 and 11 minutes left on the clock the Southern neighbors smelt a little hope and continued to apply pressure.
At this stage of the game the South had made some tactical replacements and new scrum half Bou-Mikael Saade (New Orleans) made the most of his opportunity to post a nice individual try. The South responded yet again with strong direct running and Amir Khan had finally been rewarded for his sterling contribution to the team. Not to be outdone and with a real show of courage from the Mexican visitors they scored in the 80th minute to give them their third try, and some respectability to the final score of 50-23.
Jubilation engulfed the South outfit as they had won their first ever N.A.C.R.A game. The South now has the scalps of both Bermuda and Mexico in the last eight months. The IRB (International Rugby Board) has them ranked one and two respectively in this event. The South are beginning to stamp their mark on this competition, and look to challenge the other Caribbean nations for America’s first N.A.C.R.A title. Mexico is to be commended for their excellent spirit displayed both on and off the paddock. It just goes to show one that rugby is truly a great ambassador for international relations between countries.
The South coaching staff of Jody Hensley (Backs), Rene Daniel (Defensive), Wes Darwin, Will Rogers and Phil Blight (Technical advisors), Sean Borman (Trainer) and myself would like to thank the players who contributed to and attended the selection camp and those selected in the final pool. We would also like to thank and acknowledge the incredible input and vision from our committed administrators, Kevin Kitto (South President) John Devonport (Secretary and team manager), Carly Harrington (Treasurer) and not last but least Jacqui Alford (Assistant administrator). We are also indebted to Life University and Dan Payne for the facility use and input from that rugby powerhouse. We are all very honored and proud to be associated with the revitalization of the mighty South.
1 SCOTT LUCAS - ATHENS
2 DREW OHMANN LIFE
3 MATT WADE - RENEGADES
4 SAADIQ ZIYAD - LIFE
5 STEPHEN HICKEY - AUGUSTA
6 CATHAL DOYLE - LIFE
7 DEREK WOLFE - NASHVILLE
8 KIRK SWANNER - TALLAHASSEE
9 JD PRICE - RENEGADES
10 LUCAS BAISTROCCHI - UF
11 CLINT WHITLER - LIFE
12 JEFF REUTHER - NEW ORLEANS
13 AMIR KHAN - UNC
14 BEN WINIARCZYK - AUBURN
15 AARON MCMASTER - LIFE
16 SAADE BOU-MIKAEL - NEW ORLEANS - SCRUM HALF
17 DAVID BESS - MONTGOMERY - CENTER
18 ZACH SIMKINS - LIFE - FULLBACK
19 QUINCY NUCKOLS - RENEGADES - PROP
20 JOE MOORE - RENEGADES - HOOKER
21 DAVID MEEHAN - BOCA RATON - SECOND ROW
22 JASON DAVILA - LIFE - FLANKER
23 TY ELKINS CHARLOTTE - WING/FB
24 RODRIGUES CEASAR - RENEGADES - WING/FB
25 DEMECUS BEACH - LIFE - PROP