NYAC Rugby Team Wins US Title
Winged Foot team defeats Austin Blacks in a game for the ages
June 15th- Infinity Park, Glendale, CO
In a see-saw battle that had NYAC down with only 2 minutes left, a national championship was on the line in a highly contested match that surprisingly was almost never played.
Severe thunderstorms at Infinity Park in Glendale had engulfed the area an hour prior to kickoff. Officials had barred the use of the field until the storms cleared. The Womens national match had not yet been completed and the Men’s final was looking at a 9pm kick-off or faced with having to play the match either Sunday morning at 6am, at a later date, or not at all. After some tough negotiations with USA Rugby and the Austin Blacks, NYAC asked the Austin Blacks to step outside the comforts of Infinity Stadium and to settle the championship on an adjacent field, away from the crowds, knowing the game will no longer be streamed live, but at least had artificial turf which processes the rain more efficiently and coincidently is much like the surface they are used to playing on at Travers Island.
The bold move initially proved disastrous as with a shortened warm-up period, the Austin Blacks were the quicker team out of the blocks. The NYAC had to play into strong winds and driving rains during the first half and were put under pressure right from the kick-off. Three quick tries by Austin left the NYAC down 21-3, under constant pressure, and showing no signs of launching any offense.
“My kingdom for a dry ball!” screamed Patrick Fiffe as the NYAC lineouts were compromised by the severe conditions. The NYAC scrums held their own against a larger Austin pack which left the NYAC to execute open play flawlessly in order to gain ground.
After 20 minutes the hitting had intensified, the NYAC stormed back with lightening quick scoring attacks from Tobias Henry, Quentin Pradere, James Denise and Kyle Granby. The NYAC was now up 27-24 but momentum was clearly on our side and the Austin Blacks were starting to tire and looked confused on how to counter the speedy NYAC offense.
In the waning minutes of the first half, the NYAC was again pressuring Austin and near their try line, then a clearing kick got caught up in the swirling winds and took a horrendous bounce that landed in the hands of a charging Austin player who found pay dirt and closed out the first half with a 29-27 Austin lead.
The Colorado weather remained true to form as we experienced four seasons of weather within our 3 hour stay. The second half began with the NYAC now having the wind at their back…. for all of two minutes. The wind had turned and Austin once again started the half as the stronger side. Mental errors led to the first try of the second half and moments later an Austin kick to the corner lead to a line-out and Austin pushing the ball over the try line seemingly effortlessly. With 20 minutes left, the Austin lead bloomed to 39-27 and NYAC’s chance of winning a fifth National title were starting to fade.
Faced with a cataclysmic decision of riding out his starters or going to the reserves, Head Coach Phil Bailey opted for the fresh legs and went to his very deep and talented bench of Jewett, Brakeley, Soderman and Hall, who all made a huge impact on both sides of the ball and deserve much credit for the renewed pressure put on Austin.
With nothing but the other team standing between him and the try line, Big Man Al McFarland ran the ball in from 20 meters out and started the NYAC scoring in the second half. Moments later, #8 Harrison Edwards was also able to score and the NYAC had now crawled back from the dead and retook the lead at 41-39.
Having just made two crucial conversions to get the NYAC back on top, the team once again called on Justin Hundley to make a penalty kick and pad the NYAC lead. It was good, and left the score at 44-39 to the NYAC, with two minutes left on the clock. Austin was now faced with the daunting task of crossing the try line within two minutes or going home with the loss.
With just 120 seconds standing between the NYAC and the national title, the emotional anxieties were sky high. From the resulting kick-off, the NYAC somehow gave away a stupid penalty and Austin kicked to the corner and regained the ball five meters out from the NYAC try line. Looking to drive over the goal line and retake the lead, the wet and wild fans were at fever pitch. If Austin could execute the same play they did 15 minutes earlier, all was lost for NYAC.
But after a thunderous hit from #6 Al McFarland, and a heroic goal line defense from the forwards, a frantic battle for the ball led to McFarland stripping the pill from an opponent and then passing to Mike Petri who cleared the ball out of bounds as time expired.
Final Score NYAC 44 Austin Blacks 39
Michael Petri was awarded the MVP of the match. Petri’s play was brilliant and he demonstrated the form that makes him a USA National team member. Look for Mike in the upcoming Rugby World Cup in September to be held in England.
This is the 5th National Title in 11 years for NYAC Rugby.
First year Head Coach Phil Bailey was unanimously voted Coach of the Year.
Assistant Coach and Strength & Conditioning Coach Neil McMillan deserves much credit for the NYAC’s superior fitness and stamina throughout the year. All members can access Neil’s talents at City Athletes, a not-for-profit group that is dedicated to the fitness training for individuals or groups in the inner city. Neil can be reached at email@example.com.
On behalf of the players, coaching staff and administration, we would like to thank the NYAC and all its members for their ongoing support for which this all would not be possible. Special thanks to Tommy Lynch, Robert Rodriguez and Cedric Jones whose leadership of NYAC athletics creates a sporting environment that is second to none.
NYAC Rugby Chairman
The New York Athletic Club Rugby team competes in the American Rugby Premiership which is the highest level of rugby competition in the USA.
We also carry a B-side and, sometimes, a C-side who compete against the B and C-sides of opposing teams or Division I teams.
The NYAC Rugby club was established in 1973. We won the Rugby Super League National Championship in 2005, 2008, 2010 and 2012. We have fielded and supported numerous members of the US Eagles throughout the years.
Our regular season starts in September of each year and runs through November. We reconvene in March and the playoffs take place in late May and the finals are held by Memorial Day. We play 7s during the summer and have made numerous appearances in the National Tournament. We train three times per week during the pre-season and two times per week during the regular season. Training sessions are normally held at Randall’s Island on Monday and Thursday evenings from 7pm to 9pm. We also hold indoor preseason training in the New York Athletic Club at Central Park South and 7th Avenue.
We are an amateur club and abide by all of the rules of the New York Athletic Club. All are encouraged to try out for the team. Practice times and schedules will be updated regularly on this site.