April 12, 2006
Montauk Rugby Wins Northeast Championships
The Montauk Rugby Club put an exclamation point on a dominating weekend by defeating Providence Rhode Island 75-0 in the finals to capture the Northeast Division II Championship at East Hampton's Herrick Park on Sunday afternoon.
The Sharks, winners of the Metro Union Division II championship this past fall, won in Arctic monsoon-like conditions on Saturday. They scratched out a 26-0 score against a Charles River squad in the semifinals as cold nonstop rain, wind, and a field that grew muddier by the seconds threatened to put the game's result in jeopardy.
It wasn't only bad for the players but also for the fans watching the game.
"It was absolutely awful conditions to play in," said Montauk's coach Paul Cleary. "In 26 years of playing rugby, I have never seen anything like that." The Sharks were fortunate to convert three of their four tries on Saturday and Charles River had trouble moving the ball all day against a relentless Montauk defense. "We played with a lot of control and we did what we had to do in spite of the conditions," Cleary said. "The guys played very well."
"It was like Scottish weather conditions," said Sharks player Garth Wakeford. "The field held out well though and it was ideal on Sunday."
On Sunday, the Sharks decimated a Providence team that, as rumor has it, was represented by a large number of its "B" team players. "We heard that they were playing their B team, which was a bit unsporting . . . so I think we beat them up pretty good," said Cleary. "We did all the basics well . . . we won our lineups and it was an excellent effort. It was just a very good team performance. It says a lot about our team's play when no one stands out. Everyone did their job and the support that we've had from our fans and our local sponsors has just been fantastic."
By winning the Northeast Division II championship, Montauk advances to the Sweet Sixteen tournament that takes place May 13 and 14 in South Carolina. From there, the Sharks have the opportunity to qualify for the Elite Eight and then the Final Four, which takes place in San Diego California in June.
"It gets quite difficult from here," said Cleary. "We're going to work very hard and we're capable of doing it [reaching the Final Four]. Everybody needs to be involved. Everyone has a part to play."
This past fall, Montauk earned the top Metropolitan New York Rugby Football Union Division II seed by winning its division, suffering only a lone loss to Rockaway.
Wakeford added, "When you get to this point, it's the top 16 Division II teams in the country that you're competing against. We'll be playing a good team from this point on.
We haven't lost too many players from last year, we don't have a lot of depth, but we have a lot of skill and experience. Guys on this team know how each one another play. But it's still going to be tough."