June 14, 2006
Alas, the Montauk Rugby Football Club will have to wait at least another season to make its mark on the National Final Four, after a disheartening trip to San Diego the first weekend in June.
Montauk, which qualified for the Final Four by defeating two elite teams during the National Sweet Sixteen tournament held in Columbia, South Carolina, back in May, found itself outmanned and outplayed on June 3, falling to Santa Barbara 33-3 in one of the two semifinals of the Division II championships.
Officials from USA Rugby ruled, less than a week before the Sharks were to fly to San Diego, that two of Montauk's premier players, Scotsmen Justin Reid and Elliot McLeren, were ineligible to participate, even though they both played in the prior Sweet Sixteen and the Northeast Division Championships without drawing a single inquisition. An appeal was made on behalf of Montauk only hours before the match was to be played, but an arbitrator ruled in USA Rugby's favor.
With both Reid and McLeren watching from the sidelines and Garth Wakeford, one of Montauk's top stars out of the lineup, the Sharks were subject to the full wrath of a strong, deep Santa Barbara club. But despite only having 20 available players, Montauk played valiantly, especially in a first half that saw them trail by a short distance 8-3.
Andy Reilly recorded the Sharks three points when his pinpoint kick sailed through the posts. At the very least, the points were a moral victory for a hard working, tireless team that has continued to establish itself as a legitimate championship contender in the past two seasons.
Iowa's Pearl City club, the same team that defeated Montauk in the Division III championship game in San Diego, easily disposed of Santa Barbara 32-5 on June 4 in the finals of the Division II championship. Had a fully-manned Montauk been Pearl City's opponent, one has to wonder if the results would have been different.