On a beautiful spring day in Syracuse sixth seed, Monmouth upset the Upstate conference winners Syracuse Chargers in a tight contest on a soft pitch that churned quickly into a mudbath.
On 10 minutes there were contrasting fortunes for each team’s 10 with Monmouth’s Rob Benedetto seeing yellow for getting caught in a ruck and Syracuse’s Justin Melvin converting the penalty for the opening score.
Monmouth came back and started to apply consistent pressure in the Syracuse 22, but the Monmouth’s backs struggled to move the ball through the mud as the field began to deteriorate.
On 25 minutes Syracuse’s lively eight-man Andrew Pelkey picked from a scrum on his 22 and broke deep into the Monmouth half where he linked with his Fullback Matthew Scheemaker to score a try in the right corner and extend the Syracuse lead to 8.
Monmouth responded well, and their attack results in a series of lineouts in the Syracuse 22. Monmouth captain Andrew Poulson won a well worked set piece and released Nic Lucarelli for a thunderous try to bring the score back to 8-5.
Syracuse again tested the Monmouth fringe defense with numerous one out runners and they made inch by inch progress in the mud but could not break the well connected Monmouth line. The half ended with Syracuse holding a 3 point lead.
Monmouth started the second half well attacking the firmer end of the field. After 9 minutes Monmouth was striking close to the Chargers line but knocked on. From the ensuing scrum Monmouth’s scrum half Kieran Walsh caught Pelkey. The Chargers forwards did not deal with the pressure from Monmouth’s aggressive rucking and lost the ball behind their line. Poulson reacted quickly and reached over the pile to touch down and put Monmouth in the lead for the first time. Ryan Puck replaced the hard working Christian Szablowski at flank for Monmouth following the score to bring some freshness into the Monmouth back row.
Syracuse ramped up the pressure and again brought their big forwards into play with unrelenting one out runners, but the middle of the field had deteriorated badly at this point, and any attack through this quagmire was challenging. Syracuse did attempt to move the ball through the backs, but Monmouth’s line speed smothered their progress and frequently pushed them back to lose ground.
Both teams had chances late with the Chargers Melvin missing a harsh penalty from 35 meters in the swirling wind and following a pinpoint kick by Walsh to the Syracuse corner flag Monmouth failed to convert a lineout win in the corner as Pelkey picked up a loose ball to relieve the pressure.
Monmouth’s stout defense held firm to the end and Monmouth progress to the next round against the Village Lions on April 22.
Monmouth Head Coach Pat Moroney was satisfied afterward saying “Our forwards were outstanding in defense and consistently repelled the Chargers tight running forwards. We have spent the past three weeks working hard in practice on our defensive connections and line speed. The backs did not get a chance to express themselves today but did everything that was required. The lads worked hard for each other and overall our discipline was outstanding. Rob’s foot got caught by a forward in the ruck, and he was unlucky to see yellow for trying to extricate it. A couple of silly penalties late gave the Chargers a chance, and we will have work to do on that over the next two weeks. Playoff rugby is about fine margins, and I would like to thank the players that traveled but did not get in, the work they have done on the practice field is huge. My coaching team is working hard, Ken Pape and Chris Wagner really making progress with the lads particularly on the set piece and defense.”
#1 – Bricker, Frank (FR)
#2 – Lucarelli, Nicholas (FR)
#3 – Sullivan, Christopher (FR)
#4 – Greenwood, Ryan
#5 – Russoniello, John
#6 – Szablowski, Christian
#7 – Iadisernia, Anthony
#8 – Poulson, Andrew
#9 – Bighorse, William
#9 – Walsh, Kieran
#10 – Benedetto, Robert
#11 – Cicalo, Richard
#12 – Pritchard, Calvin
#13 – Crumedy, Matthew
#14 – Sullivan, Nicholas
#15 – Lynch, Nicholas
#16 – Ernst, Christian (FR)
#17 – Minenna, Jonathan (FR)
#18 – Frayko, Brian (FR)
#19 – Begen, John
#20 – Bogner, Itay
#21 – Puck, Ryan
#22 – King, Douglas
#23 – Oliveira, Carlos