Report by Coach, Pat Moroney,
Monmouth opened their spring season away to Old Blue’s Bs in Baker Field at the northern tip of Manhattan last Saturday. On a bright chilly day with wind out of the East Old Blue’s A side had just lost disappointingly to the Chicago Lions by 2 points in the second round of the 2011 SuperLeague.
Monmouth went into the game with a few new variables, a new faster more expansive game plan, two debutants in the back line and a very new Monmouth A side pack with Mario Fragale being the sole member of the starting pack from the last game of the fall. Despite this Monmouth started really brightly winning good first phase possession and forcing a couple of turnovers. The back line enjoyed this fast possession and after 4 minutes a chip from fly half Evan Fitzgerald put Joe Lucarelli behind the opposition back line and in for a score which Joe converted himself. After another four minutes Rob Morello was next to benefit from Evan’s astute chip when it bounced back to Rob running inside support to score an unconverted try.
Old Blue then managed their first proper attack and were awarded a penalty which the fly half dispatched with ease followed up with another shortly afterwards to make it 6-12. Then two Monmouth tries sandwiched another Old Blue penalty – first on 27 minutes as Joe Lucarelli dotted down for the second time and then Eric Daneman scored a converted try on his Monmouth debut after linking well with his former Rutgers team mate Evan Fitzgerald.
Old Blue finished the half strongly forcing Monmouth to concede a penalty within 10 meters of their own line which was duly converted to leave the score 12-24 at the half.
The second half was a different game with Old Blue introducing a slew of players to start the half and more as the game went on including their Japanese professional Koki Hoshino.
These changes made a huge difference and Monmouth spent much of the half defending and by 10 minutes from time Old Blue had scored two tries and converted one to pull level. It was a stout rearguard action that managed to hold the home attack out for that long and only for some indecision at a tap penalty Old Blue could have been in real trouble.
In the last ten minutes both teams had chances and following a stunning turnover on the Monmouth 22 Joe Lucarelli put in a clearing kick that brought play within 15 meters of the Old Blue line. Their full back recovered but was quickly swallowed up by the Monmouth chase, he did not release and it seemed only a matter of the referee awarding a penalty in front of the posts to give Monmouth an easy kick to win the game. The penalty never came and when Joe drove through the ruck and stole the ball to touch down the referee remarkably gave the penalty to Old Blue for handling in the ruck despite Joe coming through the ruck to recover the ball outside the hindmost foot. Our final thrust was a counter attack by Nick Lynch that lacked support allowing Old Blue to extinguish the danger and allow the referee to blow the final whistle despite Joe imploring him for three more minutes.
Looking back at the game we saw some really strong performances in the backs with Eric Daneman making an impressive debut at 13, Nick Lynch doing the business counter attacking from full back, Drama and Alizar did not see much ball in attack but defended excellently when required, Rob was sharp and sniping around the scrum/breakdown and the Evan/Joe axis to created a constant threat.
In fairness the pack was a revelation as a unit in their first game – Ken Molina led with authority with Mario and Nick Lucarelli being physical and unyielding, Tim Crane and Mark Biafore combined well as flankers, Donny Lynch worked tirelessly and effectivly, Brendan McSherry was more than solid when asked to fill multiple roles, Nic Ross contributed well out of touch/in the loose, and then we come to the replacements. Mark Hardy came on a loose head to destroy the Old Blue back up SuperLeague tight head (if the referee had understood the scrum laws Mark would have created multiple turnovers), Sean Connors came into hooker and made an instant impression but the standout of the trio was David Del Pizzo who came on at flanker/8 man as a human wrecking ball and hit more Old Blue forwards in defense than you would think possible in a single set of phases. Apologies to the players that did not get in but supported the preparation of the side for the game.
Next week we’ll have more players available and back from injury for the Four Leafs and with two hard practices the team will be very competitive at Randall’s.
Monmouth at Old Blue B
1 – Mario Fragale (Mark Hardy)
2 – Nick Lucarelli (Sean Connors)
3 – Ken Molina (YC)
4 – Donny Lynch (David Del Pizzo)
5 – Nic Ross
6 – Tim Crane
7 – Mark Biafore
8 – Brendan McSherry
9 – Rob Morello
10 – Evan Fitzgerald
11 – Kevin Robinson
12 – Joe Lucarelli
13 – Eric Daneman
14 – Alizar Zorojew (Daniel Spaulding)
15 – Nick Lynch
Replacements (not used)
Retired/Not Playing in the Spring