By DR. J. ZIMMERMAN
The Jersey Shore Sharks traveled to Levittown, Pa., on Oct. 2 for a conference match against the Hibernian Rugby Football Club. The Hibernians were founded in 1976 and this year marks their 40th anniversary as a rugby club.
The Sharks were the lucky team chosen to play in the Hibos’ anniversary match. The Hibernians take their name from the Latin “Hibernia” which was the Roman name for Ireland.
Many of the Hibernians founders were of Irish decent and they use the Connaught province of Ireland as their team crest.
The Hibernians rugby team has traveled all over the world, playing in England, Wales, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, New Zealand, Fiji, Bermuda and Ireland. The Hibernian rugby club has a special place in my heart, as they were one of the first teams that I played against when I joined the Sharks in 1990.
I remember playing the prop position against a tough-as-nails, muscular, “older” gent named Joe Kelly. I was 26 years old at the time, so anyone five years older than me was considered old.
Joe was probably 35 at the time. We had some good battles throughout the next few years in the front row of the scrum.
I remember Joe because he was so tough. He was a rough-and-tumble player. I have a photo hanging in my office of the two of us locked in a scrum battle, so it is very difficult to forget Joe — even 26 years later.
The reason I bring him up is at the post-match party this year, I ran into Joe. We were able to talk about the old days and have a beer or two.
But, before I digress too much, prior to the post-match party there was a rugby game!
The Hibernians and the Sharks played an 80-minute match in damp, cool conditions with the Sharks taking the victory, 27-25.
This was quite a match, as the lead changed twice and a strong last-quarter surge by the Hibernians had them almost taking the victory.
The Sharks played confident ball and were determined to keep the lead with a strong defense. The match started out with the Hibos crossing the try line at the 8-minute mark and again at the 37-minute mark to take a 10-point lead.
At 26 minutes, the Sharks drew a penalty from the Hibos within kicking range. The Sharks’ fullback, Ryan Fugee, kicked the penalty through the uprights and put three points on the board.
At the 37-minute mark, Sharks’ big prop forward Justin Edwards — all 280 pounds of him — crashed through the goal line for a 5-point try. Fugee nailed the conversion and the score was tied, 10-10, at the half time break.
My halftime speech was telling the boys that they were in a battle and that the only way they were going to win was if everyone dug down deep, played above and beyond their ability, and was able to keep the pressure on for the entire 40 minutes of the second half.
Just 1:26 into the half, Fugee caught a great pass and turned on the jets, juking past a few players and running 60 meters for a 5-point try. Fugee then kicked the 2-point conversion. (In rugby, touchdowns, or “tries,” are worth five points and the conversion kick is worth two.)
Six minutes into the half, Sharks forward Ollie Leadbeater pounced on a loose ball near the sideline and picked it up for a 40-meter run. Before he hit the opposition, he very neatly popped a pass to Sharks flyhalf Larry Quinn, who unloaded it to inside center J.C. Carr. Carr then ran through two people for the 5-point score.
The conversion kick was missed, but the Sharks were still up, 22-10.
The score did not stay lopsided, as the Hibos scored a 5-point try at the 10-minute mark.
The Sharks answered back with another Edwards forward crash for an additional five points, and took a 27-15 lead.
At this point, the Sharks got a little sloppy and started to concede a few penalties. The Hibo’s scored five points at the 30-minute mark and another five at the 35-minute mark.
With five minutes left to play and the score 27-25, the Sharks knew they had to do something special to keep the win. With excellent running and ball-handling, the Sharks worked their way down inside the Hibos’ 22-meter line.
The Sharks kept grinding away and it looked like we might put another score on the board, but the Hibos’ defense kept us out of the try zone until the final whistle blew.
It was a bruising battle. Man of the Match for the Sharks was prop forward Michael Lorge for his unrelenting play in the loose attack and loose defense.
In the second match, the Sharks beat the Hibos’ second team, 37-25. Man of the Match was awarded to rookie player, Chris Giruadin, a Stockton University student. In just his second match, the rookie has showed he has the talent to make it big in the rugby world.
Giruadin also started for the first time on the “A” side in the earlier victory against the Hibos.
All of the Sharks deserve lots of credit for this victory. Three cheers for Lorge, K. Connelly, Edwards, A. Brigden, T. Grentz, D. Connelly, O. Leadbeater, D. Abadie, D. Collette, M. Swain, L. Quinn, Giraudin, Carr, F. Borges, Fugee, R. Azlegio, B. Kilcoyne, N. Frantz, R. Moder, C. McCurty, Gabe Henaro, T. Capille and J. Abadie. Great work team! The Sharks open up the home portion of their schedule on Saturday, Oct. 8 at 1 p.m. against Binghamton, N.Y. Then, on Oct. 15, the Sharks host Harrisburg, Pa.
Dr. J. Zimmerman is the president of the Jersey Shore Rugby Club Board of Directors. He is the men’s club head coach and director of youth rugby. Dr. J. is also the team chiropractor. For more information on Jersey Shore Sharks Rugby or if you are interested in playing, visit www.JerseyShoreRugby.com or on Facebook at Jersey Shore Rugby Club, or call 609-652-6363 or email: Jerseyshoresharks@gmail.com.