By Dr. J. ZIMMERMAN
For two weeks in a row, away rugby matches! Road trip. A typical rugby season involves home and away matches, usually alternating each week. Some of the teams in our men’s club division are closer than others. A short trip for us is going to Cherry Hill or Philadelphia. Other teams in our division are in Lancaster, Reading, Harrisburg, Lehigh Valley and Wilmington, Del.
If our team makes it to the playoffs, we can travel to wherever the hosting team is located. In 2008, when we won the Mid-Atlantic Men’s Club Rugby Championship, we flew to Texas for the national championship final 8 round.
Road trips are nothing new in rugby. Some road trips are more special than others. With a little extra planning, we can have our players get excited about traveling a few hours. For instance, two weeks ago we were scheduled to play Delmarva Rugby Club in Millsboro, Del. The Delmarva field is located about 25 minutes outside Lewes, Del. In the beginning of the season, we decided we would rent two 15-passenger vans and take the Cape May Ferry across the Delaware Bay.
Getting the team together all in one or two vans and on the ferry would create a great atmosphere for the players. And on the ride home, the van and ferry would provide the team some togetherness where they could cut loose and have some fun.
Sports teams are notorious for busting on each other, cracking jokes and playing pranks. All of which happened on this trip — to the delight of the players and coaches.
As always, the trip to the game (thankfully) is quieter than the trip home. It’s early in the morning. The coaches make sure the players are thinking about the task at hand, which is winning a rugby game. Players go over duties in their heads and mentally prepare themselves for the afternoon match.
Our vans rolled into Delmarva Rugby Club. The players piled out and we got ourselves into our rugby gear, warmed up, stretched and went over plays. By kickoff time we had shaken off the long travel and were ready to go.
Two things can happen in a rugby game. You win or you lose. (OK, three things, you can tie). As you can guess, winning is much better than losing and winning makes the return trip much better.
In the first half against Delmarva, I knew we were in for a tough match. At halftime, the score was 0-0. Two teams giving all they had to try to score and try to stop the other team. The five-minute halftime break allowed me time to give the squad some coaching advice.
In this case, it wasn’t really advice, but more motivational. I knew they were giving it their all, but I needed them to be giving it more than their all. Instead of 100 percent from each player we needed a 110 percent.
The speech must have worked. Tim Lenzch Jr. (Mainland, Temple University) scored the first try and Rich Moder (Oakcrest, Lebanon Valley College) kicked the conversion. Once that happened, my team turned it on in a very physical way. JC Carr (Absegami, Rowan University) scored four more tries. Moder made all the kicking conversions but one. Final score: Jersey Shore Sharks 36, Delmarva 7.
Once the final whistle blew, I knew we would be having a very fun ride home. At the Delmarva post-match party, Carr was awarded Man of the Match for his multiple scores.
Once the rugby party ended, the vans loaded up and we made a pit-stop at Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Del. From there, we were on the ferry for the 90-minute ride across the bay. The boys treated the ferry as if they were on their very own cruise ship! Once the ship landed and the vans debarked, my arm was twisted (as the designated driver) to take the team out for some nightlife in Cape May Point.
Needless to say, the team had a great night after a great win.
The very next week, we were scheduled to play the Philadelphia Gryphons Rugby club as part of a tri-match with the Philly Hibernians, in Philadelphia. This time, when the kickoff whistle blew, there was no holding my team back.
Three minutes in, Carr crossed the line for five points and Ryan Fugee (Absegami, ACCC) kicked the conversion. An onslaught of tries ensued. Nick Frantz (Ceder Creek, Stockton) scored three tries, Carr scored another four, Lenzch scored three, Rick Azeglio (Stockton), Mike Guggenheim (Rutgers), Nick Scalise and Fugee all scored. Fugee kicked all of the extra-point conversions but one.
The final score was 96-0 for a Jersey Shore Sharks win. Of those 96 points, Fugee was responsible for 28 with just his kicking, in addition to the 5-point try he scored (total 33 points scored). Fugee was awarded Man of the Match.
It also must be said that the win could not have been possible without the dominating play of our big forwards. Not only did they win 100 percent of the scrums, but they bulldozed up and down the field with amazing ball carries, plowing through the opposition.
Robert “Pringles” Lundberg, Bobby “Tiny” Ransom, Ricardo Lisjo, Dave Connelly, Ken Connelly, Jim Rentshier, Alex Brigden and Brian Kilcoyne were outstanding. As this was a total team effort — a win this big could not have happened without everyone firing on all cylinders. Here is to the rest of the squad: Felix Borges, Pat Wood, Mel Monte, Spencer and Anthony Trejo, Justyn Marega and Kristof Whittle.
The takeaway from this match is not so much the obvious 96 points scored, but the zero points allowed. To completely shut out a team in an 80-minute rugby match is no small feat. The work that we have put in on our defense this season is paying off. Congratulations to the Sharks men’s club team for an amazing match and tremendous win!
Our high school rugby club, the Jersey Shore Sharks U-19, also pulled off a big win recently, going on the road to beat Bergen County Rugby Club 22-17. Evan Burton (Pinelands) and Grant Howell (Ocean City) were chosen by the coaches as the outstanding players for their exceptional play and leading by example. That was a great weekend to be a Sharks Rugby player!
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, including our high school rugby team, 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.
By Dr. J. ZIMMERMAN