Fall rugby, in Keene, New Hampshire… it’s officially upon us – well, sort of. Saturday, we celebrated abnormally warm weather with a few other “abnormalities.” As our home-opener against #BlackRiverRugbyClub, we took the opportunity to thank our amazing premier sponsors: Beeze Tees Screen Printing, Nye Hill Farm, 21 Bar & Grill, and Kilkenny Pub. Special shout-out to The Barbery In Keene, NH for all their support, and Branch and Blade Brewing – for the great game balls and Players of the Match prizes!
Other special circumstances include (A) our “Phoenix Player of the Year” front-runner, Elliott Hughes, who “opted out of the match” for THE ONLY acceptable reason according to Coach Wayne LaBombard: continuing the legacy (as pictured below). Congrats, Elliott and Kirsten! Can’t wait to meet new Wolf-pup, Dorothy Grace!!! And then there was (B) The Pack’s only man-bun, Jason Cook, re-aggravating a calf injury during a pre-kickoff high-five with his coach… not either of their proudest moments. Two starters down – first whistle hasn’t even sounded!
So, with “not available” designations for perennial impact starters due to child-rearing and high-fives, we knew we wouldn’t be taking the normal route this week.
From the first kickoff, Intensity declared itself the game’s primary emotion. Neither team claimed perfection, but opportunity availed itself first to Monadnock. Inside Black River’s 22m line, two high-tackle penalties gave quick options to the Wolfpack, and put last week’s “missing link,” Aidan Danger McAllister, with 3 would-be tacklers in his way to the try zone. Advantage, Danger! Wolfpack up: 5-0. With some massive hits by our defense, Black River’s possession seemed short-lived and quickly a turnover inside our attacking zone put the forwards in a downhill mentality. 3 successive crashes drew the defense, and opportunistic veteran, Dan Belluscio, powered over a few speed bumps on his way to a sideline pay-day. Up to the task, Ely Thayer decided 7 is better than 5 and converted the score: 12-0, good guys. Less than 5 minutes later, rookie sensation, Stephen Wolff, found himself taking the express lane off a forward-pick into the promised land: 17-0.
Backed into a corner with plenty of rugby to play, Black River showed their strength at around 30 minutes… Linking nicely between distributors, crashers, and terrific support, they capitalized on a reeling defense and dotted down a converted score to announce their mission: 17-7. After a botched lineout in our attacking half, the “cleanup crew” decided that it was time to impose their will – giving our play-caller the chance to be a play-maker and seeing him cut through the defense to score in the center, and convert his own: 24-7. HALFTIME
In the second half, penalties plagued both squads. First, Black River gave Monadnock a look at posts twice within easy range for the sure-footed fly-half: 30-7. The Wolfpack saw crossover athlete rookies, Mischa Hoffman and Torre Marks, take high-tackle yellow cards in the 64th and 65th minutes – to stack the deck 15v13 in favor of the visiting team. Smelling blood in the water, a skilled Black River manipulated the tired and outnumbered defense, swiftly scoring after the second card: 30-12. Captain, Ryan Bell, settled his troops and led by example – playing out of position and tallying 10+ tackles of the pressuring opposition. Tempo and Trust became the mind-set for the vastly outnumbered home team. As time wound down, with fatigue strangling each of the 30 animals remaining, Black River showed their never-say-die mentality and scored a converted try as time expired: 30-19.