By Liam Poach
Just what we, the American Rugby Public, need. Rugby on St. Patrick’s Day!
The most recent addition to the entity known as Major League Rugby, Rugby United New York, will take on the Ontario Arrows, a professional side that many expect to join New York as a 2019 entrant into the league.
United is heading into this game with a few of the same players who, while representing NYAC, fell short by one point to the Houston SaberCats just a few weeks prior. One name in particular to watch is Harry Bennett, who captained the NYAC side vs Houston. While his performance against the Coach Fitzpatrick-led SaberCats earned him a fair amount of praise, Bennett is also stepping into the backline with an already decent base of experience in an American professional rugby setting, having proven himself a fierce competitor for the Sacramento Express during the lone PRO season.
Another member of the squad who fits almost the same bill as Bennett is Anthony Parry, a former Ohio Aviator who nearly helped NYAC upset the heavily favored Houston team a few weeks ago. Parry will be stepping in at loosehead prop to make up a formidable front line that also includes Captain Dylan Fawsitt at hooker, and another NYAC alum Kirk Hamilton at the tighthead spot.
Even with the recognition that many of the names mentioned above have garnered, the smart money on potential tries scored in this one goes to the duo of Seamus Kelly (wing) and Luke Hume (fullback). Both of them possess a combination of speed and physicality that is sure to make them a focus in any opponent’s defensive game plan, as well as an asset to their own. Hume and Kelly have both seen caps for the USA National team. .
Then, we have the Ontario Arrows, who managed to actually tie the SaberCats in their matchup two weeks ago. While their training this off-season was severely limited, the Arrows were miles ahead of where they were against Glendale when they took on Houston.
While this NYAC scrum looks pretty imposing, the Arrows’ pack to their credit were able to provide more pushback and fight against the SaberCats than any of their other opponents this season. The Arrow scrum is headlined by such players as Mike Sheppard (flanker), the Captain of today’s squad and one of the three players who earned himself a try against Houston.
Meanwhile, props Rob Brouwer and AJ Quattri, who started against Houston, will be starting this game on the bench, instead giving way to Pat Lynott and Jack McRogers respectively. However, this could probably prove to be an advantage more than anything, especially when it comes to getting in fresh legs if things get close. Eventually, Brouwer and Quattri will be able to come off the bench and join the pack seamlessly and effectively.
The Arrows’ backline ain’t looking too shabby neitha’. Shawn Windsor is the first name you might see out of the lot, with his leg having played a big part in the close contest at Sugarland (3/3 on penalties). He’s also been a stalwart presence for the Ontario Blues for a number of seasons, and is regarded by some as one of the best club players in North America.
Meanwhile, my fellow fullback Aaron Mclleland proved vs Houston that he can be an explosive ball carrier when given the space and opportunity. If Mclleland can keep opponents on their heels, even from the way, way back, he could prove deadly not only in this match, but in many more to come.
One more to note, coming off the bench for the Arrows backline was someone who I thought performed very well against Houston, Marcello Wainwright. Like Mcllelland, Wainwright sounded as if he was a beast in traffic with the ball. If he can come off the bench late in the game and allow the Arrows to play a competitive possession-style game, it could be what seals the deal.
New York: 33
What do you want from me? It’s almost 1 am, I’m three drinks deep, and I need to publish this. New York gets this on the strength of their backline coupled with a dominant front row in the scrum. The Arrows commit a litany of handling penalties that end up killing a TON of entertaining, seemingly productive phases. Bennett gets Man of the Match.
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