Coming into the last game of the year and facing the best team in the division is not always what you want, especially if you have been having a tough season, as the U13 had.
In the week leading up to the game, Pelham coaches Matt Persanis and Spencer Scanlon both spoke several times about the need to shake things up and try some new stuff. The team responded to the pressure and played their best game in two years.
At the start, Pelham kicked off and pinned Aspetuck deep in their own zone. Eventually, after some stellar defense from James Bristow, Woods Johnson and Conor Buechner, Pelham caused a knock-on. On the ensuing scrum, Quinn Scanlon picked up the ball and ran in for a try. 5-0 Pelham.
Pelham received the kick and drove deep into the Aspetuck half. It was a back-and-forth affair the rest of the half before Aspetuck was able to push in a try of their own, taking the game to 5-5. Pelham responded by digging deep and playing the best defense they have played all season. Several times Pelham was able to hold up an Aspetuck player in the try zone, preventing a score (in rugby the ball must be touched down to score). Aspetuck had some huge kids playing, some who towered over the coaches. But Pelham’s commitment did not change. The backline of Quinn Scanlon, James Bristow, Connor Evans, Woods Johnson, James Hupprich, Andrew Clausen and Sam Jalnoos stood strong and repelled wave after wave of Aspetuck attack.
The half ended tied at 5-5.
The second half was more of the same. Pelham took on the challenge and refused to break. Jean Vigroux treated the fans several times as he tracked down Aspetuck players liked a cheetah would a wounded gazelle.
Minutes into the second half disaster struck. James Hupprich took a hard hit, causing him to be replaced by Sam Jalnoos. Sam is clearly our smallest player and was opposite a giant from Aspetuck. Aspetuck attempted to capitalize on a perceived weakness and made the mistake of running at Sam, only to be repelled time after time. Sam tackled everything that came his way. Then the changes started. Quinn Jenkins, our prop, stepped in to give Woods a break. Usually props do not play outside center. But Quinn came in and has laid down the gauntlet. He clearly is a center in the making. He chased down every one of Aspetuck’s backs and made one of the best runs of the year, busting up through the center, flinging would be tacklers to the side.
Eventually some injuries hurt Pelham, allowing Aspetuck to score two more times. The game ended 15-5 to Aspetuck. Special mention goes to Quinn Jenkins, Jean Vigroux, Andrew Clausen, James Bristow and Woods Johnson. Player of the game went to Sam Jalnoos for his bravery and tackling.
The U15 team came into the game needing the win to complete an undefeated season. By halftime the answer was clear: Pelham would end the season unbeaten and league champions for the second year in a row. The final score was 50-5 and could have been much higher had Pelham not pulled some players and moved players around. There was no need to embarrass the opposition. Pelham scored eight trys and converted five of those kicks. Scorers included Ryan Killeen, Xavier Worsely (2), David Monaco, Luke Persanis (2), Matt Rabinowitz and North Westall.
Special mention goes to Ryan Killeen, Luke Persanis, Whit Johnson, David Monaco, Matt Rabinowitz, North Westall, Morgan Collins, and the twin towers of Kevin Ndou and Josh Quinn. Player of the game went to Matt Biskup. Matt has been a strong player all season and deserved the nod based upon his defense.
The U15 game was also an excellent opportunity to explain the difference between rugby and some other sports. During the game, one of the Aspetuck players cursed at his teammate. The ref allowed play to continue to see if Pelham gained an advantage, and upon play ending, handed the cursing Aspetuck player a yellow card. A yellow card means the offending player must sit out 10 minutes and his team must play short during that time. A few minutes later, a high tackle was attempted by an Aspetuck player a Pelham player scored. After the score, the ref asked the Aspetuck player to come over. He wanted to issue a warning about high tackles. The Aspetuck player replied, “Yeah, yeah, whatever, I know.” The ref then told him that when a referee calls you, you come and you don’t talk back to the ref. The ref then said he was not going to penalize the kid for the high tackle but was issuing a warning. The kids response: “Yeah, gee, thanks a lot.” The ref issued a red card for talking back. That meant Aspetuck would lose that player for the whole game and play short.
Moments later, the player who was issued the yellow card returned to the field. He attempted a kick that he hit poorly and swore again. The ref then issued a second yellow card for profanity and two yellows means an automatic red.
Aspetuck’s use of profanity and disrespectful attitude caused them to play two men down in a game they were getting killed in anyway.
This was in direct comparison to the way a Pelham player demonstrated how to handle himself. David Monaco accidentally made a high tackle. The ref summoned him over, explained what happened and issued a warning. David’s response was perfect: “I’m sorry. I did not mean it. It won’t happen again sir.”
Lesson learned. In rugby, you don’t use profanity, you don’t talk back to the ref. Period.