2016 Grand Final Recap: Fight Reclaim USARL Championship

Played in Boston, under extreme heat, the Philadelphia Fight were able to win back the USARL Grand Final over the Southern Champions the Jacksonville Axemen by a score of 42-20.

Nerves were on display in the opening 15 minutes for the Philadelphia Fight. Constant knock-ons and penalties by the Fight players allowed the Axemen to play the passage of playinside the Fight’s half.

The Fight were able to settle down and begin applying pressure to the Jacksonville Axemen. At the 25th minute mark, the Fight had the Axemen pinned in their own half. After two sets on the Aexmen’s try line, the Fight were finally able to get over the line by an individual play from their halfback, Joel Weeks. With some fancy footwork and a left foot step, Weeks beat his defender and scored a try just to the left of the sticks. Winger Mike Timpano added the extras. The Fight were up 6 – 0 at the 28th minute mark.


The next 10 mintues were dominated by the Fight’s big men. Props James Coleman, Andrew Kneisly and lock Casey Clark were dominating in the middle of the field, making big defensive stands and providing quality go forward and quick plays for the Fight’s dummyhalf. During this passage of play, the Fight began to pull away from the Axemen.  It was capped off by another great individual effort from hooker Jared Frymoyer. Off a quick ruck, Frymoyer took a scoot out of dummyhalf, threw a dummy pass and jumped over a defender to score a try just to the left of the uprights. Timpano coverted, and the Fight were ahead 12 – 0 at the 38th minute mark.

However, the Axemen did not finish the first half scoreless. On the ensuing kickoff, the Fight committed a crucial error which gave the Axemen a chance to score their first points. Off the scrum, the Fight numbered up incorrectly and a missed tackle allowed the Axemen to score an easy try on the left fringe of the Fight. They were able to convert. At halftime, the score rang out 12 – 6.

The start of the second half was a much better start than the first half. Off their first set, the Weeks put up a big bomb which was chased well by five-eighth Rich Henson and right center Rhys Bowdich. The pressure they put on the Axemen fullback who spilled the ball straight into Henson’s hands. Three plays later, Weeks threw a patented 25 meter cut out ball to Louis Tulio who scored in the left hand corner. The conversion was not successful and the Fight were up 16 – 6 just two mintues into the second half.

On the ensuing set the Fight were able to score another try. In the second straight set, Weeks put up another bomb, and in the second straight set, both Henson and Bowdich chased hard. The pressure on the Axemen’s fullback was too much and he spilled the ball forward. Bowdich toed it ahead and fell on it in the in goal. Timpano added the extras. Just five minutes into the second half, the Fight were up 22 – 6.


The never say die attitude of the Axemen came back. Over the course of the next 15 minutes the Axemen scored two tries on the left hand edge. The first one came off the back of a great last play option to run instead of kick. The second try came on their next set from a very well placed kick in the right hand corner. The Axemen were able to regather, and link across the field and score in the left hand corner. They were able to link across They were able to convert one of the two tries. At the start of the 60th minute, the Fight led 22 – 16.

In the 60th minute, the Fight were given another opportunity to apply pressure with a scrum on the left and egde of the field 30 meters from the goal line. Prop Josh Vaartjes was able to get himself and his team a try. On the third play of the set, Vaartjes took the ball forward and smashed into the defense. His forward moment carried him over the try line and he was able to dot the ball down. The try was converted and the Fight were up 28 – 16.

On the kickoff, the Axemen kicked the ball straight to touch and the Fight were given another attacking opportunity and they took advantage. Off of a very well designed set play, Bowdich was able to go over for his second try on the afternoon. The conversion was missed, but the Fight increased their lead to 32 – 16. From this point on, the Fight took control of the match.

In the 68th minute, Weeks spotted a gab on the right hand fringe, and he made no mistake. As usual, Bowdich was in support. Weeks threw the pass to Bowdich who took the ball 5 meters from the try line. He was able to product an offload to right winger Mike Gentile.  Gentile, in typical winger fashion, finished the try with style. The conversion was missed, but the Fight pushed their lead to 36 – 16.

In the 70th Minute, the Fight added on to their lead. After a dropped ball from the Axemen, Vaartjes regathered and took off down field. He got 10 meters away from the try line. Bowdich, who again was in full support, picked up the ball from Vaartjes’ play the ball and scooted under the posts to score this third and final try of the afternoon.

Jacksonville were able to score a try at the end of the match, but it was much too little too late.


The Philadelphia Fight were able to take home the 2016 USARL National Championship over the Jacksonville Axemen by a score of 42 – 20.

“This was an incredible effort by our boys,” offered player coach Rich Henson. “Our boys understood their roles and what needed to be accomplished during this 80-minute task. We trusted ourselves and are obviously very happy with this result.”

“It was a surreal feeling, for sure,” added player coach Fraser Stirling. Stirling, who was forced off with an injury early on only to return to action later in the second half, added, “This is the first Final I’ve won with these boys, and it’s just incredible.”

Fight captain Rhys Bowdich has won his second grand final with the club. It is the second time in as many grand final appearances that he’s taken home the MVP. “He’s been such a great addition to our team,” added Henson. “He works harder than anyone that I know.”

“I couldn’t have done this without my team mates.” Added Bowich. “I am just happy we won the grand final again!”

This is the fourth USARL National Championship the Fight were able to take home. They won the championship in 2011, 2013, 2014 and again in 2016.


Tries: Bowdich (3), Tulio, Vaartjes, Weeks, Frymoyer, Gentile

Goals: Timpano 5 for 8

First half score: 12 – 6

Fulltime Score: 42 – 20

Man of the Match: Rhys Bowdich

Player’s Player: Jesse Fogg

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