The day opened up with something that has never been done before in the northern conference, a Reserve Grade game. Although it wasn’t a full 80 minutes and the structure was 9 a side, the game still had an incredible feel.
The game started out just the way the Fight wanted to, with center John Lyons scoring the first try of the afternoon from a break on the left fringe. Hooker, Joel Beasley added the extra two. He displayed a fine kicking performance on the afternoon, going 3 from 4.
After the first try, the Knights seemed to wake up. They forced a knock on from the Fight in the Fight’s own end and were quickly able to convert that into a four pointer, scoring off a last play kick in the right corner. After the ensuing kickoff, the Knights were able to get a penalty and again force the Fight to defend their line for the second time in as many minutes. Again, the Knights were successful in turning the Fight’s errors into a try. At halftime, the Knights were up 8-4.
During the second half of the game, the Fight seemed to open up a bit and were able to hold on to the football. The Fight quickly scored a try through Fight debutant Yoann Reynauld, the U-19 French National. Reynauld showed ingenuity and quick feet in the attack, carving up defenders with his goose stepping. The Fight were able to score two more tries, one more added by Reynaud and one by Beasley.
At fulltime the score line was 22-8 the way of the Fight.
Tries: Reynauld (2), Beasley, Lyons
Goals: Beasley (3)
Man of the Match: Reynauld
Players’ Player: Beasley
For Photos of the Reserve Grade match, click HERE (All photos courtesy of Gene Thorpe Photography, Official Photographer of the Philadelphia Fight)
After the fine display that Reserve Grade put on, the fans knew they were in for the best game of Rugby League the USARL had to offer in 2016. Coming into this match, both teams were undefeated, and neither side were going down with a fight.
The conditions were brutal for this contest. Just prior to kickoff, the rain came which left the field wet and slick and the air thick and humid.
The game started with the Fight kicking off to the New York Knights into the wind. From the kickoff, the competition was dominated by strong forward play from both sides. The Fight were able to get on the board with a quick dart from hooker Jared Frymoyer in their second set. Frymoyer was able to use his speed and agility around the ruck to snipe another try for himself and the team. Frymoyer was outstanding throughout the match, putting pressure on the Knights’ makers with runs like that. Timpano converted the try to take the Fight out to 6-0.
Although the Fight scored the first try, the arm wrestle continued for the duration of the opening half. The Fight’s big men, props Andrew Kneisly and Josh Vaartjes and lock Casey Clark were instrumental in the opening twenty minutes, simply dominating the ruck area and with big runs and strong defense. The Fight continued their strong play and were rewarded for it in the 25th minute with a penalty from 30 out meters. Timpano kept the scoreboard ticking over with another penalty goal taking the score out to 8-0.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Knights front row replacement Curtis Cunz was sent off due to a high swinging arm tackle. For the rest of the match, the Knights were down to 12 men.
During the last 15 minutes of the first half, the Fight saw the outside backs to help alleviate some of the pressure. Strong running was on display by centers Rhys Bowdich and Roman Lowery, helping the Fight get out of trouble when pinned down in their own end. Reserve forwards, Zac Reichenbach and Sam Pearce made immediate impacts on the game, having a few damaging runs themselves. Because of the work put in by these players, the Fight were able to score one more try by a solo line break created by halfback Joel Weeks, and once again it was converted by Timpano.
At halftime, the Fight led 14-0.
Knowing what type of effort they needed to put in with one man down and 40 minutes left, The Knights came out of the sheds on fire. In the opening minutes of the second half, the Knights were able to expose weakness in the Fight’s defensive line, scoring a try under the posts. It was converted. The score line read 14-6.
For the next 10 minutes, errors seem to slip into the Fight’s game as they either knocked on in their own half or committed penalties. However, they were able to weather the storm, and after a break from Vaartjes which left the Fight two meters from scoring, Weeks was able to throw a 30 meter cutout ball to left wing, Mike Timpano to score in the corner. The kick was unsuccessful and the Fight let 18-6.
On the very next set, the Fight were able to score again. Once again, it was started off from a line break from Vaartjes. Vaartjes was able to offload to a screaming Weeks, who was able to put the after burners on score under the sticks. The kick was successful and the Fight Let 24-6.
The arm wrestle continued for the next 10 minutes, as the Knights refused to give up. They were finally rewarded with a try on the left side fringe, as their 5/8, Chad Sharp cut through the line. The try was converted. The score line at the 55th minute was 24-12.
The Knights looked to be coming back as they started to assert their dominance in the middle of the field. They were able to march down the field on the ensuing kickoff; however, the Fight were lucky to intercept an errand pass, by way of Brian Madden. Madden was able to return the intercept for a four pointer. The try was not converted, and the Fight led 28-12.
On the kickoff the follows, the Fight committed a cardinal sin and was knocked the ball on in their own 20-meter line. That opened the gates for the Knights, and they scored on their next possession. The try was converted, and the Fight’s lead was cut 28-18.
The Knights never-say-die attitude continued, as they were able to walk down the field with easy and score another try in the right hand corner off a daft kick from halfback Matt Sharp. The try was not converted; the Fight’s lead was cut once more 28-22.
The Fight were able to dig deep and round back into form. With just two minutes left remaining in the match, Vaartjes, who was outstanding on the afternoon winning the man of the match performance, earned his team a penalty just to the left of the uprights, where Timpano was able to kick over with ease.
After the Knights short kickoff proved unsuccessful, the remainder of the game just simply a formality. The Fight were able to put this one in the books.
At fulltime, The Fight won, 30-22.
“It was a real forwards battle, which we knew it would be coming into this match,” said player coach Fraser Stirling. “We have been prepping for this match for a few weeks now, focusing on our forward play more than anything, and I think it was noticeable throughout the match.”
Next week the Fight travel up I-95 to take on the Boston 13s. While Boston has not had the early season success the would have liked, they now have two of the 4 import players from last season who led them to the 2015 USARL Championship. This game should be another one to circle on your calendar.
Tries: Weeks (2), Timpano, Frymoyer, Madden
Goals: Timpano (4)
Man of the Match: Vaartjes
Players’ Player: Weeks
For Photos of the 1st Grade Match, click HERE (All photos courtesy of Gene Thorpe Photography, Official Photographer of the Philadelphia Fight)
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