Thursday, October 21, 2010

Game Recaps of the Duke and Gastonia matches

Sorry for the delay in getting these posts out...

For the first game of our Fall 2010 season, we convoyed over to Durham to face off against Duke in a Friday night game. This first game featured fresh faces at several positions both within the scrum and back line. Returning players such as Dave "Caveman" Watters, and Aaron "Harvard" Craig helped to lead the scrum, while flyhalf Sean "Burrito" McNally led a back line in which Harrison Anthony started his first game at the outside center position.

This game was played in true fall non-MATRIX fashion, with no kicking for points allowed, due to the fact that a massive satellite was placed behind one of the goal posts in order to broadcast the soccer game that was happening that same night.

Duke started hot, and the Guilford defense was slow to respond, giving up a quick try to the Blue Devils. It was a back and forth game, with penalties on both sides of the ball. The Guilford set-pieces were somewhat sloppy, but it is to be expected with a healthy dose of new blood in the scrums and line outs. Guilford's main defensive problem was not coming up to the ball, and Duke was able to move the ball along the line unimpeded. Our boys responded though, with excellent runs and try's by Harry and Sean McNally in the first half.

The second half went in a similar fashion as the first, but Guilford remained close the entire game. Several forwards made strong powerful runs in after halftime, including those by David Watters and Aaron Craig, the latter of which resulted in a try. The quick Duke wing was more limited than he was in the previous game the previous spring, although he still broke off several long runs.

For the fresh blood - Senior Grayson and transfer Junior Randy played with the type of intensity that makes us proud to be ruggers. Overall there were clear things to work on, but Guilford showed good resilience and chemistry as a side playing its first match together.

Final Score :Duke 35 - Guilford 25

In the first home match of the season the Guilford Men played against the Gastonia Men's Rugby club in a late afternooon match during parents weekend. After watching the girls club play a valiant game against UNC-G, our men took the pitch against the larger, older men of the Gastonia club. This game was confirmed late, after our scheduled opponent Elon, realized that they had already scheduled a match for the weekend against Duke.

The Guilford Club was much better prepared for this, our second match playing as a side, although, an injury to Andrew Slater left us without our captain. For this match, Harry Anthony played at fly half, with veteran Sean McNally moving to the outside center position. This new back line allowed McNally to play his natural position at 13, and put Harry at the 10 spot.

In this second game it was Guilford's turn to start quickly, with excellent back line passing bringing a quick try to the Quakers. The Guilford defense responded to the critics, with better movement and spacing throughout the line. Excellent tackling was displayed around the breakdown by Kevin Cumberland, and new scrummy "Baby" Nick Forman. The Guilford lineouts were also much improved and it showed, with the set pieces bringing breakout offense which resulted in a series of tries for the Guilford Side.

This was a good win for Guilford, our first of the 2010 - 2011 season, and showed the team's potential. Our next game is Saturday, October 30 against Pembroke.

Stay posted

Final Score: Guilford 29 - Gastonia 19

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Embarrassing loss to UNCG ends competitive season for Guilford

It's never easy to write a match report for a game in which your side did not manage a single point. Even more so when the competition put up 60. On Friday night Guilford traveled across town for what was anticipated as a clash of playoff-bound teams and came back with nothing more than a sack full of dirty jerseys and, yes, a 0-60 obliteration on our minds. This one won't take too long...

The first ten minutes of the game are worth mention as Guilford showed the game that had put them at 2-1 in the matrix with a couple of bonus points: center Bryce Bjornson broke for an impressive gain - although he would suffer a concussion, his third in four games, after using his head as a battering ram. Flyhalf Sean McNally, who captained for the visting side with Andrew Slater out with injury, showed renewed composure - after losing control of his line in the latter stages of the Duke game - and managed his centers and back three tactfully, although not fruitfully, throughout the test. Winger "Baby" Nick Forman showcased some of his linebacker schooling in a few impressive tackles in the open field. Kevin Cumberland, moving to the number eight position for injured Slater and gave a strong performance. As usual, first-year utility-forward Aaron Craig made his presence known at both flanker and prop. And the reintroduction of veteran hooker Abel Montes de Oca added a boost of tenacity to the pack. And that is as much as can be said for the Guilford side.

After UNCG scored their first try of the match Guilford fell apart, revealing yet again the true weakness of this athletically-talented team: discipline and emotional control. Like a blow to the groin, Guilford never recovered from that first score and UNCG was able to take advantage and had piled on 31 points before half-time. In the second half they would add 29 more with the last ten minutes of the game reduced to a gunfight in which Guilford had not even a spoon to defend itself. To add insult to injury prop Jamie Sisk, finally back healthy in the starting side, earned a yellow card in the first half for a high-tackle and celebration that sent him to the bin and then in the second half delivered an astounding shoulder charge that put him off the field for good and left the already reeling Guilford side a man down for the remainder of the match. Sisk is now looking at a 10-week benching at the hands of the ref and NCRU.

And speak of the ref... From my vantage point in a sling on the sideline, that was the worst bit of refereeing I have ever witnessed. His interesting mix of silent advantage, a delayed whistle and a general blatant ignorance of the rules of rugby had the coaches of both teams commiserating on the sideline and offering to help point out that a penalty does not garner a scrum down and other forgettable points from the rugby rulebook.

There's nothing really to add here. Gulford will be playing a series of friendlys to close out the spring season, traveling to Davidson this weekend, possibly heading down to the beach to take on UNCW - who are back in the developmental league after fulfilling their 2 year suspension - and then meeting the Triad Dawgwood Flowers at home on the 17th and finally UNC Pembroke at home on the 24th.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Night game at Duke ends in heartbreak

The final score did not reflect the game that Guilford played on Thursday night. Discipline was the missing factor in the 20-31 loss as Guilford controlled the pace of game and possession of the ball but could not capitalize at key moments. Duke took advantage with a combination of lucky breaks and smart decisions to outlast us and come away from the battle of a match with the win.

In the first half both teams came strongly out of the gate. After a missed penalty kick by Guilford early, Duke got a chance of their own in front of the posts and knocked down the games first points. We had heard the stories of Duke's speedy wing and indeed they are all true. He got his first try of the game early, taking advantage of an unset Guilford defensive line. Down by 10 we charged back and put together a good series of phases, marching down to the Duke 5 meter line. This momentum was put on hiatus when the lights to the field shut off leaving everyone standing confusedly in the dark. 20 minutes later at the restart Guilford was unable to turn the opportunity into points.

Possession flipped but Guilford continued to press into Duke territory and flyhalf Sean McNally, in his classic burrito form, touched down after quick-tapping a penalty for Guilford's first points. However, the effort was nullified when Duke, noticing Guilford lagging, quickly took the kickoff and their wing recovered the deep kick for another try, putting Duke up 7-17. Shortly after fullback Max George scooped up an errant pass and broke through the line for a try but missed the conversion to make it 12-17 and that would be the score at the half.

On the opening phase of the second half outside center Bryce Bjornson, who had just subbed in for starter Harry Anthony, took a hefty blow to his mustache-laden head, rendering him apparently concussed but unwilling to step off. After the restart Guilford charged back with the pack controlling the rucks, scrums and line-outs. An apparent try by flanker Kevin Cumberland was revoked, the ref penalizing him for a double-maneuver. However, Guilford regained possession and went back on the attack and Bryce proved his resiliency by breaking multiple tackles in an impressive streak down the left side, culminating in a timely off-load to wing Luke Walsh-Mellett who was able to finish the attack with a game-tying try.

The score was stuck at 17-17 for some time and the next points would come from the boot of wing Walt Barber, putting Guilford up 20-17 with about 10 minutes left. However, discipline fell by the wayside and the backline, after displaying effective ball movement around the center of the pitch, lacked creativity in the opposing red zone and was unable to convert crucial opportunities. Duke's winger was able to field a bad Guilford pass and shrug off a tackler for his third try of the game, putting Duke up 20-24 with 8 minutes left in the match. Securing the kick off, Guilford fought back but again could not convert pressure into points and Duke put the last nail in the coffin when their opposite wing touched down after a long run to put the home team up 20-31 with a couple minutes remaining in the match.

Despite the loss, Guilford has a lot to be proud of. With six changes in the starting line, a few players had impressive performances to make up the difference. Cumberland, lock Crosby Blair, and man-of-the-match hooker Aaron Craig were beasts. The starting back three - Walsh-Mellett, George, and Dave Kloss - rendered Duke's kicking attack harmless and mounted a few solid counter-attacks. Starting center Andrew "Texas" Heimsath, finally getting his first action, was steady at both outside (first half) and inside (second half) and should be a force to be reckoned with as the season progresses. But once again, penalties (15) plagued Guilford and a subsequent lack of discipline left us unable to capitalize on the number of opportunities we were afforded.

With a rest for spring break, the next match is a Friday night game on March 19 at UNCG. Thanks to all the fans who traveled to support us last night (Duke had less than a handful of supporters for their home game and we had an entire cheering section!), hope to see you at the next one.

Quote of the day: When being checked for symptoms of concussion after the match and asked what his name was, he stared blankly off into space and muttered, "Bryce College Bjornson." Classic.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Guilford moves to 2-0

On Saturday Guilford defeated UNC Charlotte 28-3 to move to 2-0 with 6 points in the matrix standings. After a lashing at the hands of UNCC in the friendly fall season, Guilford looked to get revenge, and it came.

In the first half of the game Guilford dominated with controlled methodical rugby and maintained possession of the ball for a majority of the 40 minutes. With the pack commanding the rucks and scrums the Quakers marched down the field and scored early when flanker Kevin Cumberland made a head's up play in support of charging fullback Max George catching the off load pass and breaking through an uneven line to touch down.

Charlotte responded by capitalizing off of a Guilford penalty, putting a tough kick through the posts. But Guilford charged back and again attacked wide. George found the tryzone to cap off a fast-paced series. For the second week in a row lock Crosby Blair governed the line outs and the pack controlled the scrumdowns, allowing the backs to play with confidence. Before the break Guilford got another try in the hands of wing Luke Walsh-Mellet who touched down in the corner. Wing Walt Barber nailed the cross-field conversion to give the home team a comfortable 21-3 lead at half.

After the break Charlotte came out with force, stealing the kickoff and mounting a strong attack but Guilford held. Injuries to Cumberland, George and center Bryce Bjornson brought on a wave of substitutions and Guilford's composure weakened in the second half. McNally stayed on despite an obvious hobble and it would be his try - a sneaky quick-tap from five meters out - for the second week in a row, that earned the Quakers (AKA the Giant Stonehenge Beavers) a bonus point in the matrix standings.

Penalties plagued Guilford (I counted 8 in the first half) but Charlotte was unable to find rhythm and the uncoached home team produced a convincing 28-3 win in front of a large gathering of fans who enjoyed the first fair-weather match in a long time. Prop Jamie Sisk's impressive first half earned him the day's Man-of-the-Match award.

Guilford (2-0) will travel to Duke for a night game Thursday, Mar. 4.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Guilford gets back to winning ways in 2010 opener

Despite accruing an embarrassing total of 18 penalties - most coming around the ruck - Guilford managed to seize victory in the opening game of the 2010 matrix season against the visiting Elon Pheonix on Saturday. In what might be remembered here out as the "mud match," a game that was thought to be just another in a string of cancellations (dating back to Halloween day for Guilford) but was ultimately allowed to commence, both teams came out of the gate with intensity.

Elon captured the momentum early with the first try of the game off of a mishandled kickoff by the home team. Within minutes most members of both sides were covered in a thick layer of brown mud as all of the snow from the night before melted on the already-devastated Guilford rugby pitch.

Guilford regained composure and took over the lead with two tries before the break as winger wing Walt Barber and inside center Randall Aldana each earned their first career scores; Walt touching down in the corner and Randall charging through from five meters out after the pack secured an important scrum. A controversial offsides high tackle by Aldana in front of his own try-zone would probably have earned him a ten-minute breather and a penalty try for the Phoenix under most officials whistles, but instead was deemed just a penalty, which Elon could not use to their advantage.

After the half Guilford's forwards began to control the game with a dominating scrum and some impressive jumping in the line-outs by lock Crosby Blair. Guilford found themselves unable to find pay dirt after winger Dave Kloss got the ball close on a weak-side attack. The forwards ran a succession of crashes around the five-meter line until getting penalized and losing a potential game-sealing opportunity.

However, the tired Guilford side was aided by a string of substitutions and a large crowd of home supporters and off of a line-out in their own end fullback Max George caught a long pass from flyhalf Sean McNally, found a hole in the Elon line and was able to shake the lone 15 and take it 60 meters until falling awkwardly a few feet in front of the try-zone and squirming forward to touch the ball down across the line just before an Elon defender got there.

But the Phoenix fought back and after yet another penalty in the ruck against the home team and the subsequent sin-binning of captain Andrew Slater an Elon forward scored on a hard tap-and-go drive from five meters out. The remainder of the game was defined by sloppy play from both sides in the increasingly muddy conditions. The teams traded penalties and Guilford benefited from some crucial Elon knock-ons until flyhalf Sean McNally managed to break a succession of tackles and run in the game's final try with minutes remaining, securing a bonus point for the Quakers.

With a final score of 22-10 Guilford earned their first win since September and find themselves in a decent position approaching this weekend's home match against UNC Charlotte. Spirited play from flanker Kevin Cumberland, who was so thoroughly covered in mud by game's end that his number seven was indiscernible, earned him the Man-of-the-Match award.

At days end it was clear that everyone is happy to be playing rugby again and the unheard of streak of seven straight games canceled due to weather is finally over. Guilford will host Charlotte, who have yet to play this year, at 1 PM on Saturday.

(photos by Cloud Gamble)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Finally, Saturday can be a rugby day once again.

For as long as this blog has been down (since the NCRU tourney last fall), Guilford Rugby has been unable to play a match, perhaps a direct response from the rugby gods to the inconsiderate and unfavorable nature of the content formerly appearing on this blog.

However, I am happy to announce a number of positives in this post, the foremost being the extreme likelihood of a Guilford Rugby match being played this coming Saturday. That's right, after three months of rain and snow cancellations (totaling 7 straight unplayed games), this Saturday the weather is looking good and Guilford hopes to host Elon Rugby Club at 1 PM to kick off their Spring 2010 Matrix campaign. Despite the facts that our last game was on Halloween day (and we, appropriately, wore NC State's graciously shared b-side jerseys) and it was a devastating blow-out delivered at the hands of an impressive UNCG side, Guilford is coming into this weekend's game with a renewed focus and energy and a generally thankful attitude to just be playing rugby again.

Other news: just before the winter break Guilford put together a 7's side featuring Sean McNally, Luke Walsh-Mellet, Kevin Smithey, Andrew Slater, Max George, Alum Drew Gottlieb and Ben Snyder, and ruglets Nelson, James and Z plus Sean's little brother Connor who flew up from Austin to participate. The team entered into the Columbia-hosted annual Grunk 7's tourney and came out with a 1-2-1 record on the day and a lot of gained experience and lost energy. We sported new green-and-white (cliche much?) jerseys under the moniker "McNally's Gold" after a player homebrew, and Sean is hoping to break the set back out this summer for a few tourneys around NC and Texas (if you're interested in playing for McNally's Gold 7's this summer, let us know!).

Just after Christmas this winter former Guilford flyhalf and reigning Woodcock holder (and current volunteer assistant coach) David McKindley-Ward returned from his 3 month stay in Ireland where he was productive playing Outside Center for Dunmanway, a small town club near Cork under the Munster family of Irish rugby. McKindley-Ward scored a handful of tries for the club that would find itself playing for the championship in its division (although David injured his shoulder and couldn't play) and he made such a contribution as to be asked to stay on, which was, unfortunately, not possible due to his visa. However, back in Greensboro, David is, regrettably unable to play for Guilford, but has joined alum Gottlieb and Snyder on the Triad Men's Club. We wish him luck and hope he can return to Guilford in the fall.

And that is about all I will say for now. I am happy to be back from injury and will be doning the 15 in Saturday's match. More to come soon, great to be back on the pitch and back online!