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!