There was action aplenty in the kickoff to the AMNRL Atlantic and Midwest Conferences this past weekend and if the results are anything to go by, 2012 will be an action packed season.
The Northern Raiders made their mark on opening day with a commanding 54-24 win over the Bucks County Sharks. The Raiders started the match strongly piling on 18 unanswered points in the opening stanza before the Sharks began to find their rhythm.
The Sharks’ surge was led by try scorers Phil Shipos, Brian McCall, Ryan Sodano, and Dean Schofield with Steve Thompson converting 4/5.
The Sharks’ slow start to the match, however, proved to be costly with the Raiders finishing off the better of the two teams, eventually running away with the match. Australian recruit Mick Esdale provided a glimpse of what to expect this season.
The former Central Comets representative notched five tries for the Raiders in his maiden appearance. Other scorers for the match included Matt Reilly, Tony Kalamas, Rob Ploth, Nick Kostishak and Jon Walton. Joel Venables had a solid day with the boot making 7/10 conversions.
Despite the abundance of tries that were scored, Venables attributed the win to their defense. As he told WeAreRugby, “We had pride in our defensive line today.” He also had praise for their opposition. “The Sharks were a very good team. They would have scored more points if it wasn’t for our defensive effort.”
The impact of Australian recruits Marc Webb and Mick Esdale was also a talking point after the match. As Venables noted, “They’ve played together for a while and fed off each other magically out there.”
Elsewhere, last year's Grand Finalists Connecticut Wildcats started their season in a positive fashion, opening their account for 2012 with a comprehensive 38-18 victory over the PA Bulls.
The New York Knights provided the NOVA Eagles with a warm welcome to the new season by posting a 78-0 shutout of the new team that featured a host of Rugby League debutants.
The Knights, led by captain Gareth Baxendale, were able to dominate the Eagles on both sides of the ball all game. Adding to the Knights’ success were good performances by James and Emanuele Cipriani, who led many of the charges up front. In addition, good play was turned in by Andrew Moody and Fitzjames Adams, who provided well timed runs and support plays all afternoon.
The Eagles, who recently returned to the AMNRL, showed great courage and enthusiasm throughout the game despite coming up on the short end of their encounter with the Knights.
"Let me first say that I commend the Eagles for their efforts and welcome them back into the American National Rugby League!" said Knights president Robert Balachandran. "They have a wonderful facility, and a great bunch of guys who are keenly intent on growing the game in the Virginia/Washington DC area. All of us in the league look forward to seeing them improve as the season goes on."
New York head coach Guill Cieutat, who was equally congratulatory to the Eagles return to the AMNRL, was very pleased with the performance of the Knights during the entire game.
"I was very happy with the play of the boys this early in the season,” Cieutat said. “We had put in a disciplined game plan and even with a few new players, I was amazed at how quickly things gel together this early in the season."
The action continues in Round 2 next week with the Knights taking on the Wildcats, the Raiders will look to return serve against the Sharks, and the Eagles will heal their wounds in time to take on the Bulls.
The Western Storm has opened the AMNRL’s new Midwest Conference with a comprehensive 30-6 win Sunday night against the more established Chicago Stockyarders at Winnemac Park, Chicago.
After a nervous opening with both teams struggling to hold onto the ball, the deadlock was broken when the Storm’s Conor Hanley pounced on a loose ball and raced 60 yards to dot down in the left corner.
USA Tomahawks prospect Eric Hunt scored a quick fire brace of tries that was followed by a try right on halftime by his brother Kevin and the Storm took a handy 20-0 cushion into the locker rooms.
The shell-shocked Stockyarders were led well by skipper James Anderson, but the momentum of the game was with the visitors.
In the second half, the Storm posted more points through captain-coach Englishman Kellen Smith, who broke away from halfway to go over under the posts and a third Hunt goal despite early pressure from a much improved Stockyarders.
The home side eventually got on the board minutes later through a bloodied Ian Rose, who crashed over in a manner that typified the brave winger's performance with Nick Letizia converting.
Further chances to get back into the game were missed by the Stockyarders with the line begging before Haris Haslovic put the game to bed for the Storm on the final hooter to get the ball rolling in the AMNRL Midwest Conference.