The American National Rugby League has taken advantage of the milder than normal winter conditions in the northeast by introducing the 13-man code to new fans and players in New York.
The Northern Raiders, who have a number of players on their roster from Long island, hosted an exhibition game on the island.
The Raiders, who compete in the AMNRL’s Atlantic Conference, split their squad into two sides, the Wandering Raiders and Eastern Raiders and the game, played over four 20 minutes quarters, fittingly ended in a 28-28 tie.
The match started with a bang with Raiders veterans Steve Johnson and Fred Vero taking up some slam balls. That, along with tries by Vero and Kevin Lynch, laid the platform for the Wandering Raiders to take a 12-0 lead by the end of the first quarter.
Australian import Manny Syriotis and his Long Island RFC teammates laid on some big hits in the second period to lead an Eastern Raiders resurgence to tie things up at 12-12 at the half. Tries were scored by Syirotis and Doug Yablonski.
The third quarter saw some enterprising play by debutants Mike McGuire and Andrew Bourhill, both of Long Island. Each notched a try, while Bourhill, a Long Island All Star, transitioned well from rugby scrumhalf to league halfback.
The third period ended with the oldest Raider Carl Mariuz coming up with a big goal line tackle. He was helped out by solid defense from McGuire and Lynch.
In the fourth period, the Wandering Raiders tied the scores through a quick strike by Johnson, of Monroe and SUNY Buffalo, assisted by Mariuz. After more big hits by Greg Aguele and Nico Di Iorio, the Wanderers jumped in front 28-24 when Vero capped off an 80-meter scoring effort, again set up by Mariuz.
Three series later, however, Nick Skolum playing in his first game of rugby league bagged a nifty 35-meter score for the Eastern Raiders to knot the scores yet again at 28-28.
In the closing seconds of the contest, Yablonski made a huge line break and looked to be on his way to what would have been the game-winner for the Eastern Raiders, but he was brought down in a try-saving tackle by Joel Venables that forced a knock-on right on fulltime and ended the game.
Manny Syriotis was named Man-of-the-Match.
Newly appointed AMNRL referee John Royal, who coaches the Long Island RFC Colts youth rugby club, officiated on the day and USA Tomahawk Justin Ripley was also in attendance to help explain the rules of rugby league to new players and fans.