After finishing 4-4 in the MetNY Men's DI club league in 2010, Monmouth is off to an superb start this fall, beating the Village Lions 34-5 and Long Island 36-19 to start 2-0.
"It's always a pleasure to run with Long Island, who has been the class of our union for years, and plays the game hard and cleanly every time out," said club president and scrumhalf Rob Morello. "The word of the day for us today was 'consistent.' We made three assumptions going into today's game: 1) Long Island had seen our backline in action during the summer, and would defend us very well on the outside 2) that Long Island would try to bully us in the pack, because they were aware of our personnel turnover over the past year and 3) based on scouting from last week, that Long Island would potentially gas in the second half. All three came true."
Long Island played very solid defense, especially out wide, and pinned Monmouth's attack back.
But the Monmouth pack, despite being somewhat small, was hard-nosed and after three works of strength work and training in the set pieces, they started to wear Long Island down.
Lock and elder statesman James Barlow was a stabilizing force in the drive and lineout, and some personnel shifts late helped keep the Monmouth pack fresh.
They needed it, as at halftime the score was only 12-10 after Long island scored late.
"I was disappointed we let Long Island off the hook with a man in the bin at the end of the first half," said Head Coach Pat Moroney. "We then had a period of 10 mins in the second half where are concentration was not where it needed to be. However we created a lot of pressure with our defense causing turnovers and forcing mistakesm. Our bench players upped the tempo in the last 20 and it was very satisfying to finish on the front foot after fading during that portion of the same game last year."
Hooker Dave Del Pizzo was shifted to prop in the last 20 and held his own in the scrum while rallying the defense. His leadership kept the Monmouth club on task.
The backs scored all the tries for Monmouth, with Eric Daneman, Rob Morello, Kevin Kustelski and Michael Byrnes all touching down once, and Joe Lucarelli adding a try, three conversions and a penalty for 14 points on his own. However flyhalf Eric Fitzgerald praised the forwards to winning the game, saying after the match that it was the platform from the pack that created the victory.
All in all, a good start for the season for a club that usually isn't the first one you list when talking New York-area rugby. But maybe it will be.
"We stayed with our year-long gameplan, which is consistent phasing and outstanding defense," said Morello. "Having been playing together every weekend since January, this is a committed and quietly confident bunch. If we trust each other and keep working hard, we feel as a group that good things are bound to happen."