|Jack Heidelberger photo|
Monmouth all but claimed MetNY’s top seed to the Northeast playoffs, which pits MetNY against New England, with a 33-19 defeat of New York Rugby Club Saturday.
Monmouth poured in six tries to NYRC’s three, and all of the New Jersey club’s touchdowns were scored via the backline. The lethal midfield attack of Joe Lucarelli and Eric Daneman combined for two tries, but the threat of them breaking away did even more damage.
“The forwards played exceptionally. Our lineout worked well, our scrum worked well, but really the winning of the game was that they focused on our centers,” said Monmouth coach Pat Moroney, “and as I said during the week we’ve got plenty of talented players all over the park, and we bang in tries from everywhere in the backline, from our flyhalf to our wingers.”
Flyhalf Evan Fitzgerald won man of the match honors for his defensive effort. Tasked with bringing down NYRC’s dangerous No. 8, Fitzgerald rose the occasion.
“He put in his tackles…He managed the backline defense very well,” Moroney said. Fitzgerald also turned his defense into offense, turning over a NYRC ball carrier and racing the pill 50 meters for a try.
“It’s one of those things we focus on a lot, that transition from defense to offense from turnovers, and it’s been working well for us,” Moroney added.
Monmouth, just two years removed from DII, felt underappreciated leading up to Saturday.
“We felt pretty disrespected all week,” said scrumhalf Rob Morello. “There were several publications that took shots at us indicating that we hadn’t really beaten anybody, so we took that to heart, and we used that and our cohesion as motivation to get us ready for today’s game.”
The only way Monmouth can be unseated as MetNY’s top seed is if New York claims bonus-point victories the next two weeks and Monmouth fails to register a point against Old Blue. New York also plays Old Blue in one of their final two matches.
Old Blue results count in the MetNY standings, but they’re still slated to play Super League in the spring and not advance in the DI postseason.
“We haven’t won (MetNY) yet, but we do plan to win it in two weeks. We’re going after Old Blue,” said Morello. “We’re not going to just sit back because we have a playoff spot, but they need to know they’re going to get every bit of what we believe Monmouth has to offer.”