The New England DI season begins Saturday, and for the first time in a long time, Boston’s top side is competing for a DI championship and a berth into the DI playoffs.
“The difference is right now the games actually count for something,” said Boston coach Mike Diamontopolous. “Before it was playing for pride, playing to do well and develop players.”
When the games didn’t count last fall, Boston ran the league table and finished 5-0, so Boston shouldn’t endure a post-RSL hangover like the Chicago Lions did last season.
“The change that I made last year was I made all the guys play in the fall. Nobody took the fall off,” Diamontopolous said.
Boston has lost some players, like their fly half and second row, but they’ve brought in some Eagle-qualifying guys from overseas, too. Liam Murphy, a former Junior All American, can play in the back row or second row, and he joins Boston from Young Munster in Ireland. He played on the U20s with Boston captain Sean Treacy, who moved to the States last season after playing with Black Rock of the Leinster setup.
Also coming from Ireland is lock John Quill, who Diamontopolous says will be playing for the US Developmental team in the America’s Rugby Championship later in the fall. He played for Munster A and qualifies for the Eagles because his mom was American.
Boston opens the season against New Haven, and Diamontopolous is not taking the match-up lightly.
“With New Haven, they’ve had a really young team the last couple of years, so I’m assuming they’re going to be better,” he said. “It’s a bit different. In the Super League I know who everybody is. You get game film. In DI, who says they didn’t bring in five new players? So I’m a little nervous for sure going in. It’s definitely an unknown.”
With Boston’s re-entry to DI, the road to the playoffs gets a tougher for teams like Mystic River, who finished third in the league table among playoff-eligible teams last season. But, Mystic still sees itself as a contender.
“I would hope that we do. I don’t step on the field unless I expect to win,” said Mystic River’s Carrick Pell. “That’s just how we roll. I’ve been here for six years, and we’ve made the playoffs every season, and that’s just the expectation. The organization, the players and the fans have all come to expect to if no winning it we’re going to be competitive for it.”
Mystic River opens up against South Shore, who finished just ahead of them last season.
“Literally they’ve had our number,” said Pell of South Shore. “They beat us last fall to start out with and they beat us in Newport in the NERFU Cup, and they’ve somehow found a way to get our number, so hopefully we can find a way to overcome that at home this year.”
Elsewehere in New England, Middlesex gets going with a home match against Hartford Saturday.
"We’ve played against them a lot in DII. They’re a tough, physical side," said Middlesex coach Josh Smith of Hartford. "They’re a quality side. They’re going to play some smash mouth rugby, I think. They’ll probably look to slow us down a lot, like most teams will, but I think our pace is where we match up pretty well with them."
Saturday will be Middlesex's first 15s match of the season, as they chose to forego a preseason following a long 7s campaign. But, says Smith, the team should still be fit enough to compete this weekend.
"Our fitness and our repetitions are pretty good. We had a lot of guys come out to 7s, including our tight five guys, even if it was just once a week to train, so everybody stayed pretty well in shape over the offseason."
Week One Matches
South Shore @ Mystic River
Boston @ New Haven
Boston Irish Wolfhounds @ Amoskeag
Hartford @ Middlesex