There are certain rules in Super League rugby. Winning on the road is tough is rule #1. And #2 is, playing shorthanded for any length of time is a recipe for trouble.
So Boston went on the road, lost a player to a red card (second row Dave Prell got two yellows for ruck infringements), and still won. How does that work? It works by not panicking.
“We were up 17-3 when we got the red,” said Boston Head Coach Mike Diamantopoulos. “It was scary. I didn’t want to show it to the players, but, yeah it was scary.”
Diamantopoulos gathered the players at halftime and told them to relax.
“I said, ‘Hey, we’ve done this before. We did it for 70 minutes against Denver. Sure we were playing into the wind, but I thought, and the players thought, that the key was to play to win, not play not to lose.”
And that’s what they did. Chicago battled back, and in fact took the lead 22-17 before Derrick Wavomba scored the go-ahead try for the Bostonians. Only then did Boston start playing to sit on the lead, kicking deep and making the Lions play the long field.
For the Chicago Lions, it was a very disappointing experience.
“It was very frustrating,” said Lions Head Coach Marty Wiggins. “Every time we played a bit of rugby we ended up where we wanted to be. But then we’d drop away. Boston played almost as if they didn’t realize they were a man down, and we played as if it would just automatically happen.”
The Lions work hard off the ball to score, and stopped doing that, leading players on the break to fend for themselves.
“Everything started to feed off that,” he said. “Mindless kicks, silly stuff, it all compounded. Boston never gave up, to their credit, and for us panic set in.”
It was an intriguing look at what happens when a team simply refuses to let a setback get them down.
Boston seems to have found their game – they defend hard in the centers, counter well, and never give up. Diamantopoulos switched prop Tony Purpura to tighthead prop and he performed well, as did the scrums while they were at full strength.
Meanwhile, Chicago knows exactly what they need to do to play well. They can’t take anything for granted.
“A loss isn’t the end of the world, but this happens to be Rugby Super League and on the schedule the we have, we can’t allow anything to slip away,” said Wiggins. “Talking to some of the players they now realize what’s at stake every week, but to throw a game away like that is a really tough lesson to learn. But for Boston to win on the road with 14 men … that’s impressive.”
Tough lesson indeed.
Chicago is at Life this weekend, a game they now almost have to win. After that, they host NYAC, and finish up against a Chicago Griffins team that would love another crack at their crosstown rivals.
None of those games is anything less than a must-win.
But before you think the Lions are out of it, Boston is NYAC this weekend, host the Griffins, and then host Life on the final weekend. There is no gimme there, either. Boston, at 2-1, could play very well and still come out of those three 1-2.
In short, it’s still all to play for in the Super League East.
Notes: Derrick Wavomba won the game with a try Saturday, and that was his last act as a Boston player this season, as he went under the knife this week. Wavomba delayed surgery until Roland Suniula was done play 7s for the USA. Suniula joined the club this week and is expected to play.