The home opener was played on a warm sunny day with light winds and spirits high from the previous week’s success. However, rain earlier in the week limited preparation to just one practice. So, with the Predators earning a tough win over NTXB in the Austin tournament, expectations were that the team would have to execute in order to come out on top against their North Texas rivals. The key part of the team strategy going into the match was to quickly recycle the ball in the rucks to neutralize the NTXB size advantage that worked against us in the tournament. That strategy appeared to pay dividends early in the first match.
In the first match, the Predator 1st XV came out strong. In fact, it was ALL Predators in the first half. Bryce Chatfield started off the match with a scrappy try off of a ruck deep in the Barbarian half. Josh Seligsohn converted. Shortly thereafter, the Predators relentless defense again put the Barbarians backs against the wall deep in their half. James Laprocido was able to dot down a hustle try off of a turnover near the Barbarian goal line. Shortly thereafter, Merrick Moncure took a pass off a ruck and was able to turn the corner with another long try under the posts. James Knight converted. Jamerion Sanford continued his impressive rooking season by adding another try off of a #8 pickup from the base of the scrum. In fact, between Merrick and Jamerion, “the Frankford Connection” has contributed 6 tries through the first two weekends of the 2017 rugby season – truly outstanding production! James Knight added another try off of multi-phase ball while Jamerion Sanford added his second try of the match. When the whistle for the first half blew, the Predators were up 6 tries and 2 conversion to zero!
Changes in the second half resulted in the Predators fielding a mixed team of veterans and newcomers, led by Bryce Chatfield, James Knight and Bryce Tucker, that continued to dog the Barbarians. However, it was rookies Charlie Maretzky and Saul Gerstenfeld (another member of “the Frankford Connection”) that impressed with strong open field tackling. Ty Girouard also stepped up with hustle in setting and winning a key ruck against the much bigger NTXB pack. However, in the last fifteen minutes of the second half, NTXB leveraged speed on the outside to score four unanswered tries with the last coming just seconds before the final whistle.
In the end, the “Man of the Match” selection proved a very difficult selection for the coaches. Bryce Chatfield, James Knight and Bryce Tucker were relentless on both ends of the field while Jamerion Sanford continued to physically dominate opponents. However it came down to leadership on the pitch for the coaches to select Captain James Knight, Man of the Match!
Final score: Predators 34 – NTXB 20.
Starting XV: Taylor Bailey (1); Arris Robinson (2); Rita Habib (3); James Laprocido (4); Josh Goff (5); Merrick Moncure (6); Liam Carroll (7); Jamerion Sanford (8); Bryce Tucker (9); James Knight (10); Joe Hoodenpyle (11); Bryce Chatfield (12); Josh Seligsohn (13); Ty Neves (14); Aiden Walls (15)
In the second game, it was again a mix of old and new – this time for both teams. A much more balanced match than the first saw a back and forth effort during the entire first half with neither team able to really create any opportunities. The lone exception for the Predators was a break by sub Josh Seligsohn that almost created an opportunity for Jonathan Williams just before the halftime whistle sounded. The Predators were down 0 – 5.
Several changes in the second half yielded more offensive opportunities, none moreso than Ty Neves coming in at right wing. Specifically, Ty notched a “hat trick” by touching down three tries within about a 15 minute span - Aenghus Denvir converting one. However, the Barbarians would not relent, scoring two more tries – one converted during the second half. With time running out, the Predators continued to pressure but could not push through and had to settle for the tie.
Fortunately for the coaches, the Man of the Match selection was not a difficult one this time around. Although he did not score, Arris Robinson was the “hands down” Man of the Match selection for his inspiring rugby on both ends of the pitch, both in this match and throughout the day!
Final Score: Predators 17 – NTXB 17
Starting XV: Jacob Turner (1); Saul Gerstenfeld (2); Ty Girouard (3); David Hader (4); Aenghus Denvir (5); Gavin Moncure (6); Merrick Moncure (7); Liam Carroll (8); Harrison Hecker (9); Josh Goff (10); Joe Hoodenpyle (11); Charley Maretzky (12); Mia Balderas (13); Victoria Balderas (14); Aiden Walls (15)
Notes and Observations
A rain cancelled practice on Tuesday and a somewhat loose attitude at Thursday’s practice created some concern among the coaches in terms of the teams’ readiness for the NTXB game. Fortunately the 1st XV for the Predators did come out strong in the first game creating the margin needed for the win. However, tackling and rucking technique did start to break down towards the end of the half and throughout the second game. With just a week and a half to prepare for the Katy Tournament, it is apparent that the team needs to buckle down, refocus on basics, and bring a determined attitude to practice in order for us to continue our success. Spring Break conflicts, along with the distance, will undoubtedly make it difficult for us to field a full side for that tournament (note: Spring Break in south Texas is a week later). In addition, there is no doubt that Katy will look for payback from our domination in Austin. So we will need to be at our very best in order to keep the victory train rolling. Whether you will be traveling for Spring Break or not, please make every effort to attend the four practices we have to work with in order to assure that we are ready!