This past weekend, Mystic River hosted Newport and Old Blue in a NERFU-ARP doubleheader at Pine Banks. Mystic’s D2 side last saw Newport in the playoffs, where the Barbarians squeaked out a 31-25 victory, crowning them NERFU champs. Two weeks ago, the ARP side dropped a tough match, 24-97, to Old Blue down in Randall’s Island, this time, hoping for a true home field advantage in their last meeting of the fall season.
With long-time Mystic sponsors Canterbury presenting the match, fans lined the sidelines in their official Mystic River Rugby Club gear, and with a sea of blue on the sideline, the response to the Mystical atmosphere was almost instant, as wing Phil Baker-Coe found himself all alone off of a 5-meter scrum, allowing scrumhalf Adam Tafau to send him a pass for a quick try. Baker-Coe got the ball towards the middle of the posts and gave fullback Stephen “Dimo” Diamantopoulos an easier look at the posts, setting the score at 7-0. Newport then made some headway into the Mystic half, but turned the ball over, giving Mystic center Matt Dunleavy the space to survey the land in front of him, where he spotted a gap, split the defenders, and bolted for the posts on a 50-meter try. After another conversion from “Dimo,” and with the score at 14-0, Newport marched downfield and dotted one down in the corner, and despite the challenging angle of the kick, Newport cut the lead in half, making it 14-7. After some solid Mystic phaseplay, hooker Nick Roach took matters into his own hands, as he steamrolled his way across the goal line for another try, setting up another conversion for Diamantopoulos. With energy and angst, Newport fought their way back into Mystic’s half, and they eventually scored in the same corner as their first, but this time, it would remain a 2-score deficit after the missed conversion. At 21-12, Mystic knew they needed to put some more points on the board before Newport was given an opportunity to narrow the margin, and as the center duo of Dunleavy and Aaron Smith connected a few times in the same phase, it was Dunleavy who touched it down, heading into the half with Mystic up 26-12.
Mystic River came out hot in the second half, and off of a solid set piece, prop Matt Maloney found his way in for another 5, increasing their lead to 31-12. Newport, however, would not falter nor give up, and they quickly responded with a try under the posts of their own, closing the score back up to 31-19. After lots of back-and-forth play between the two sides, Mystic River found themselves on their back foot, and Newport saw the opportunity and took advantage by scoring another unconverted try. As the Barbarians did everything they could to prevent Newport from having a chance to tie the match up, their will and determination proved to be enough to seal the victory for Mystic, 31-24, starting the day off on a great note.
Following the first match of the day, Mystic’s ARP side took the field against Old Blue in a highly-touted match for the Monsters of Malden. With vengeance on their minds, Mystic stormed onto the pitch as flyhalf Brent Hamlin took it right to the Old Blue defense, giving a perfect inside ball to wing Dor Perl as he finished under the posts to set up an easy conversion for flanker Jon Kokinda. Drawing first blood in the match, Mystic found themselves back on defense, under pressure, until Old Blue found their way in to tie it up, 7-7. Upon the restart and after a few phases, Old Blue was penalized, so Kokinda stood the ball up on the turf and split the uprights to give back the lead to Mystic River, 10-7. It wasn’t before long when Mystic wound up receiving two yellow cards from lock Sean Burgess and flanker John Sullivan, one of which Old Blue was in range to take the points and even up the score again, at 10-10. Down two men for several minutes, Mystic River couldn’t hold the elusive Old Blue offense out of the end zone, eventually getting to 10-38. Back at even strength, wing John Spooney found some space after Hamlin sailed a pass 30 meters, springing Spooney free for a try right before the half.
At 15-38, Mystic River looked like they got their second wind, coming out of the half with some hard defense. After some back-and-forth possession, Old Blue looked to spring the ball wide, but Burgess was shown a red card, putting the Monsters of Malden down one Monster for the remainder of the match. Old Blue didn’t take long to touch one down to make the score 15-45, but on their next opportunity to score, they knocked the ball on, giving Mystic back some hope. Fired up, Old Blue had two men sent to the sin bin and things got a bit testy on the pitch. But after very even play, no one could take advantage of the shortage of players, until Old Blue found their opportunity and made sure to capitalize one last time, setting the score at 15-52. Playing for the Gull on their chests, Mystic made sure they finished strong, as wing Mike Spiro got involved after taking a cross kick and hitting the explosive center Vini Daley, to watch him do the rest as he took it in for 5. Mystic made sure that 20-52 was not the end result, and Hamlin made his way across for the final points of the match after impact subs Gianni Miceli and Thomas Thekaekara set a solid platform after two great offensive phases. Despite the effort of Mystic River, they came up a bit short on the scoreboard, as the game ended at 25-52, in favor of Old Blue.
Mystic River’s ARP side travels to Marietta, Georgia to take on the Life ETG Running Eagles, with the kickoff set for 2 PM ET. Mystic’s D2 Barbarians will be playing Amoskeag in Manchester, NH in another NERFU matchup, trying to extend their perfect record.