We don’t need to revisit what happened during 2020, but we hope everyone and their families and friends have stayed healthy and safe during these strange and uncertain times. With that being said, the Mystic men are back at Pine Banks Park training under Massachusetts’ COVID-19 guidelines and to date, they faced off in the 1st Mystic River “Battle of the Families,” where “Team Lyons” and “Team Sullivan” battled it out in the club’s first live rugby since pre-pandemic, and then, this past Saturday, May 8th, Mystic sent two sides to Philadelphia as Schuylkill River hosted our Monsters of Malden for the first rugby match played against an opponent since November 2nd, 2019.
Mystic River’s Premier side took the pitch first against a talented Schuylkill River squad and after a few early Mystic penalties, Schuylkill got out to an early lead, going up 6-0 in the first 10 minutes. Mystic quickly responded, scoring their first points off a scrum in Schuylkill’s half, with wing Vini Daley bursting through the line and slamming the ball down with authority for five points. Scrumhalf Darren Chan converted the kick to put Mystic up 7-6, and at that point, Mystic River didn’t look back. With a foot on the gas pedal, Daley burst through the line again, but the ball was knocked loose, so fullback Nick Fujiwara chased, nudged, and touched the ball down in the corner to go up 14-6. Mystic set the standard in contact and was not willing to let Schuylkill anywhere near their goal line, so despite a number of handling errors, the score remained 14-6 at half.
The second half was Mystic’s game, as they had the wind at their backs and got off to a fast start. Flanker Matt Novitzkas was put away down the sideline after a lovely display of hands from a couple fellow forwards, setting the score at 21-6. After a few substitutions, fresh legs gave Mystic an extra burst and Vini Daley was able to dot another one down in the corner to make it 26-6. Mystic wasn’t done yet and turned another long break into five points, after a loose ball landed near Schuylkill’s goal line and center Adnan Kawuma was there to dive on it. Kawuma barely had time to take a breathe before he scored another try after a great inside line by lock Cody Davidowicz opened up the support line for Kawuma to finish on the outside. To close out the match, Kawuma continued attacking the line and got his hands free to offload to supporting back row finisher, John Wandicho, who grounded it under the sticks to make the score 43-6 at the final whistle.
With one win down, the Mystic Developmental side took to the pitch looking to finish what the Premier side started, and they did not disappoint. In the first 20 minutes, Mystic River’s 20 points came from rookie wing CJ Cooper dotting one down in the corner, prop Samson Rios barreling over the line for five, hooker Jon Gurczak stripping the ball and finding paydirt, and another corner finish from Cooper. Schuylkill managed to get on the scoreboard with a converted try to set the score at 20-7 at halftime.
Mystic River came out in the 2nd half and gave up a quick try to Schuylkill, but had no problem marching back downfield and getting the ball to Jack Paloucek, a back row stepping in at center, to make it 25-12. The next points came from another Mystic River back row playing center, Barrett Lyons, after a Mystic scrum set the platform to find space and get across for another try. With the game at 30-12 and less than 20 minutes to go, Schuylkill managed to narrow the deficit with a couple of unanswered tries, bringing it to 30-24, but the final dagger would come from the man that scored the final points in the Premier match, John Wandicho, right under the posts to set up scrumhalf Nate Jakaitis for an easy conversion to conclude the match. Mystic Developmental was victorious, 37-24.
Mystic River Premier’s center Isaiah Lopez was awarded Man of the Match while scrumhalf Nate Jakaitis earned the honors for the Mystic Developmental match.
Looking ahead this weekend, join us at Pine Banks on 5/15 for a family-friendly, COVID-conscious, rugby-filled day. We welcome home Mystic Nation with a full day of rugby, including a Mystic River Youth Rugby clinic at 11:30am, followed by two men’s matches.
The first match of the day will be played by Mystic River’s Developmental Side vs. Providence with kickoff scheduled for 12:30pm ET.
The second match will feature the Mystic River Premier Side vs. Colorado XO and kick off around 2:30pm ET.
We can’t wait to welcome everyone back, but in doing so, we must remind everyone that a lot has changed since our last home game over a year and a half ago, so we’re asking everyone to please adhere to CDC guidelines by wearing masks/facial coverings for the safety of not just yourselves, but everyone around you.
BBQ will be served for fans and players pitch-side by the gravel parking lot.
See you on Saturday.