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Life is Tough for Belmont Shore

Thursday May 21, 2009 in Elite Level Rugby Rugby Super League

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(Life is strong up front. Ed Hagerty photo.)

May 21, 2009 – The two teams meeting Sunday in Georgia for a place in the Super League final are the two undefeated teams in the competition.

Belmont Shore has won seven, including last weekend against Old Blue, and tied one (Chicago Lions in the first game of the season). Life University has won all eight games, including a tense 22-14 victory over those same pesky Lions.

But this time, someone is going to have to lose.

“It will be a tough game,” said Belmont’s newest USA callup Pete Dahl. “Everyone’s feeling pretty confident. We’ve grown together a lot as a team and a family.”

Indeed they have. Shore, with former coach Matt Webber back at the helm, was looking at a rebuilding year.

“This season has always been a project,” said Webber. “As long as we’re improving each week, which we seem to be doing, sometimes leaps and sometimes small steps, then that’s encouraging.”

Webber said the team has been through some difficult periods – not least of which being docked a point for putting Corey Blair on their roster when he was ruled ineligible.

“It’s been very, very difficult this year,” said Webber. “In many ways there’s been huge improvements by some players. I’m just excited to see them in another 12 months time and see how they stay together and continue to grow. The guys have taken things on board, begrudgingly at times. I’m a hard taskmaster, I don’t have time to mess around, but my responsibility to make them the best players they can possibly be.

“They are the ones who make the choices, whether they have to get up when it’s dark to do their workouts. Di you go around that corner or did you cut it? For the most part the guys have stepped up and responded. They’ve found it within themselves.”

Things aren’t exactly easy at Life, either. The players there, remember, were all set to compete for a DI club title, when the last-minute invitation came to fill in for the St. Louis Bombers.

Still they’ve responded well, and it shows what happens when a club is organizaed, has structures in place, and is well supported.

Last week it almost came to a hard stop.

“It was a tough week for us,” said Director of Rugby Scott Lawrence. “The guys had mid-terms so we didn’t have much access to them in the buildup. I think that was a factor.”

Life ran out to a 17-0 lead, but Chicago bounced back with two quick tries and suddenly it was 17-14. Only when Life scored late were they able to really put it away against coach Marty Wiggins’ Lions.

“This isn’t Marty’s first dance,” said Lawrence. “They are a good, smart team. I think we tried to protect out 17-0 lead too much and took some poor options as a result. We needed to really grind out the game and play tighter, more playoff rugby.”

Looking ahead, Lawrence said he knows Belmont Shore is just as savvy, and just as savvily coached.

“But we will have more access to the guys this week and that will help in our preparation,” said Lawrence. “It’s still amazing that we’re in this position having just come into the league. We’re happy to have survived the first round.”

Dahl said Shore knows Life’s kicking game is a threat and they will have to nullify that. But tactics aren’t all of it.

“More than anything, we’re talking about ramping up the aggression and taking it to them in the forwards,” said Dahl.

As simple as that for two teams handling complicated years.

- Alex Goff © www.erugbynews.com


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