Old Blue Thinks Big in NRU Playoffs

By Alex Goff

October 28, 2005 And suddenly it's playoff time in the Northeast. Just like that. Met NY RFU's top four face the top four from New England.

Old Blue ran through the Met NY season fairly convincingly with only one game, October 1st's 34-27 win over NY Conn even marginally in doubt.

Old Blue has been under some criticism because they field teams in several divisions and have been accused of stocking DI teams with Super League players, and the like. President Gary Heavner says the criticism is, to be blunt, a bunch of hooey.

"You get someone saying we put a guy on the field who's a Super League player and it turns out he players parts of two Super League games two years ago," he said. "It's recruiting and hard work that's got us where we are. We will probably field from September through June 2006 about 100 players. We've used 79 players already."

Old Blue will start their Saturday evening at their lighted, artificial turf field on Pier 40 in Manhattan with their DIII side playing Danbury in the DIII playoffs. After that they face Worcester.

"That's a big game for us," Heavner said. "Worcester beat us in the Northeast final last year after we absolutely killed ourselves beating the Irish Wolfhounds in a clean, but really physical game. It's a bit of a revenge match for us."

Old Blue has put a few of their Super League players on the pitch this fall, but not many, telling some of the stars like Josh Kaplan and Mark Griffin that there are too many new and green players to test out for them to get a game, so take the fall off.

That has allowed some athletes of interesting backgrounds to step forward.

"We always recruit," said Heavner. "And when you keep recruiting it just snowballs."

Players from the Caribbean have signed on (Old Blue has CIPP'd 113 people so far this year). Salesi Tondamoa is an exciting talent from the Pacific. Hiroaki Kakinuma may sound like he's Japanese, but he's actually from Canada. Bart Seemen is a former Columbia University wrestler, while Michael Malan is the all-time career rusher for the Brown University football team and played with Berlin in NFL Europe.

Jonathan Reese was another Ivy League running back, this time with Columbia. He was an NFL prospect, like Malan, and is learning rugby while Chris Carey was a linebacker and defensive captain for Columbia last year.

"Most of our new guys are looking really good," said Heavner. Old Blue is sprinkling in more experienced players on the field to get them up to speed (remember also that the name Old Blue comes from the fact the club was formed by former Columbia athletes).

"We have more ex Columbia football players than ever before, and it's a mixture of young and old, experienced and inexperienced, and foreigners and Americans," he said.

Also playing on Saturday in the DI playoffs, NY Conn faces the Connecticut  Yankees. This promises to be something of a barnburner and neither team can take it for granted. If NYConn, who scrimmaged with Old Blue when Old Blue had a rainout, play like they did on that October 1 game, they should move on to the semis. But the Yankees are very strong.

Old Blue looks at the moment to be favored over a Worcester side struggling with depth. Boston Irish Wolfhounds take on Long Island in a game the Wolfhounds are favored to take.  The Wolfhounds, by the way, have their own C side in DIII, and they are 5-1.

New England top club eligible for the playoffs (Boston isn't) is New Haven, and they should not have any trouble with New York.







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Copyright 2005 Alex Goff, Goff on Rugby, Elden & Goff
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