Spring 2014 Men’s Season Recap
“I can honestly say every player here, new or experienced, has gotten better. Everyone.” – Head Coach Paul Clemens after the Rats’ final 2014 Spring match.
If the 2014 Spring Season could be summed up in one word, it would be “improvement.” On and off the field, the Charles River Rats made great strides for the first half of 2014. The Rats became a competitive squad against Division II, evidenced by their last-second win over arch-rival Old Gold RFC and two closes losses against Providence and North Shore at the NERFU Cup. The key to this improvement was improved defense system and strong leadership by Captains Corey Lang and Tommy Conley.
A major focus for the Rats in 2014 has been recruiting. For years, the Rats have had to suffer through poor attendance at training which has lead to discouragement amongst the players who regularly attend. This season, the Rats finally received a much needed influx of recruits that bolstered practice attendance. For the last calendar year, the Rats have brought 13 players to their regular roster, including players from France, Egypt, Japan and Columbia.
The 2014 season did not start well for the Rats as they fell to the D3 NERFU Champions, Seacoast RFC, 22-8. Throughout the match, the rookie Rats were not meshing with the Charles River veterans, leading to frequent miscommunications and defensive breakdowns. The trend continued two weeks later when the Rats hosted their 1st College Weekend Invitational against Wentworth, UMass-Boston and Nichols College. In their first thirty minute period against Wentworth, the Rats could not find an offensive rhythm as they settled for a 5-5 tie. In their next period against UMass-Boston, the Rats found a little bit of offensive traction, however their scores were the result of their opponents’ inexperience. Nonetheless, the Rats walked away from the period with a 17-0 win. Their last period against Nichols was a sobering experience, as they lost 17-0. The Rats were physically and mentally fatigued for the entire period, despite having a two-hour rest. The Rats had reached rock-bottom.
The week leading up to Old Gold, the players worked out the sour-taste from their mouths through two tough training sessions. As the Rats took the soggy, messy Moakley pitch against Old Gold, there was an unusual air of confidence. Throughout the match, there were plenty of chances for the Rats to lose hope and motivation as they spent a majority of the match down by two scores, however the Rats stayed tough, made their tackles and kept their composure. With no time left on the clock, Jerry Kenneally broke a 17-17 tie with a 30-meter penalty kick near the sideline.
After the Rats tasted victory, they were too intoxicated with joy and accomplishment to focus on the next game against North Shore. Nearly every display of courage and aggressiveness from the Old Gold match was absent against North Shore, as the Rats could not keep their defensive line sturdy. Towards the end of the match, the Rats gave up all hope, which made scoring for their opponents easy, resulting in a 42-10 loss.
The loss to North Shore made the Rats angry and feisty as they looked to their match-up against the South Shore Anchors. For the first half of the match, the Rats and Anchors engaged in a see-saw battle on the scoreboard as the teams exchanged the lead three times. However, the Rats could not keep pace with the Anchors’ fast backline as three players ended up taking a trip to the hospital during the match. With a shuffled lineup, the Rats could not organize their defense, turning a thrilling, punch-for-punch fight into a 62-25 rout.
The Rats ended their season at the 2014 NERFU Cup in Newport, Rhode Island. When the brackets were announced, the Rats were thrilled that they drew Providence for their first round match, sensing a great match-up. Seeing that the match was only 40 minutes, the Rats emptied their tanks against Providence, evident by the aggressive tackles and ball carries made by the Green & Orange. Even though they spent three-fourths of the game in the Rats’ territory, Providence was trailing, 3-0, when they received a gift-wrapped penalty ten meters away from the try zone with time expired. Providence made the kick and forced a five-minute sudden death period. During the overtime period, Providence scored what appeared as the game-winning try, but the Rats protested that the player who scored the try was illegally substituted back into the game following an injury. The referee discussed the injury with the field’s trainer and, though it was agreed that the player was illegally put back in the match, allowed the try to stand.
For their second match, the Rats were given a re-match against North Shore. The Rats took the early lead, but an 8-hour gap dulled their focus as North Shore found holes through the defensive line as they took a 12-5 lead going into the halftime. The Rats shored up their defense and exhausted themselves to re-take the lead. Helping the cause was winger Dana Etherington who scored a phenomenal, somersault try (credit to Ricky Friberg for a beautifully placed kick) to bring the Rats within two points. Despite the SportsCenter-worthy play, the Rats could not generate the final offensive push they needed to emerge victorious and extend their season to the tournament’s final day.
Even though, the Rats did not win at NERFU, they accomplished something that had eluded the club for a bit … genuine progress. With more recruits eager to earn a starting jersey and a renewed commitment from the club’s veterans, the Rats are destined to shock NERFU by reclaiming their winning legacy. Coach Clemens’ ultimate goal is to lead Charles River to the National Playoffs; this season, it seems that the Rats have finally made the first step in that direction.
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