1999-2000 Match Results
USA National Championship - Rockford, IL - 6/4/2000
Fort Worth vs. Grand Rapids
It has been difficult to get a handle on what happened in the 1999-2000 season. From the early disheartening losses to a few late disheartening wins, it was a season that could have easily ended anonymously. These less-than-impressive rugby displays were turned into impressive victories in the TRU and Western finals against Woodlands, and finally to dominant displays of rugby against the Yankees, Vegas, and Tacoma. With each stage of the season, the club commitment and hard work entered a new level.
However, this doesn`t seem to explain the chemistry that developed amongst the club members. Why now, when in years past a national championship seemed only a matter of time, was Fort Worth RFC in a position to claim the cup?
The Grand Rapids Rugby Football Club spent the 1999-2000 season virtually unchallenged, amassing an impressive 21-0 record. The previous 1999 season was equally impressive, culminating in an appearance in the 1999 National Championship Final and a narrow loss to the Orange County Islanders.
Fort Worth spent the 1999-2000 season challenged on all sides. Although their cup match schedule netted some lopsided scores, the state of Texas rugby seemed to be changing after Fort Worth suffered losses to San Antonio and Woodlands to end the 1999 season early. Despite all of this, Fort Worth emerged as Texas and Western Champions again, amassing a 15-0 cup match record on the way to the National Final.
Both clubs made strong statements in the National Championship Tournament, with no club getting closer than 14 points to Grand Rapids, and no club coming within 22 of Fort Worth.
In the National Semifinals, Grand Rapids scored a try and five penalties against Riverside to secure their second consecutive finals berth. Fort Worth earned their finals berth by running over Tacoma 30-8 on the slowest pitch ever created.
In the second division of USA Rugby, there were exactly two clubs worthy to play for the 2000 National Championship, Grand Rapids and Fort Worth.
What seemed obvious to Grand Rapids following the 1999 season, and what seemed impossible to Fort Worth following the 1999 season, came true in Rockford, Illinois on June 4 as the clubs met to determine the 2000 USA Rugby National Champion.
Throughout this intense match, it seemed both clubs were constantly threatening, with most of the match being played inside the goals and 22 meter lines. The handling in the wet conditions was far from perfect, but the intensity of every ruck, maul, and scrum was well beyond anything yet seen in the USA`s second division.
Fort Worth kicked off and charged through the Grand Rapids forwards, with Ivan Moorhead collecting the kick-off and setting a quick ruck. This led to a nice kick from scrum-half Theo Van Wyk, who sent the ball into touch 10 meters from the Grand Rapids line. A series of line-outs from Grand Rapids only managed to get the ball in touch 15 meters from their line. The ensuing Fort Worth line-out was driven to about 5 meters, when Grand Rapids infringed on the maul. The referee signaled advantage, and Ivan Moorhead pulled the ball and plowed through for the try and 5-0 lead. Emmet Holmes converted to push the score to 7-0 after 3 minutes.
Grand Rapids stormed back, taking the ball to the 22 meter line of Fort Worth before a nice tackle from Shay Flowers allowed Fort Worth to take possession and send the ball into touch near half-way. The line-out resulted in Grand Rapids showing some excellent mauling skills, driving it about 30 meters. A Fort Worth penalty finally stopped them, and the fly-half split the uprights to cut the score to 7-3 in favor of Fort Worth.
After the kickoff, Fort Worth earned a penalty when Henning Botha was denied a steal of possession by a tackled Grand Rapids player, and Fort Worth sent the ball into touch inside the 22. Grand Rapids stole the next line-out and ended the Fort Worth threat by kicking into touch at half-way. Another line-out miscue gave the ball to the Grand Rapids forwards, who set a few quick rucks to take the ball to just outside the 22. Flanker Hal Summers showed some outstanding tackling on this series and throughout the match, in many cases keeping Fort Worth in the game as they weathered numerous onslaughts of extended possessions by Grand Rapids.
A Grand Rapids scrum then saw the ball spun wide to the fullback who showed his great pace, taking the ball to 10 meters from the line. After spinning the ball back across the field, Fort Worth got a break when the Grand Rapids excellent lock, #4, ran the remaining distance, but knocked on in-goal.
The good luck ended on the next scrum, when Fort Worth had to touch the ball down in-goal, turning the ball over to a Grand Rapids scrum. After an extended defensive stand by Fort Worth, Grand Rapids narrowly missed another opportunity, when a pop-kick from their fly-half rolled just beyond the back of the try zone before their winger could collect it for the try.
Winger Mike Harvey then made a nice defensive play after he chased the 22 drop-kick to half-way and forced a knock-on from Grand Rapids. After a Grand Rapids infringement and a kick into touch, Fort Worth found themselves again within 10 meters of a try. Unfortunately the Fort Worth line-out wasn`t thrown straight, yielding a scrum to Grand Rapids. Hooker Skip Miles then proceeded to take the ball against the head, and Fort Worth once again challenged for a score.
At this point, Grand Rapids began to show their plans to stop the Fort Worth shove with a tight and organized wheel of the scrum. The noted Fort Worth scrum would largely become futile for the rest of the match, and only in the final minutes would it reclaim its past glory.
In the next few minutes, Fort Worth managed two more extended possessions inside the Grand Rapids 22, but a knock-on and a turn-over on a stagnant maul gave the possession back to the opponent.
Grand Rapids took immediate advantage after the second of these, scoring quickly to take the score to 7-10 in their favor. The score began with a simple scissors from 10 to 12 at Fort Worth`s 10 meter line. The center broke through and was finally brought down 5 meters from the line by James Swain. A quick pass to his outside center put him over for the try at 27 minutes into the half.
After the kick-off a big hit from inside center Don Weatherby put the ball back in Fort Worth`s hands. A penalty from Grand Rapids put Fort Worth inside the 22 again, where a long series of rucks from John Via and the forwards put the ball within 10 meters of the line. The ball was spun wide, and Fort Worth was tackled into touch. The Grand Rapids defense had held again.
The next 5 minutes was a stalemate as neither team could mount a consistent attack. But in the final minute, the big Grand Rapids lock picked up a dropped ball and Grand Rapids mounted their final attack of the half. After spinning the ball to both ends of the field with no luck, they got the ball into their fullback`s hands. With space to run, he kicked forward into the corner, just 5 meters from the line. The wing won the footrace to the ball, kicked forward just slightly, and dotted the try. Once again their kicker showed he could score from anywhere inside the half-way line, as he slotted the sideline conversion for the 7-17 Grand Rapids halftime lead.
Entering the second half, and gaining a slight wind advantage, Fort Worth felt cautiously optimistic that they were still in the match. The Grand Rapids kick-off quickly dispelled the optimism, however.
The Grand Rapids #8 flew down the field, and tapped back to their #4 lock. Quick hard runs from their center and flanker put the ball 10 meters from a try. An unlucky knock-on stopped their scoring chance, and another knock-on downfield gave Fort Worth the ball at half-way with a scrum. The scrum ended with a penalty against Fort Worth for barging, and Grand Rapids decided to run. Three rucks later, Fort Worth knocked down the Grand Rapids fly-half after a kick, and Grand Rapids had a sideline penalty kick attempt from the 22 meter line. Miraculously, the kick was wide with 8 minutes gone in the half.
A prolonged 10 minute stalemate between the 22`s ensued, and was finally broken by a Fort Worth line-out at the Grand Rapids 10 meter line. The line-out was taken cleanly by Trey Harlin, and the Fort Worth maul was driven down to the Grand Rapids 22. An infringement by Grand Rapids allowed Fort Worth to kick down near the Grand Rapids line and set up another line-out maul.
After another infringement and an advantage signal to Fort Worth, the ball was spun wide where it soon ended up in Grand Rapids hands. The ball was sent into touch 40 meters away as the Fort Worth advantage ended. Captain Trey Harlin immediately brought the point up to the referee, who agreed that a 1-on-4 loss of possession on the goal line did not constitute an advantage gained. This was key to the match as the Canadian referee would play a more familiar advantage to the Americans for the rest of the match.
Grand Rapids committed a penalty on the next line-out, and Emmet Holmes kicked the 40 meter penalty to close the gap to 10-17 at 19 minutes into the half.
At 22 minutes, Grand Rapids got inside the Fort Worth 22 meter line for the first time since the opening moments of the half. A penalty for playing the ball on the deck ended their chance, and Fort Worth sent the kick deep. Grand Rapids fielded the ball, but committed another penalty on their next ruck, yielding another Fort Worth chance deep in Grand Rapids territory.
Fort Worth began pounding the Grand Rapids line, with hard bangers from reserves Mike Szymanski and Ron Prowell. The Grand Rapids defensive discipline began to break down, as they committed three successive penalties while keeping Fort Worth from the try. At 28 minutes, tragedy struck Fort Worth as vice captain, kicker, and fly-half Emmet Holmes left the match with a knee injury.
Just after the injury, Grand Rapids earned a scrum at their 22. The pass to the fly-half was bobbled and scrum half Theo Van Wyk kicked the ball forward into the try zone while at full pace. Van Wyk was immediately cross-checked to the ground by the opposing inside center, denying the try to Theo. As the referee was running alongside, he never broke stride while running to the posts to signal the penalty try.
At 29 minutes into the half, the match now stood at 15-17 as the unimaginable happened, and the conversion directly in front of the posts was missed. The loss of kicker Emmet Holmes would profoundly affect the decisions made in injury time.
With the loss of Emmet, the job of kicking for touch while deep within Fort Worth territory fell upon Dan Rosen, who stepped up to the challenge and delivered some beautiful, clutch kicks.
Grand Rapids soon attempted another penalty from 30 meters, after the Fort Worth front row was penalized for the third time of the half. The kick was slightly wide once again, and Fort Worth was still within 2 points.
Minutes later, Grand Rapids lost a key player when their #4 lock collided head-on with Don Weatherby. A penalty on the same ruck allowed Fort Worth to kick to a spot 30 meters from the winning score. The line-out maul was quickly taken to a series of hard rucks from the forwards, stopped once again by a Grand Rapids penalty. However, a foul play penalty against Fort Worth reversed the penalty and Grand Rapids sent the ball to half-way just as time was expiring.
Now in injury time, Grand Rapids sent the ball to their inside center who failed to make the gain line. Ron Prowell`s tackle isolated the center as Warren Tucker and Bots Hulen quickly stepped over the tackled player. After Fort Worth secured the ball and set another ruck, Grand Rapids was called for off-sides. The ball was kicked inside 10 meters from the Grand Rapids line, where it would remain for the rest of injury time.
The referee was notifying both clubs at regular intervals about the time remaining, as there was still a significant amount of injury time in the match. The sideline fans were beside themselves with worry, however, expecting every stoppage of play to yield a Grand Rapids 2 point victory.
The line-out maul was driven to 5 meters from the line, and then sent directly to center Don Weatherby who was tackled just short of the line. Prop Keith Dalton took it another meter before a scrum was awarded to Fort Worth. The 5 meter scrum was wheeled by Grand Rapids , and then collapsed for a penalty awarded to Fort Worth.
The penalty was taken quickly, and Henning Botha was stopped just short of the line. However, another hands-in penalty from the Grand Rapids flanker stopped the phases and Fort Worth called for a scrum.
Once again the scrum was collapsed and advantage awarded to Fort Worth. Ron Prowell ran to within a meter of the winning try, but the ball was buried in the ruck with no advantage gained, and Fort Worth called for another scrum.
As the clubs prepared to scrum, the referee gave one final warning to the front rows, and indicated that the match was virtually at full time. The front row of Mike Szymanski, Keith Dalton, and Bots Hulen refused to be wheeled or collapsed on this scrum, and steadily pushed Grand Rapids over the line. The earlier work from Mike Sexton and Skip Miles in the front row was the difference, as the Fort Worth juggernaut, laden with reserves, marched over for the victory. As the ball approached the line, the Grand Rapids scrum collapsed to the side. The flanker broke his bind from the scrum and together with the inside center dove on the ball while it was still at Fort Worth`s feet and before it was in-goal. The referee immediately ran to the posts signaling the penalty try and Fort Worth led 20-17. Henning Botha`s kick was good, taking the lead to 22-17.
The final kick-off was immediately kicked into touch by Warren Tucker and the Fort Worth Rugby Football Club had earned the 2000 USA Rugby National Championship.
1. Bots Hulen
2. Skip Miles - b
3. Mike Sexton - d
4. Trey Harlin (C)
5. John Via
6. Hal Summers - c
7. Ivan Moorhead
8. Henning Botha
9. Theo Van Wyk
10. Emmet Holmes - e
11. Mike Harvey
12. Don Weatherby
13. Teshay Flowers
14. James Swain - a
15. Dan Rosen
a Nick Betts
b Mike Szymanski
c Ronnie Prowell
d Keith Dalton
e Warren Tucker
f Mike Hendon
Head Coach: Buddy Taylor
Asst.: Mike Kwedar
The Rockford Ravens did an outstanding job hosting these National Championships. After suffering for a week of flash flood warnings, and having their plans for the venue dashed due to the pitch conditions, the Ravens were able to create slow, but passable pitches for the semifinal matches. The finals were held in the Wedgebury Soccer Complex`s stadium, where the pitch was outstanding. Well done, Ravens!
2000 Galveston Mardi Gras - 2/26/2000
2 wins, 1 loss
2000 Galveston Mardi Gras
Feb 26-27, 2000
Fort Worth RFC wins the Consolation Match at Galveston Mardi Gras
Game 1 (Saturday): Fort Worth - 36 Victoria - 5
Fort Worth started quickly, punching in two quick tries before Victoria came back with some solid phases of their own. The 17-5. halftime lead was extended by 19 in the second half, but Victoria made it a tough match throughout. Hats off to Victoria for stepping up to the Purple Division in the tournament.
Game 2 (Saturday): Fort Worth - 3 Houston Athletic - 15
Houston Athletic solidly defeated Arlington in their first match, so the stage was set for a hard tournament semifinal. The teams matched up evenly, featuring a big forward pack and some great speed on the wings.
Houston`s speedy winger scored 2 tries in the first 10 minutes, as Houston looked like they would cruise to an easy victory. Fort Worth answered with a penalty kick to make the score 12-3 at the half.
After the restart, the game continued at virtually a standoff, as only one penalty kick would be scored. Minor miscues and tied up rucks resulted in a plethora of scrum downs, which neither team could take advantage of.
Houston was content to kick the ball deep and protect their lead, which in the end proved to be a smart strategy. By all reports, Houston played a similar game the next day to take the tournament championship.
Consolation Final (Sunday): Fort Worth - 16 El Paso Scorpions - 0
On the beautiful sunny Sunday morning, Fort Worth met El Paso in the tournament`s third place match. Two weeks prior, Fort Worth had lost to El Paso 33-10 at the Scorpions home pitch. The two clubs have now met 4 times in the last 4 years, with Fort Worth holding a 3-1 lead in the series.
The Fort Worth contingent had dwindled to 16 players after 2 starters were unable to recover from the previous evening`s party. After watching El Paso complete a 30 minute warm-up where they did numerous handling drills, stretches, line-outs, and backline moves, Fort Worth pulled on their boots and walked on the field without even an attempt at a warm-up.
El Paso took the kickoff and immediately spun the ball wide, and threaten to score quickly. Fort Worth`s cover-defense forced a forward pass that snuffed out the threat, which would be the last of the day for the Scorpions.
As the half continued, Fort Worth`s forwards played a solid rucking game, supporting inside center Don Weatherby`s crashes, as well as Ron Prowell`s hard bangers. 15 minutes into the game, Fort Worth was awarded a line-out 10 meters from the try line. After winning the ball, Weatherby crashed back and set a ruck 5 meters out. Scrum-half Alex Rylance darted between the ruck and a defender to score his first points of the day. His conversion extended Fort Worth`s lead to 7-0, which held to the half.
El Paso realized they were in a tough battle, so they proceeded to insert a number of fresh players for the second half. Unfortunately, "Mouth" wasn`t one of them. Whether he was injured or lazy is still unknown, but his constant whiny complaints at the referee, touch judges, opposition, coach, and his own team continued regardless. "Mouth" was recognized by everyone who made the trip to El Paso, since everyone remembered his loud rodomontades in the bar after the match. Click here for a picture!
With the fresh faces on the El Paso side now in the match, things continued just as they did in the first half, with Fort Worth continuing to dominate possession and all phases. Three El Paso penalties close to the try line resulted in 3 penalty kicks from Alex Rylance, who finished with all 16 of Fort Worth`s points. All in all a very enjoyable game for everyone involved.
Tournament Player Roster
1,3 Sexton, Hulen, Callaway
4,5 Harlin, Via, Hendon
6,7 Prowell, Summers
11,14 Harvey, Betts, Pierce, Manning
12,13 Weatherby, Burgess
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More Match Results
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