Above: The D2 boys kicked off Friends & Family Day with a win over NYRC to bring home the Village Cup. 

D2 Men 40, NYRC 29

It was a beautiful Saturday as the Village Lions hosted Friends & Family on Randall’s Island. The day kicked off with the D2 men facing off against in-city rival New York Rugby Club, with the Lions hoping to win back the Village Cup.

New York kicked off, and the Lions drove the ball down the field before a New York penalty gave Hubert Chan an opportunity to get the Lions on the board in the second minute. He hit the penalty to put the Lions up early, 3-0.

On the ensuing kickoff, man of the match Franco DeLisa took the ball 50 meters through the New York defense before a Lions penalty in the breakdown. Huge runs from Franco were a theme of the day as he continually busted up the New York defensive line.

In the 10 minutes that followed the initial points, both teams struggled to maintain possession, with silly penalties and handling errors on both sides. In the 11th minute, Franco had a great pick-and-go off the back of a Lions scrum deep in NY territory, but it was ruled held up.

On the ensuing five-meter scrum, an errant Lions pass was intercepted by NYRC’s scrum half and taken down the field a good 60 yards. New York recycled well and spun the ball out to score in the corner. The conversion was good, and NYRC went up 7-3. It would take 15 more minutes before we had our next taste of points.

The period was marked by good kicks out of danger from Hubert, great sideline breaks from wing Julian Watts and coverage from fullback Norm Dillon.

In the 25th minute, following a silly NY penalty after a quick tap, Hubert put through another kick, making it 7-6. No more than five minutes later, Franco broke the line with a great run before NYRC committed a penalty in the breakdown.

Hubert stepped up and slotted another penalty, making it 9-7 to the Lions. The final 10 minutes of the half saw good defense from the Lions, with solid tackles being made all over the field.

Following a losing lineout effort from the Lions, NY committed a penalty. Enter the big Georgian, Gaga, who quick taps and breaks off 40 meters, running straight through NYRC defenders for the Lions’ first try of the day.

Hubert hits the conversion, making it 16-7 Lions with minutes to play in the first half. Questionable decision-making right before the half on the part of the Lions led to a turnover, overload and, subsequently, a NY score in the corner. The conversion was good, and we entered the half 16-14 to the Lions.

As the second half kicked off, the Lions looked to limit penalties, clean up handling and decision making, and keep pressure on NY. Patrick Christy went off following a great first half and was replaced by the immortal Kimani Davis.

New York opened the half with some good phase play that pinned the Lions deep in their own zone. Gaga held up a try in the 45th minute, but the ball was spun weakside on the five-meter scrum and New York scored, converted and went up 21-16.

Following the score, new Lion Mike Tagliafero was subbed off for Bullwinkle Mullen. On the ensuing kickoff, oh captain, my captain Fuzzy Mullen made a great run down the field to knock back the kickoff.

The Lions ran three excellent phases off the knocked-back ball before spinning it out to Franco, who touched down the ball in the corner. The conversion was no good, so we were tied at 21 in the 51st minute. Nine minutes later, NY takes advantage of a Lions penalty and slots home a penalty kick to go back on top, 21-24.

The Lions won the ball back on the ensuing kickoff and drove it down the field. A Gaga quick tap put the Lions 5 meters out from the line with a scrum in their favor. Bullwinkle Mullen caught a bloody nose in the lead-up and needed a sub.

Enter Jimmy “Irish” Conwell. On for the scrum, Irish was able to pick up the ball as it squirted out from the scrum and touch it down. Hubert hits the kick and the Lions go up 28-24 in the 62nd minute. Irish goes off, Bullwinkle back on. Irish came on and made a serious impact in a short time. Good to have him out there.

The Lions could start to see the opportunity for victory in the final 20 minutes and kept the pedal down. In the 64th minute, following a lost lineout, was my play of the day as the brothers Mullen connected on a great 60-meter run down the far sideline.

Fuzzy had the big break, running through two NYRC defenders before dishing to brother Bullwinkle, who carried the ball an additional 15 meters before being brought down.

A New York penalty at the breakdown gave Hubert a chance to hit a tough penalty. He missed, but it set up the second best play of the day: Franco’s 22-meter drop block.

It was a great block as Franco got up Dikembe Mutombo style and said no, no, no.

Unfortunately, the Lions lost the ball in the breakdown and New York kicked away to relieve the pressure. Prior to the NYRC lineout, the Lions made a sub, with scrumhalf Rich “Dante” Giglio off and new Lion Nahuel Fanjul-Arguijo on.

Good work all day from Dante, who got his bell rung once or twice but managed the game well, directing both the forwards and backs around the field. Following the NY lineout, the Lions had an excellent counter-ruck to win the ball, working it through the hands before it got out to Julian Watts, who touched it down in the corner.

The kick was no good, but the Lions extended their lead to 33-24 in the 66th minute.

Four minutes later, the Lions set up a great scrum, win the ball and work it out to Disco, who runs right up the gut for a score under the posts. Hubert converts and the Lions go up 40-24 with nine minutes to go.

At this point Marco Camacho came on for Fuzzy, Quentin O’Brien for JJ Darling and Irish re-entered for Gaga.

Great work from Fuzzy, JJ and Gaga all day, holding down the pack and being physical in every breakdown. The Lions conceded a weak try to NY in the 75th minute before time expired, and the Village Cup was returned to the Lions following a 40-29 victory.

While they made it closer than they needed to with some penalties and handling errors, it was great, hard work from all the guys. And it was a fantastic start to Friends & Family Day.

And if you’re wondering, yes, it’s true that everything does taste better out of a trophy.

—Alex Sheidler

Next week: Bye

D3 Men 8, Danbury 69

The Lions D3 side had the final match of Friends & Family Day.

Danbury started fast and didn’t let up all day, taking the opening kickoff in for a try under the posts and converting to make it 7-0.

Playing against a very physical Danbury team, the Lions had few bright spots aside from JR Roberts’ penalty in the 16th minute and a try from Norm Dillion in the 73rd. The final score was 69-8 to Danbury.

Highlights from the Lions side included an epic collision between Norm and one of the Danbury props. The earth shook as the these two ran into each other, and happily, Norm was the one who walked away unscathed.

Great play on the day from man of the match Adrian Clements, who made his return to the Lions; the immortal Kimani Davis, who played half of the D2 match and all of the D3 game; Eric Han, who was a bruiser in the middle; Austin Heron, who showed some great pace and made some excellent line breaks from the fullback spot; eight-man and legend Olivier Hepner; and, finally, from new-to-rugby and new-to-the-Lions Eric Jones.

Eric crushed it on the grill and on the field, hitting a big counter-ruck in only his second match. It was also Jack McLaughlin’s birthday, so he played well too.

Lots to build on for this group, who fought hard and never gave up. We’ll clean it up at training and get better every day.

—Alex Sheidler

Next week: Away v. Montauk