The biggest DI men’s club game this weekend features New York Rugby Club and Monmouth playing for sole possession of first place in the MetNY. With just three games left in the season, Saturday’s winner will likely take the union’s top seed into the crossover playoffs against New England.
“It’s a huge game. We set ourselves a target to move on from last year, and if we’re going to fulfill those targets, then this is a game that you have to win,” Monmouth coach Pat Moroney said.
The common opponents comparison tells a conflicted story. Monmouth’s only loss came at the hands of White Plains, who NYRC beat, but Monmouth’s wins over Long Island and Morris were much more decisive than NYRC’s.
Both coaches claim their team hasn’t been firing on all cylinders.
“I think we’ve only been hitting 60-percent the last two games, in my opinion, as evidenced by the fact that we haven’t scored any bonus points,” said NYRC coach Greg Norris. “I’m looking forward to, obviously, stepping up and getting something closer to 100-percent.”
“The game against White Plains we made a lot of errors and didn’t play at the pace or intensity that we wanted to,” said Moroney. “Against Morris last week we certainly got our intensity and our accuracy better, and it’s really just focusing on that and moving to the next level. It’s that idea of increasing your level of execution and your accuracy by five percent every week.”
Two guys who've executed accurately all season for Monmouth are inside center Joe Lucarelli and outside center Eric Daneman. They're first and second, respectively, in MetNY scoring. Lucarelli leads the league with 48 points off of four tries, 11 conversions and two penalties, and Danemen comes in at second with 35 points off of seven tries.
“He’s a good player and a strong runner, and we’ll be happy to match up in the midfield,” said Norris of Lucarelli. “I think we’ve got two good defensive centers and we’ve got guys who do the job well, so I’m looking forward to a good offensive and defensive battle there in the midfield.”
“I think you’d be really silly to focus on our midfield. Obviously Joe and Eric are very good players and they’re working well together, but we’ve scored tries from everywhere in the backline, and our forwards have started scoring tries,” addedd Moroney, who hopes to attack from every position Saturday.
“Earlier in the season our forwards weren’t scoring tries. But you go back to that adage of the forwards decide who wins the game and the backs decide by how much, so you can’t be angry the forwards that they’re not scoring tries, because they’re setting up possession and we’re getting the tries to our backs, but, and it’s a big but, when forwards have the chance to apply pressure, they have to execute, so I think that’s an important part of our plan going into this weekend.”