On Saturday Northern California’s Olympic Club will play NYAC at the NYAC’s home field in Pelham Manor, NY.
The game is part of the biennial Humphrey-Thompson Cup that pits multiple sports teams from each club against each other. The other sports include: Basketball, Soccer, Lacrosse, and Water Polo. As in previous renditions of the Cup, the rugby game is the final event of the weekend and is expected to be a closely contested battle.
The Humphrey-Thompson Cup is contested between America’s two oldest athletic clubs, both of which have a strong history of supporting amateur athletics, particularly rugby. Humphrey and Thompson were two prominent NYAC and OC members who contributed to the ongoing success of athletics at the two clubs.
For the Olympic Club, the trip to play NYAC in the offseason presents a rare opportunity for the coaching staff to get an early read on the team’s prospects. The team will be led by returning players, Dan Houghton, Dustin Muhn, and Alex Menke, bolstered by the likes of recent USA 7s player Colin Hawley and former St. Mary’s captain Andrew Cook.
The NYAC match also signals the return of Ray Lehner as head coach. After a year away from men’s club rugby, Coach Lenher returns to the club he led to multiple DI final fours.
While excited about the NYAC game, Coach Lehner is realistic about the contest, “I’m delighted to be back with the Olympic Club. We have a young and talented squad, full of promise, but let’s be honest - four trainings together is hardly a match for the NYAC in mid season form. Saturday we will have our work cut out for us.”
Indeed, NYAC comes off a 61-5 pasting of the Boston Irish Wolfhounds. They boast several national team players, including Brian Doyle and Toby L’Estrange. Eagle scrumhalf Mike Petri may or may not play, but watch out for the AC to give increasingly more playing time to Blake Burdette, the former Eagle who has the boots back on and is, reportedly, busting his tail to get back in top shape.
The Olympic Club will look to build on this early season contest and create some momentum for the newly formed West Coast Cup competition beginning in 2014.
“We’re always looking to provide the best American rugby experience possible to our players,” said Olympic Club’s Rugby Commissioner, Caleb Adams. “ This trip to NYAC and the forthcoming West Coast Cup will give our players and our fans access to the best rugby available in the western United States.”
The AC will use this game as a valuable test on an off weekend, and as Head Coach Feddi Reinhardt tries to put all the pieces – which include stalwarts such as Neil McMillan, Seth Cohen, Pat Fiffe and Tom Coolican – together.