Phoenix Lose in MSIRL Opener

Dec. 10, 2016

Updated Thursday December 15, 2016 by Niall Fenton.

Phoenix Lose in MSIRL Opener

After several cancelled fixtures, on Saturday Phoenix opened its new season with the inaugural MSIRL league game against Myers Park Rugby at Charlotte Rugby Club.

Phoenix came into the game with many absent potential starters due to ACT’s, injuries and work conflicts knowing that Myers Park would present strong opposition after a successful NC sevens season. Phoenix travelled with only 18 players on what was a cold but dry day in Charlotte. The contest began with some early Phoenix pressure before the Mustangs backs broke through the visiting team defense to score not one but two breakaway tries. Before the game was 10 minutes old, the Phoenix boys were down 10 points to zero and looked to be in trouble. However, adversity breeds character, and by halftime Phoenix had tied the game at 10 to 10 with a debut try from 8 man Marek Lipold plus a penalty and conversion from Ollie Kennett. This despite the team knocking on 3 times on the goal line and missing 2 penalties from in front of the posts. The Phoenix forwards largely controlled the game in this period and should have been ahead at the half if the pressure had been converted into points on the scoreboard.

The second half kicked off with the teams tied and it was clear that the team to score first would benefit greatly from the resultant motivation. Again, the Phoenix forwards applied themselves to their task and were soon battering the Mustang line with strong carries from Jake Ibarra, Elvis Pressley, Kyle Rogers and Marek Lipold who was having a terrific debut. However, a strong carry and lunge for the line by Jake Ibarra resulted in an ankle injury that forced his premature retirement from the game. Unfortunately, a repeat of the first half ensued with the Mustang backs breaking out to score 3 more converted tries. That effectively ended the game as a contest and, despite tries from Marek Lipold, Blake Bibb and Ari Lorentz, the final score stood at Phoenix 29; Myers Park 38. With 4 tries scored, Phoenix did earn a bonus point that may be significant at the end of the season, but there was no doubt the best team won on the day. Elvis Pressley earned Man of the Match honors following a huge number of storming carries and hard tackles.

In summary, the Phoenix performance was not without some real positives. Despite being very short on numbers and without many starting players, the team were very competitive. This was mainly achieved through huge effort on the part of the forwards, many of whom were making their rugby debuts. The team defense clearly needs work as usually when a Phoenix team scores 29 points, they win. The MSIRL league starts up again in January and, hopefully, a level of improvement will result in a return to our usual winning ways.