By Justin Rutledge | 03.30.16
Saturday is a rugby day, and on April 2nd the Crusaders will be welcoming two opponents for the team’s biggest test so far. The first will be hosting Buffalo, while the reserves will take on Greensburg and Buffalo’s Division III side.
Buffalo fields two sides, much like the Crusaders. The difference is that one side competes in Division II and the other is in Division III. All this means is that this Saturday’s set of matches should be a strong challenge for the Cleveland boys.
On paper, the Division II sides for Cleveland and Buffalo have had similar success. Like the Crusaders, the Buffalo DII side won the majority of the 2015 fall matches, and did so in commanding fashion. A number of those victories came without the other team putting up a single point.
While Buffalo has had success in the Empire Division, the team has never played the Crusaders; and the hosts are preparing to take a win away from Saturday’s encounter. The Crusaders have brought the beef for the weekend, especially in the forwards. Spectators can expect the pack to be spread across the field and targeting defenders’ soft shoulders to break the line and connect with support runners. Tony Brown and Joe Brown are always running threats. Dane Szente, Justin Isaacs and Tom Nemeth will be anchoring the scrums as the front three, and the hits will only be coming harder once those three hit full stride. The speed for the Crusaders’ back line is set to be on display as well. Derek Imes will be delivering the ball to Nick Viviani as usual, leaving the flyhalf with a number of running threats to choose from in the line. He could have Tyler Best or Bill Regan challenge the defense in the center of the field, or release Scott Wallace or Preston Lowden on either of the wings and test Buffalo’s speed. Nick Musarra will also be lurking in the backfield to add his touches to the offense.
The reserve side continues its league play on Saturday against Greensburg. The Crusaders’ Division IV currently sits atop the table, but Greensburg is one point behind so a lot is up for grabs in this match. On top of the placement implications, Greensburg is the only blemish on the reserves’ sterling fall record.
The Crusaders side that will take the field Saturday is much different from the one that Greensburg saw back in 2015, though, and the players are ready to avenge the fall result. Adam Thompson will join Allen Lee and Tony Sessin II in the front row. Scott Mesi will also be making his Crusaders debut and will likely inject even more intensity into the reserves’ pack. Miles Papa and Mo Pahulu will likely be a guiding presence in the pack as the elder statesmen of the group. Anthony Leeper has settled in nicely at flyhalf for the reserves and will be directing traffic on the field, and he has plenty of weapons at his disposal. He has got two Steves that can do damage to an opposition’s defensive line. Steve Fritsch will likely be using his size and speed to dispense with would-be tacklers, while Steve Wolnik will be looking to speed past the opposition. Ryan Sands will be playing fullback Saturday. The versatile player has had time at scrumhalf and wing, but he should be a substantial threat with the no. 15 shirt on Saturday. Mike Mesi will also be making his Crusader debut Saturday on the wing.
Since the start of the spring preseason, the Crusaders have been tightening the screws and smoothing out the rough edges in the area of the team’s execution. Buffalo and Greensburg are set to be solid tests for how well that process has gone, especially on the defensive line and in the set pieces. Where the Crusaders give up some size, the plan is to employ technique and speed to gain the upper hand.
The reserves will bookend the weekend’s events, playing Greensburg at 11:30am and the Buffalo DIII side at 2:30pm. The main event will take place at 1:00pm when the Crusaders’ DII side takes on the Buffalo DII side. Matches will take place at the Cleveland Metroparks Pitch, one mile south of Squire’s Castle on the corner of Ox Lane and River Road.
Come catch a full day of rugby action. #JoinTheCrusade
|April 2, 2016||2:30 PM||Friendly||2016 Spring|
|Cleveland - Metroparks - Ox Bow Ln Chagrin River Rd|
|Chagrin River Road, Gates Mills, OH 44040, USA|