A HAT-TRICK from winger Matt Thorton capped a spirited comeback from the Jacksonville Axemen as they notched an incredible 40-16 USARL victory over the Philadelphia Fight at Hodges Stadium, Florida.
In sweltering conditions the pendulum swung both ways as the Fight led 16-6 after 35 minutes and seemed to be well and truly in control of the game. With seconds remaining before halftime, a defensive lapse saw the Axemen run the ball out wide and Matt Thorton scored with 0 seconds left in the half.
The Fight started the second half strongly but poor handling of the football saw them blow a try right over the line. The Axemen were then aided by sloppy plays by the Fight which saw back-to-back penalties that marched them within yards of the tryline. A tired Fight defense couldn’t match the Axemen’s size and speed and some quick hands had the game tied at 16 all.
Jacksonville’s record crowd of over 2,500 realized they were witnessing what the great game of Rugby League has to offer and they repaid the team with an atmosphere that had the team equally fired up and thirsty for more action. They didn’t disappoint and back-to-back tries put the game out of reach and the Axemen into first place for the Semi finals in two weeks time.
The Semi-final will be a repeat of last years Championship Final against the New Haven Warriors which promises to be another classic encounter between the two clubs.
The DC Slayers tore through a depleted Boston 13s to cement the other top seed in the finals and their first home field finals. The Slayers finish the season at 7-1 equal with the Axemen who only beat them in point differential. The result sees them finish with their best record since forming in 2003. Coach Danny Hanson praised their efforts “Our goal at the start of the season was to have the home field advantage in the playoffs. Our boys have given us the best possible opportunity to play in the Championship final and we have one game left to do so.” The DC Slayers face the Philadelphia Fight on Sat August 13 in DC. Time TBD.
In other games the New Haven Warriors had little trouble with the NJ Turnpike Titans to cement their final spot and push the distance between 4th and 5th spot on the ladder. The Warriors have been in form of recent and are clicking at the right end of the season with their ultimate test ahead in the Axemen. As for the Titans, it will be a year of reflection and lessons learned in their inaugural year in the USARL. The young squad has done well to adapt to the 13 man code and they have the platform to build on for next season. Credit goes to Paul Silverman for his tireless work both on and off the field bringing this team into the competition.
Up north the Rebellion smashed an already beaten Onieda unit serving notice that while small in stature, the RIR are the big brother of the North East. The Rebellion are clearly a success story of the new league and their management have done a great job off the field getting the word out in local press. Their recent crowd of over 350 should carry well into next year as the Rebellion results will improve and give them plenty to cheer abut in 2012.