Axemen to Host South Championship Game
By Brian Lowe Photos By Allene Rachal
The 121 Financial Jacksonville Axemen are through to the SOUTH Conference championship game following their big 88-0 win against the Southwest Florida Copperheads in Saturday’s semifinal at UNF.
The Axemen rarely gave the Copperheads, who were down on numbers, a sniff for the entire 80 minutes and will host the conference title decider next Saturday.
Jacksonville’s ‘Mr Reliable’ Lachlan Bristow got the home team on the scoreboard within the first four minutes when he broke through the Copperheads’ defense to score beside the posts and then converted his own try to make it 6-0.
Around five minutes later, prop Kevin Wathen added to his try-scoring tally this season by bulling his way over the line for Jacksonville’s second try out wide. The attempted convert was no good to leave the score at 10-0.
From the restart, skipper Jon Purnell went on a bullocking run stiff arming several would-be tacklers before offloading to winger David Washington, who scooted down the sideline to score in the corner. Bristow’s attempted conversion from out wide missed for a 14-0 scoreline.
The Axemen continued their early domination with Bristow finishing off a passing movement on the other side of the field and his successful conversion made it 20-0.
The try-scoring procession continued with right winger Tyler McClain fielding a cross-kick by halfback Montana Northcroft and taking it around under the posts. Bristow’s convert pushed the score out to 26-0.
Northcroft then went in himself just minutes after that and with yet another precisely judged conversion, Jacksonville had extended its lead to 32-0 as the game paused for the first half water break.
Minutes into the second quarter, Bristow caught the Copperheads napping from a penalty when he took off down field and dished a pass to his fullback David Thomas, who dove into the try zone. The successful conversion made it 38-0.
Jacksonville kept the momentum going when prop Wathen notched his second try of the game with about six minutes left in the half to finish off yet more crisp Axemen passing. Bristow’s extras made it 44-0.
Jacksonville kept the pedal to the metal as the game moved towards halftime resulting in a second try to Thomas and the extras blew out the score 50-0.
The second stanza opened with the Axemen capitalizing on a ball that was coughed up by the Copperheads near their own tryline. Matt Thornton pounced on the loose ball and dove in for the score. Another Bristow convert made it 56-0.
Scrappy play by both teams ensued for the next phase of the game, but Steve Hill put an end to it by crashing his way over the line for a try. The extras were wayward leaving the score at 60-0.
Not long afterwards, center Kyle Grinold added to the Axemen’s try-scoring avalanche and with the convert it was 66-0.
A spilled ball by Jacksonville close to the Copperheads line was ruled to have been knocked backwards by the referee and from the ensuing play-the-ball, a heads-up play by winger McClain saw him slide under defenders for a try. Bristow added the extras to make it 72-0.
From the restart, the Axemen kept the ball in hand and Grinold finished it off with a try to the right of the posts. The conversion missed, leaving the scoreboard showing a 76-0 advantage to the home team.
As the match wore on, and with one eye on next week’s SERL championship game, Jacksonville was determined not to ease up on the pressure and fullback Thomas notched his hat-trick of tries to increase the lead. Bristow was on the money with the convert to push the scoreline to 82-0.
That score was quickly followed by another by Bristow, his second hat-trick in as many weeks, which he converted to make it an 88-0 ballgame and that’s how the match finished.
The Axemen will host the defending USARL champion Rhinos in next week’s SOUTH Conference championship game after Atlanta dominated the Tampa Mayhem 68-10 in the other semifinal.
“It’ll be a massive test for us,” says head coach Sean Rutgerson.
“We really need to train hard because they’ve been there before. The only advantage we’ve got is we’re playing at home.”
Kick off is 6pm at the UNF Soccer field. The winner will host the USARL National Championship on August 25th.