Axemen Win in Season Opener Over Copperheads
The 121 Financial Jacksonville Axemen began the endeavor of defending their title with a win over the Copperheads RLFC. The reigning champions begin the season with the challenge of two away games in a row and were eager to see how the team would look in the absence of any preseason match ups this year.
There are a good number of new players in the Axemen player pool who are new to playing rugby league, along with a new group of experienced import players, and after training for the past month, this was the first look into how these players would gel with the Axemen veterans.
Things started well quickly for the Axemen as captain Jon Purnell scored the first try of the game at about 4 minutes in. Aussie import Nathan Richter’s kick was good to start off with a 6-0 lead. Jacksonville began to pile up the points, with two more tries scored by Jye Montgomery and Kevin Wathen, both conversions were successful to give a 18-0 lead.
It was evident that the Copperheads have improved from their inaugural season when they scored 2 points with a penalty kick followed by a try scored to close in on the Axemen 18-8. Just before halftime, Jacksonville’s Steven Knight scored his first try as an Axemen, and with Richter’s good conversion the team went into the break with a 24-8 score.
With the Axemen receiving the ball to start the second half, Steven Knight was able to score again and bring the score up to 30-8 with the good kick from Richter. David Washington followed up with another try and with Nathan Richter out, Jacob Hawkins earned the 2 points with to widen the lead to 36-8.
Proving they weren’t out of fight yet, the Copperheads scored another try with 7 minutes left in the game. The conversion was good and the score narrowed to 36-14.
Then Axemen rookie Khaliq Webb got his opportunity to put the final nail in the coffin for the Copperheads when he scored with just 2 minutes left in the game. Nathan Richter closed out his perfect kicking game of the day with the extra points and the clock ticked down to a final score of 42-14.
Now 1-0 to start the 2019 season, Coach Sean Rutgerson is happy with the result. “I’m happy to get the win over a much improved Copperheads team,” says Rutgerson. “I was happy with our defense, even though we let through a couple of tries, I thought we were pretty solid in the middle. There are still a few things we need to work on but it was good to debut 6 new players to the sport and I’m looking forward to seeing more players get that opportunity.”
The Jacksonville Axemen hit the road again this upcoming weekend when they travel to Tampa on June 1st. The team hopes the return home 2-0 for the season opener at UNF on June 8th.