Close call for the Axemen in a tough win over the Copperheads
It’s been a while since the 121 Financial Jacksonville Axemen have been defeated in the regular season competition- and the Copperheads came as close as anyone to putting an end to that record. After a solid win in Jacksonville two weeks ago the Axemen traveled to Naples to take on the Copperheads on their own turf. It turned into a close battle no one will forget for years to come.
The game got off to a soggy start with thunderstorms soaking much of South Florida, and the conditions added to the challenge for both teams during the first 20 minutes. It was very much a back and forth battle of wills until David Washington scored the first try of the game at 18 minutes in. Evening out the score, the Copperheads answered back with their own try tying the game to 6-6.
Justin Williams charged through the middle to score the next try for the Axemen, followed by fellow rookie Tony Robinson to bring the score to 18-6. Just before the end of the first half, the Copperheads scored an additional 2 points off a penalty kick.
At 18-8 you’d think the Axemen would be sitting comfortably about to receive the ball to start the second half, but the Copperheads weren’t done yet. South Florida was the first to score in the second half, and closed in on the Axemen 18-14. Another newcomer to the Axemen, Tony Anderson provided support on a big run by fellow rookie Mike Nita, and scored a try for the Axemen and the score was raised to 24-14.
Too many mistakes plagued the Axemen all game, and after 2 more tries from the Copperheads they found themselves on the losing side of a 26-24 scoreline. The battle was on for the final minutes of the game, and Axemen fans held their breath until Tony Robinson found a hole in the defense and crossed the line to score the winning try of the game with less than 10 seconds of play.
The game was a big challenge and a big win for an Axemen team composed of most players new to rugby league. With the exception of David Washington who scored the first try of the game and earned Man of the Match, all other tries were scored by players in their first season playing rugby league. Luke Findlay had a perfect game for his conversion kicks scoring 10 points of his own.
Despite the close call Coach Sean Rutgerson was happy with the win. “I am really happy with how the new guys played. We still are making too many mistakes and not making smart decisions, but I’m really proud that we stuck to it and ground it out for a win. It showed some real character and I’m looking forward to moving forward to the next game.”
Co-founder and General Manager Drew Slover was impressed with the gains the Copperheads have been making on and off the field. “We’ve really seen the Copperheads grow as an organization and it definitely shows this season. It’s great to see the work they are putting in and rugby league gaining momentum in the South.”
“I’m also excited to have these new players join the Axemen and show so much potential. 12 of the 19 players named to the roster are in their first year of rugby league. Watch out for these rookies over the next few weeks, as they will only get better with more games under their belt.”
The Jacksonville Axemen return home this weekend in a double header when Jacksonville Women’s Rugby League makes their home debut against the Tampa Mischief. The men follow up against the newest team in the USARL, the South Florida Speed from the Miami area. Women kick off at 4pm, men kick off at 6pm.
The game will feature the National Anthem sang before the men’s game by Axemen sports medicine intern and Bolles student Emma Stasiak. You’ll also see your local youth rugby teams return to take the field during both half time games as well as on the sidelines helping as ball boys and girls. Get to the game early, grab a beer and some food and enjoy everything Jacksonville’s toughest sport has to offer!
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You can purchase your tickets for the game here https://www.eventbrite.com/e/150752016339