Game Report: Axemen Defeat Rhinos in Season Opener
Conditions were tough in Atlanta last Saturday when the Axemen took on the Rhinos for their first game of the USARL season. When the game kicked off at 5:30pm the sun was beating down on the turf and the field was well over 100 degrees. Jacksonville certainly had something to prove coming off a disappointing end to last year in the playoffs and the Rhinos were eager for a win after the draw against Central Florida last week.
Atlanta scored first and the the conversion kick was good to get the Rhinos up 6-0 early in the first quarter. The Axemen answered back quickly with a try by Steven “Meaty” Hill and Hayden Diggins conversion is good to tie the game.
The push continued from the Axemen and they didn’t let up with two more tries from Kris Townsel and Hayden Diggins. Diggins missed the first kick but nailed the second one bringing the score to 16-6 in the first 17 minutes of the game. The offensive attack continued coming off the water break with Jonathan Halter for the fourth try of the game and Diggins conversion is good and Jacksonville is up 22-6.
The Atlanta Rhinos didn’t give up after the battering and score late in a grueling first half and both teams went to the locker rooms with a 22-12 scoreline.
The second half began with a kick off to the Rhinos, but the Axemen get the ball back and score again with a try from David Thomas. Diggins was again on point with his conversion upping the Axemen score to 28-12.
A determined Rhinos team kept up the fight and were able to capitalize on some mistakes from the Axemen who were starting to wear from the heat and travel. Atlanta was able to score twice and were only one try from tying the game at 28-22.
Both teams continued to battle and tensions intensified after the game was paused for the medical staff to attend to an injured Rhinos player. Both teams went to the second half water break knowing this game was far from over.
The Rhinos were clearly angry when the game resumed and both teams took turns with the ball for most of the final 20 minutes, coming close to the try line on both ends. The heat was taking its toll on both teams but the fighting continued and the defense held strong for both sides.
Finally with less than 10 minutes to go, the Axemen were able to score with another try from Jonathan Halter, Diggins conversion was no good with a score of 32-22. With Jacksonville up 10 points on the Rhinos with less than 5 minutes to go the Axemen focused on the basics, holding on to the ball and keeping a solid defense until the Referee blew the whistle to seal the win.
With a final score of 32-22 the Axemen move to 1-0 and start the season on the top of the ladder for the USARL South Division.
“I was really happy with our first 30 minutes of the game,” said Coach Ben Nicoll. “We stuck to our game plan and put points on them pretty easy. Then when we got a little tired, went away from the game plan and silly errors really hurt us. But, it was a lot of guys first game of Rugby League and the team’s first time playing together so we will be better for the run.”
The Axemen play the Tampa Mayhem at home this Saturday June 18th at 5:30pm.
Photo Credit: Paul Mears