Jacksonville Axemen Rugby League

The Jacksonville Axemen and Axe Women traveled to Tampa for the season opener against the Tampa Mischief and Tampa Mayhem. Playing against the conference rivals on their turf for the first game of the season set Jacksonville up for a challenging day but both the men’s and women’s teams were up for it.

Jacksonville Axe Women vs Tampa Mischief

The Axe Women were up first and had a fantastic start. Samatha Bickman put points on the board early with a try in the first 5 min of the game. Stacey Nemeth’s kick was good for a 6-0 score. Despite some impressive defensive efforts from Tampa, the Axe Women managed to work up the field again. Riley Siegmeister punched in another try for Jacksonville, bringing the score to 12-0 in the first 20 min.

A knock on in goal for Jacksonville gave Tampa the opportunity to make the Axe Women defend again. The Mischief weren’t able to score but after a penalty they decided to kick for 2 points to get on the board. The kick was successful bringing the score to 12-2. For the remainder of the first half the Mischief held the Axe Women to their side of the field and came close to scoring, but Jacksonville was able to hold them off. The score remained 12-2 going into half time.

Tampa began to find their footing in the second half, and scored from a breakaway run by Marcaya Bailous. The conversion was good closing in the score to 12-8. For the next 10 minutes both teams seemed to be struggling, and penalties were preventing either side from completing a set. Then just after the 60 minute water break, Tampa’s Marcaya Bailous broke through the line again for nearly an 80 yard run to score a try under the uprights. The conversion was good and the Tampa Mischief take the lead 14- 12.

The Jax Axe Women continued to fight hard and Christine Sargent managed to cut through the defense to pull ahead again 16-14. Stacey Nemeth was 3 for 3 on conversion kicks this game bringing the score to 18-14.

Next when Jacksonville received the ball multiple penalties in a row gave the Mischief the chance to keep the ball moving up the field and tire out the Jacksonville defense. Finally Tampa’s Katelyn Ferguson scored in the middle and tied the game 18-18. Robyn Oliveri was good for the conversion giving the Mischief a 2 point lead.

The Axe Women kept pushing to score and got the ball back off a missed catch from Tampa. Unfortunately another turnover put Jacksonville back on defense for the majority of the final two minutes. When the Axe Women got the ball they were able to move up the field quickly thanks to a penalty on Tampa, but time was out and the final whistle was blown.

Final Score: Jacksonville 18 Tampa 20

Although Head Coach Sean Rutgerson was disappointed in the loss he is optimistic for the team. “I’m really happy with the effort and the way the girls played. We let ourselves down in a couple of areas and we are going to work hard to fix that for the next game.”

The women have the weekend off before the home opener against Tampa. They will also play the New York State Queens and home on June 29th and away July 13th.

Jacksonville Axemen vs Tampa Mayhem

Next up was the Axemen vs the Mayhem is what is always known to be a vicious battle between the rival teams. Although the Mayhem played a preseason match against the Jamaica Exodus in May, this was the first time the Axemen have been on the game field since the National Championship last August.

As always the game started off with a tough back and forth for both teams. A knock on near the Tampa 15 yard line set the Axemen up to take advantage of the penalty and they struck first with a try by David Washington. Mason McCrory was good for the conversion and the Axemen were up 6-0 in the first 5 min.

Tampa closed in on the try line several times and earned a goal line drop out but the Axemen defense held strong. A big kick caused the Mayhem to be pulled into touch, resulting in a goal line drop out for the Axemen. Jacksonville was quick to capitalize here and Trevor James, making his Axemen debut, barreled through the defense scoring another 4 points. The kick was no good and the Axemen lead 10-0. The Axemen remained strong in Mayhem territory, and a kick deep into the left corner was tapped in by an Axemen player for another try for the Axemen. The try was called off however, due to the touch judge ruling the player tapping the ball in was out of touch.

The Mayhem got the ball back and made a quick push up the field for their chance to get on the board. The managed to push through the Axemen defense and scored. The conversion was good to close the gap by 4 points, 10-6. As it often does in rugby league, this momentum took over for the Mayhem side and after completing a set deep in Axemen territory they earned another goal line drop out after the player was forced into the try zone. The Mayhem pushed through for another try, and the conversion had them taking the lead at 12-10.

Then with just a few minutes left in the half the Axemen made their way back up the field. A dangerous tackle from a Tampa Mayhem player stopped the game for the medical staff to treat a serious injury to Axemen player Jason Martin. The game was delayed for quite some time until EMS arrived. After he was safely transported, the Mayhem were down to 12 players due to a red card resulting from the dangerous tackle. The clock ticked down quickly and the score remained 12-10 going in to half time.

After the half time the Axemen came out swinging. Jacksonville scored quickly after a big run from Khalial Harris with an offload to Edson Jean-Baptiste who ran it in. Lee Setzer was next to score from an offload from Ryan Bannerot for another 4 points. Khalial Harris score next with a break through the defense up the middle. Mason McCrory was good for all three conversions and the Axemen were up 28-12.

Then a Mayhem player picked off an Axemen kick and ran turned over the ball in their favor. They capitalized off the play and put another 6 points on the scoreboard to bring it 28-18.

A try from Vashon Marrs was called off by the ref after the touch judge again ruled he would out of touch. The Axemen fought hard to get the ball back and a big run from Malcom Webb helped set up Mason McCrory to cross the line for another 4 points. His kick was good to bring the score to 34-18.

As fatigue started to set in the Tampa Mayhem made a big effort and managed a breakaway run to score under the uprights. Another try late in the second half brought the score to just one try away from a tie game, 34-30. With 2 minutes left to go, the Axemen defended well and held Tampa from scoring. Time ran out and the Axemen defeated the Mayhem 34-30.

Jacksonville Axemen 34- Tampa Mayhem 30

Head Coach Sean Rutgerson is ready to get back with the team to improve this week. “The men started the game well,” said Rutgerson. “But we let a few errors creep into our game. I’m glad we won and the effort was there, we just have a few things to work on moving forward.”

We are happy to report that Jason Martin was released from the hospital and was able to safely travel home with the team.

The Axemen travel to Atlanta this weekend to take on the Atlanta Rhinos, 7pm at Marietta High School. They return home on June 15th for a rematch against Tampa. Women kick off 5pm, men kick off 7pm. To purchase season tickets click the Season Tickets link.

Photos by Bryce Mosley