Jacksonville Axemen Rugby League

Axemen upset Aussie team to send players out with a win

After going down to the British Police by a big margin last Saturday and then having the Helensburgh Tigers get over the British Team in a tough win on Wednesday, the Axemen made some changes to the line up for the deciding game. Five players who had not been available for the opening match were added to the Axemen squad for what was going to be a tough assignment. Bob Knoepfel was added as a utility, Perry Vaught come in at halfback to allow Spinner Howland to move to Hooker, Taylor Alley was welcomed back off injury, Daytona Gearheads (Axemen reserve grade) player James “Doc” Brown came in as a bench player at Hooker and Shannon Hegarty who recently joined the Axemen was right at home in the centers. (There will be a release about the details of Shannon Hegarty joining the Axemen in the coming week)

The new line up was seen instantly with a huge improvement in defensive structure and the Axemen opened the day with three and four guys in every tackle. They also found some room to move out wide and opened the scoring after only ten minutes of play with Tim Herff getting across the line.

Helensburgh was playing with a very short rest (3 days) after a very physical game against the British Police and it took them a few moments to adjust to the new look Axemen. Once they found their feet the big hits and powerful runs started to come with frequency, but a lapse in marker defense close to the line allowed the Spinner Howland to sneak across for another try to go up 10 points to 0 after 15 minutes.

After that the Axemen team found some confidence and began to match the speed and power of the visitors and both teams started to deliver some very aggressive defense while trying to maintain ball control on offense. Helensburgh righted their ship and got the scoreboard ticking over with some very clever plays that allowed them to cross for some great trys. It was only the try saving cover tackles of Axemen full back Kenny Britt that kept some great line breaks from the Australian team from running away with the game in the last part of the half. At the half time whistle the score was Helensburgh Tigers 18 to the Axemen 16, due to Kenny Britt flying onto a short ball to run away to the line.

The Axemen locker room was one of belief in themselves and they started to realize they could match up with the Tigers in all aspects of play. The second half started off with some heavy defense but more importantly the Axemen stayed focused on limiting opportunity for the Aussies. As the game wore on it was evident that the Tigers player were feeling the combination of a short rest period and the lifted spirits of the Axemen that they just may be able to get a win. The Axemen finally found the try line again with Prop, Matt Clark, diving in to put the Jacksonville team on top of the scoreboard at 22 to 18 after a successful conversion. From then on the Axemen had no problem finding plenty of lift with only 15 minutes left on the clock and having a lead against a quality side from Australia. The Tigers give all they had but it was not enough as the Axemen could smell something special happening. Then in a twist of fate, it was Axemen Captain and former Helensburgh Tiger player, Brent Shorten, who took advantage of a breakdown in play to dive across the line with only minutes left.

The game ended with the Axemen winning by a score of 26 to 18 that allowed two of the original Axemen players, Bob Knoepfel and Spinner Howland to end their playing careers with a fantastic win.

“Today was huge for the Axemen. I have always wanted a gauge to know where we stacked up against some overseas club teams,” said Spinner Howland. “We were at almost full strength today and the Tigers are a quality side from a quality Rugby League competition in Australia. I now know that we could do a tour to a country where the sport is main stream and play some good level teams and not get embarrassed. The British Police got a good score on us due to our lack of fitness and some players not being available. They played a great game and deserved to win, but I am sure we would have kept it a little closer with the team we had today. The Tigers were coming off a short rest and they where certainly not as rested as the Axemen, but overall this was a great event for us to know that the quality of Rugby League in Jacksonville and the USA Rugby League is getting competitive. We won today with all but three of our players being American. A very proud day for the Axemen indeed.”

The Axemen win gave the Atlantic Cup to the British Police team due to each team taking a win and a lose that meant the points for and against decided the winner.


Attendance for the three games was approx 3000.