This past Saturday, Nooga Red traveled to Knoxville to play against our long time matrix rivals, the Knoxville Possums. The SEC rugby playoffs were that same weekend, so the match was moved away from Possum Park to the beautiful Tennessee Rugby Park. It was our first time there and we were grateful to get to play in front of some of the upcoming stars of USA South Rugby.
“Games between our two sides are always physical. Last year, we traveled to Possum Park and simply got out played and over powered. We felt like we needed to elevate and make up for that showing from last season,“ said Coach Copper of Nooga Rugby. “Knoxville came out strong, direct and physical today. We have come to expect that from them! But I was happy to see our guys defend with passion and survive Knox’s early pressure.”
The game remained scoreless with a lot of the play in Nooga’s half for the first 10 minutes. Then Nooga was able to start putting on some points through tries from Richard Cannon, Dylan Watson and Austin Morris. All three successfully converted by captain, flyhalf and defensive coach Lyall Harrison. In the 30th minute, Knoxville found their opportunity and scored a try but Nooga finished the half strong with a 40th minute try from Ethan Winel. Score at the end of the first half: 26-5.
Knoxville were first to score in the second half, with a try at the 50 minute mark. After that, Nooga was able to continue applying offensive and defensive pressure, leading to three more tries through Ethan Winel for his second and then John Truax scored a brace as well. For his hard work in the scrum, his two tries and his overall physical presence, Ethan Winel was chosen Man of the Match! Honorable mentions to Izzy Brown and Richard Cannon who both had big matches.
“I want to give a thank you to all the players for such an effort,” Copper said. “Our defense was probably the best it’s been thus far. Lyall’s leadership has made a great impact in this area. Anyone on our team will tell you, I have a LOT more interest in offense than defense, b
ut today’s performance made me really open my eyes to the beauty of a well-organized defense. This was one of our nearly complete games of rugby we’ve played so far. We scored in the 40th and 80th minute, so that tells me the guys never gave up. Our impact players came in and contributed right away. We still have plenty of room for improvement in fitness, penalty count and some of our restarts. But very proud and relieved to get this road win.”
Nooga Rugby has claimed the state by beating all 3 men's clubs in Tennessee (Nashville, Memphis, and now Knoxville) and finishes our fall season on 11/18 at home with a match against the Birmingham Vulcans. We would love to see you at Montague Park to cheer us on!