Kiwis take first blood on US Soil
The New Zealand Fencibles Police Rugby League team scored a try in the dying minutes to tie the score at 32 all and then added the conversion to come away with a 34 to 32 point win over the Jacksonville Axemen at Hodges Stadium in Florida.
The game was played in 96 degree (36 Celsius) heat and high humidity that led officials to use the four quarters format to ensure player safety would not be a concern from heat related and dehydration issues.
The Axemen jumped out to a 10 nil lead in the first 10 minutes before the visitors found their footing in the heat and started getting their timing of attack in the leveled the scores. The lead changed multiple times throughout the rest of the game before the visitors found the try-line with too little time left for the Axemen to get into a scoring position to take the win.
Defense on both sides was certainly one of the biggest highlights for the crowd of over 1000 fans for braved the heat, with two of the Axemen players finding themselves on the wrong end of a “bell ringer” hit. The Axemen also had their moments in defense showing the New Zealand team that they can also deliver some ferocious tackles.
It was a great opportunity for some of the rookie Axemen players to make a claim for the starting team roster with three of them really showing they have what it takes to play good quality Rugby League. Overall the Axemen coaching staff is very encouraged with the pre-season effort against a team of the caliber they faced over the weekend.
The New Zealand team has two more days in Jacksonville that will include a thank you luncheon hosted by Carrabbas Italian Grill and a tour of the Jacksonville Jaguars facility. They will then head to Philadelphia to compete in the inaugural United States of America Rugby League 9’s Tournament on May 28th.
The Axemen will take this week to prepare for their last pre-season event, the Rugby Union vs. Rugby League Cross Code game on May 28th at Hodges Stadium. A select team of Rugby Union players will be assembled from teams within Florida who will face off against the Axemen with 40 minutes of Rugby Union before changing over to 40 minutes of Rugby League. The game will kickoff at 4pm.