Reigning USARL Champs off to a Winning Start
By Brian Lowe, Senior Editor, www.rugbyleagueplanet.com
The defending USA Rugby League (USARL) champions Tampa Mayhem have opened the 2022 domestic season with a resounding win to pick up from they left off at the end of last season.
The Mayhem beat the visiting Southwest Florida Copperheads 24-12 on Saturday in Round 2 of competition in the South Conference.
The home team had a healthy 22-6 lead at halftime, but in the second forty, it went off the rails to a degree allowing the Copperheads to flip the table.
“It was kind of a tale of two halves for us,” Mayhem head coach David Ulch tells Rugby League Planet.
“In the first half we did pretty well, and I think we had pretty close to a 75% completion rate, but the second half was the complete opposite with a 25% completion rate. Our fitness wasn’t there for the second half.”
Ulch says the Tampa team was very motivated going into the game.
“We were pretty confident with the lineup that we had, including our interchange guys. It was good to see how we stacked up against the Copperheads, who already had one game under their belt.”
“A lot of our guys had played during the rugby union season and went to nationals, so they only had three weeks off. I’m pretty happy with where we’re at.”
SWF Copperheads CEO Curtis Goddard says they can take some positives from the match, particularly as they won the second half 6-2.
“We lost,” he says. “However, we will look to carry the momentum gained over the second half into the next game.”
The Florida side will host the Mayhem in Round 3 this coming weekend.
In the other game of the second round, the Jacksonville Axemen opened their season with an 80-0 shutout of the South Florida Speed on the road in Miami.
Leading the way for the Axemen was lock Kevin Wathen, who scored a hat-trick of tries.
Also putting in a solid game for Jacksonville was one of their New Zealand imports, Zane Douglas.
“We did pretty good and I’m pretty happy with it,” says Axemen head coach Sean Rutgerson.
“There was a lot of dropped ball, although it was very hot so I can’t complain. It was the first game since we lost to Tampa in the semifinal (in 2021), so I’m happy with how we’re progressing.”
“We’ve got a bit of work to do before our next game, but it was a good hitout.”