Friday Night Rugby Opens With Rivalry For a Cause
National Collegiate Rugby’s Friday Night Rugby debuts this week with a Mid-Atlantic Rugby Conference derby between Philadelphia rivals St. Joe’s and Temple. Friday marks the first of six matches being streamed live on NCR’s YouTube channel, showcasing some of the best men’s and women’s matchups from around the country.
Temple enters the pivotal early conference tilt 1-1, opening the season with a great win against Rutgers, 27-24, followed by a 40-24 loss to Rowan. St. Joe’s comes in 1-0-1, tying West Chester 28-28 in the season opener followed by a 47-22 victory over Maryland.
While the Owls are led by longtime head coach John Sciotto, the Hawks have a first-year head coach in Mike Williams. Senior St. Joe’s prop Connor Hohman describes the recent coaching change as a blessing in disguise, saying Williams has gone above and beyond, embracing his new role as head coach, placing a significant emphasis on team building, and keeping a positive attitude in the locker room.
Helping the Williams era off to a hot start is the wing duo of freshman Matthew Kelly and sophomore Aidan McMullan, who the Hawks rely on to score tries. Sophomore front rower Jaxon Clayton is another key player for the young St. Joseph’s team. Despite having some injuries last year, he is looking to come back stronger than ever.
Temple favors a blue collar style of rugby, and the Owl attack is led by scrumhalf Brandon Delia, who Sciotto describes as “feisty” and capable of keeping the game moving quickly. Club President Luke Scott is another reliable playmaker. A former flyhalf who has moved to outside center, Scott is a dynamic player with a great sense for the game.
In addition to conference supremacy and bragging rights in the City of Brotherly Love, Temple and St. Joe’s will be playing for the Thumb’s Up Apple Pie Cup, a trophy honoring late members of both clubs, Temple’s Josias Sterling and St. Joe’s Mark Dombroski. The game will be played in their memory and to the benefit of the Josias Fund, a program that’s helped over 1,000 inner-city kids learn to swim.