Jacksonville Sports Day

RUGBY: Jacksonville Axemen Chop Down Atlanta Rhinos

FILE PHOTO by NANCY BEECHER

By Brian Lowe

The 121 Financial Credit Union Jacksonville Axemen are still perfect on the season following another lopsided victory in USA Rugby League’s South Conference.

The Jacksonville team traveled to Atlanta for Saturday’s game against the former national champion Rhinos and made the road trip worthwhile with a big 70-0 shutout win.

As the old sporting saying goes, they scored early and often to remain unbeaten so far in 2019.

Axemen head coach Sean Rutgerson said it’s one of the toughest away games in the South.

“Going up to Atlanta it’s usually hot and you play on a ground where there’s not much grass left on it, so it’s a massive task for us to undertake,” he said.

“Every week we’re looking to keep improving and take it up another step.”

And that they did by scoring a total of 12 tries.

Again, on Saturday, the Axemen benefited from a host of players stepping up, including centers Alex Eberle and Josh Jackson along with halfback Jacob Hawkins, all of whom scored two tries, and the home team just had no answers to stop the rot.

Import hooker Nathan Richter had another good day with the boot converting seven of Jacksonville’s tries for a personal haul of 14 points. It was the second week in a row in which he was the game-high points scorer.

Five-eighth Charlie Jones added four more conversions.

Left center Jackson started the ball rolling for the Axemen by scoring the opening try of the game and he was quickly followed by Hawkins and winger Steven Knight, who both dotted down over the tryline.

At that point of the first half it was 16-0 to the visitors but they didn’t take their foot off the gas and five more tries were added to the scoresheet.

Backrower Jye Montgomery, Eberle, wing David Washington, fullback David Thomas and James Williams, a winger who came off the bench, all added to the growing tally of tries.

That made it 46-0 as the two teams went into the sheds for a well-earned halftime break.

Then, just as was the case a week earlier, it was the Axemen who scored first to start the second stanza of play when Jackson sealed his brace.

To their credit, the Rhinos improved their play in the second forty in terms of stemming the flow of Jacksonville tries, at least to some extent, as the visitors were limited to just three more scores for the remainder of the half.

Hawkins and Eberle both got their second, while prop Kevin Wathen scored the final try of the game late in the piece to round out the Axemen’s scoring.

“I was pretty pleased with the result,” added coach Rutgerson.

“We’ve got a couple of young kids that I took along and gave a run once we got in control and once again, they all stood up and played well. We’re definitely improving and everyone’s on the same page and it’s building into something really good.”

The win improved the Axemen’s record to 4-0 and there is now daylight between them and the second placed team in the standings.

Jacksonville has a bye this coming weekend. Their next game will be at home against the Southwest Florida Copperheads on June 29.

The Copperheads made South Conference history on Saturday when they scored their maiden win against the Tampa Mayhem.

LAST TIME: The 121 Financial Credit Union Axemen delighted a large and appreciative home crowd by posting the biggest win in the team’s history Saturday June 8 in their homecoming of the USA Rugby League 2019 season. Jacksonville ran in a record 20 tries en route to a 106-4 victory over the South Conference’s new team Lakeland Renegades. There were multiple try scorers on the night including Steven Knight (5), James Williams (3), Jye Montgomery (2), David Thomas (2), David Washington (2) and Alex Eberle (2).

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