Jacksonville Sports Day

RUGBY: Eberle’s Hat-trick Powers Axemen Home Over Rhinos

PHOTO By NANCY BEECHER/Florida Sports Wire

A hat-trick of tries by center Alex Eberle helped steer the 121 Financial Credit Union Jacksonville Axemen to another lopsided victory, this time a 68-10 routing of the Atlanta Rhinos Saturday night at UNF rugby fields.

The Axemen showed no signs of rust despite their lengthy one-month spell between games due to forfeits, cancellations and byes. A 12 tries to two result was proof in the pudding.

The Rhinos struggled to bring a full squad for the match, so the Southwest Florida Copperheads provided players to make up the numbers.

Eberle got things rolling early on the night by scoring the first two tries of the game, the second of which was converted by hooker and goalkicker Nathan Richter.

Jacksonville was intent on building the pressure and that they did as prop Khaliq Webb was next to get his name on the scoresheet when he dotted down for the home team. The attempted conversion missed, leaving the score at 14-0 inside the first quarter of the game.

As has been the case all season long, Jacksonville didn’t let up for a minute and next to score was halfback Jake Hawkins. Richter was good with the extras this time to push the score out to 20-0 with about as many minutes gone in the first half.

The Rhinos, who were coming off a cancelled game of their own last week, might have thought they had a shot at stopping the rot at that point, but it wasn’t to be. Backrower Jye Montgomery put paid to that with a try, converted by Richter, to extend the lead to 26-0.

Inside the final ten minutes of the half, the Axemen scored one more try by five-eighth Charlie Jones, the former Thailand skipper who now makes his home in north Florida. Richter converted to make it 32-0.

Then right on the stroke of halftime, Atlanta finally broke their duck with an unconverted try for a 32-4 scoreline at the main break.

“After a few weeks without any games we were trying to shake off the cobwebs and stay motivated after that time, but the team is still coming together and working really hard,” said Axemen head coach Sean Rutgerson.

When the whistle blew to signal the resumption of play for the second half, again it was the Axemen who, as they’ve done all season, were the first to score after the break. Loose forward James Campbell got the try which was converted by Hawkins.

Despite Atlanta’s efforts to stem the tide, Jacksonville continued to mount wave after wave of attack.

Center Josh Jackson maintained Jacksonville’s momentum as he was the next to score. Hawkins again successfully added the extras to make it a 44-4 ball game.

The home crowd has become accustomed to seeing their team continue to apply the pressure even when they have an unassailable lead and this week was no different as fullback David Thomas finished off a movement to score a try. Hawkins again was on target with the conversion as the Axemen were now in complete control leading by 50-4.

Not long after, Eberle notched his third try to round out his hat-trick. Hawkins was on the money with his conversion kick and Jacksonville led 56-4.
To their credit, however, the Rhinos didn’t give up and they got their second try, this one converted, to make the score 56-10.

But as is so often the case, the Axemen weren’t quite done yet and winger David Washington added to the try-scoring avalanche. Charlie Jones was handed the kicking duties and he was good with the conversion.

And just when spectators might have thought that was it, Jacksonville put the final nail in the coffin with a late try to winger Steven Knight. Jones was on the money with his conversion attempt as the Axemen closed out the 68-10 victory.

“We are still looking good defensively, really solid and there were a lot of penalties against us and we defended well on our own line,” added coach Rutgerson. “With Atlanta struggling for numbers we’d like to thank the Copperheads for sending up a couple of players to help out. It really shows they are committed to growing rugby league in the South and the effort is appreciated.”

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