Lions selected as Collegiate All-Americans

Lions selected as Collegiate All-Americans

Congratulations to the 7 Lions players who were acknowledged by USA Rugby as collegiate All-Americans yesterday. Well done to:

  • Nick Feakes (Lindenwood University)
  • Tyler Sousley (Indiana University)
  • Brady Gent (Davenport University)
  • Alex Dorrier (Indiana University)
  • Thomas Kacor (Western Michigan University)
  • Jack Casey (University of Arkansas)
  • Jake Hidalgo (Indiana University)

Feakes and Sousley were acknowledged for both 7s and 15s, Dorrier and Casey gained recognition for their 7s exploits, while Kacor and Brady excelled in 15s.

We are extremely fortunate to have this group of talented young men coming through the ranks and are excited to see their development with the Lions over the years to come.

Lions Reach National Semi Finals

Lions Reach National Semi Finals

Quarter Final – Saturday

Rocky Gorge gameThe Chicago Lions headed to Pittsburgh on May 19th for the National quarter-final and semi-final having secured the Midwest title two weeks previous. The Lions first opponent was to be Rocky Gorge, a team from Baltimore who went unbeaten in their conference all season. The quarter-final was played on the Saturday as the last game of the day in a packed schedule which saw 20 men’s and women’s teams take to the two fields of the Pittsburgh Harlequins.

The Lions started with a team of Frikkie De Beer, Patrick Rappleye, Angus MacLellan, Mike Rasmussen, Joe Forgy, Thomas Kacor, Dave Whitney, Ethan Porter, Kevin Lydon, JP Eloff, Sondai Adjei, Luke Thiem, Dan Coci, Brian Rooney and Quinn Macali.

The Lions were first on the scoreboard with a penalty from JP Eloff which was then followed up by a try by Luke Thiem. Eloff hit the conversion to give the Lions a 10-0 lead early on. Rocky Gorge responded with a long range penalty from US National flyhalf Ben Cima before punching a try of their own to leave it 10-10 at the half in what was proving to be a tight encounter.

Rocky Gorge gameRocky Gorge came out of the blocks fastest in the second half with a try to leave it 17-10 but the Lions got going and were ruthless for the next 30 minutes, scoring 22 unanswered points through tries from Jon Serdar, Sondai Adjei and Frikkie De Beer to lead 32-17. The major blow coming from a desperate crossfield kick attempt by Rocky Gorge being plucked out of the air by Adjei and finishing in a try for the Lions by the support play of Captain Dan Coci. This allowed the Lions to empty the bench in an effort to save energy for the Sunday game. Rocky Gorge did have the last say with a consolation try in the final seconds but that brought an end to play and a fantastic win for the Lions 32-22 on the day and on to the National semi-final.

The Lions did not stick around long after the win as they darted straight to the cars and onwards to the AHN Sports Performance Center, a newly built state of the art sports facility which is used by the Pittsburgh Steelers as well as other professional teams in the area. The players participated in 2 hours of recovery protocols ranging from massage to H-Wave stimulation and cryotherapy, the latter sorted the men from the boys as they were exposed to temperatures of around -200 degrees.

Semi-Final – Sunday

NYAC gameSunday saw another game for the Lions against New York Athletic Club (who had taken down last year’s National Champions, Mystic River on Saturday). The Lions were up early again for a repeat of the match day routine which sees them go through a pool activation session including hand-eye coordination drills, mobility work, and active recovery. This is followed by breakfast as a team and then opposition preparation which sees the players go through video analysis of their opponents. Next up is a walk through in the car park where they spend a short time walking through set-piece moves before breaking for lunch and strapping.

The team was announced with the return of Andrew Rose from injury and Robert Stortz. The starting team was: Frikkie De Beer, Pat Rappleye, Angus MacLellan, Jon Serdar, Joe Forgy, Thomas Kacor, Dave Whitney, Andrew Rose, Kevin Lydon, JP Eloff, Sondai Adjei, Luke Thiem, Dan Coci, Brian Rooney, and Robert Stortz.

NYAC gameThe Lions departed for the field with rain and storms being predicted. The weather predictions did not disappoint with the skies opening up mid-way through the team warm-up to provide some very wet conditions for the game ahead.

The Lions took the field in heavy rain against a team littered with US National players and an extremely big pack. ‘We were expecting a forwards game from them and the conditions played right into their favor’ said coach Dave Clancy.

The game started slow with both teams struggling in the conditions and trying to kick territory when possible. NYAC then opened the scoring after some good pressure and a lengthy period of Lions defense. They backed this up with two long range penalties to lead 13-0 at the half. The Lions were disappointed to have left a try out there with the referee judging the pass to the man overlap to be forward in what would have been a walk-in try.

NYAC were first to score in the second half with a converted try giving them a 20-0 lead. Next, the Lions responded through a Brian Rooney try to leave it 20-5 with the Lions growing into the game and starting to have some possession in key areas. The Lions were then held up for what could have been a try but it wasn’t to be and NYAC cleared their lines.

NYAC gameThe Lions threw everything they had at them and emptied the bench in an effort to get some fresh legs and energy on the field but it wasn’t enough against an excellent NYAC side who played the conditions perfectly. Their talented flyhalf, Chris Mattina, and very strong fullback put on a superb kicking game. NYAC scored again at the death as a bonus to leave the final score 5-27, a win that sent them to the National final against the now-professional side of the Austin Huns who defeated Belmont Shore in the other semi-final.

It draws a close to the season for the Lions team who have come a long way from a 3 game losing streak in the Fall to where they ended up. The team has gone from the bare squad numbers for a first side to having two full sides.

The Lions have laid a solid foundation for future success and have in the words of many old boys, restored the roar.

Lions win Midwest Final

Lions win Midwest Final

The Lions traveled to Lemont on Saturday for the Midwest final against top seed Columbus. It was a going to be a big challenge to take down a team who had the top seed having been bolstered this season by the additions of 6 players from th Ohio PRO team, but the Lions were up to the task having come within seconds of taking the victory against them on the road earlier in the Spring.

The Lions started with a team of Frikkie DeBeer, Pat Rappleye, Angus MacLellan, Joe Forgy, Mike Rasmussen (R), Thomas Kacor, Dave Whitney, Eddy Long, Kevin Lydon, JP Eloff, Brian Rooney, Luke Thiem, Dan Coci (c), Sondai Adjei and Robert Stortz. Opting to keep faith with young rookie Mike Rasmussen after his man of the match debut start in the semi-final.

The Lions were the first on the scoreboard after some early pressure from some lineout drives led to a penalty and eventually Pat Rappleye barging over in the corner from the drives momentum. Columbus reacted with a line break from former eagle Roland Suniula who connected with his team mates through a number of offloads before it ended up back with him for their first score of the game, converted by Taylor Howden. The Lions were next to score through a JP Eloff line break and an easy pass to put flanker Thomas Kacor in the corner. The Lions increased their lead to 15-10 when JP Eloff took 3 points from a Columbus penalty before a lapse in concentration in defense saw Columbus with a break away try up the middle to leave the score 17-15 to Columbus at the half. However, that was not the last of the drama as Columbus center Suniula saw a red for a dump tackle on Robert Stortz in the closing minutes of the half meaning the Lions would finish the game with an extra player.

The Lions took advantage of the extra man and superior fitness to dominate the second half, outscoring Columbus 18 to 3 in the second half despite crossing the line on two occasions only to be called back for a knock on or infringement. The second half scores came in the form of two Eloff penalties and tries for Robert Stortz after a superb outside break by Angus MacLellan and a Kevin Lydon lunge for the line after some goal line pressure.

The final score 33-20 to the Lions and the first Midwest title since 1999 for all in attendance to celebrate. Man of the match on the day was awarded to #7 Dave Whitney with JP Eloff and Angus MacLellan also having standout performances. I am extremely proud of every one of the players for the effort levels they gave and for their discipline and execution of the game plan I had for them to win on the day. Credit must be given to the forwards coaching staff of Marty Wiggins, Dustin Hugen and Matthew Priest for the dominance of our forwards at set-piece which was the platform for victory.

The Lions now qualify for the national quarterfinals in Pittsburgh where Rocky Gorge Rugby Club awaits, having won their conference. First up though, the Lions host Old Blue of New York this weekend in a warm-up game you will not want to miss. It would be fantastic to get as many Lions supporters to come out and meet the team in their last home game of the season before they head away to nationals!

Chicago Lions Rugby
Jay “Tyke” Nollman Memorial Fields

Jay “Tyke” Nollman Memorial Fields

Tyke NollmanIn April, a group of Chicago Lions attended a dedication ceremony at LaSalette Academy in Georgetown, Illinois. The ceremony marked the official dedication of the Jay “Tyke” Nollman Memorial Fields. The day’s event was capped off with an unveiling of the monument, flag raising ceremony and a number of speeches.

Tyke became involved with the Lions from LaSalette seven years ago. This school of 80 students are currently playing in the first division of Rugby Illinois and have been quite successful. The two main playing fields and one practice field all are regulation dimensions with 55 foot goal posts on each pitch. It was quite a setting, the rain and wind cancelled the game scheduled to play the Arlington Stallions, Paul Bergman’s and Vinnie LaPiana’s club.

The generosity of Tyke and his wife, Jane, are being felt in the rugby community not only here in Chicago, but downstate at this high school as well. We are proud to count Tyke as an alum of the club and wish nothing but the best to the La Salette rugby team!

A total of 14 Chicago Lions Old Boys attended the ceremony, it was noted that the significance of the 14 former players joining together to celebrate a great day with Jane and relatives.

The Chicago Lions presented LaSalette the Chicago Lion which has been given on 61 other occasions to foreign side team both at home and away. The LaSalette Lions were invited to play a curtain raiser once the Chicago Lions unveil their new Fields.

Nollman fields

Fourteen Chicago Lions were present, one space was left for Tyke.

On Saturday, April 29th, the Notre Dame de La Sallete Boys Academy in Georgetown, IL, dedicated their rugby pitch in honor of our late great friend, J. Tyke Nollman. I was part of a large contingent who headed downstate to commemorate this event.

Tyke was a stalwart, standup, ambassador of our great club, The Chicago Lions RFC. He dedicated his life to our success both on and off the pitch. He served as President of the Lions back in the late ’70’s and early ’80’s. In fact, he was at the helm when I first put the black jersey on. His attitude and professionalism embodies and permeates the club to this day. He is someone I will never forget!

Cheers to you, my friend.

Ray Karenas

Chicago Lion

What do You Want? Take our Quick Survey

What do You Want? Take our Quick Survey

Jeff SimonWe have worked hard to reorganize the Chicago Lions into a professional organization which serves players, members, alumni, the local community, and the game of rugby union in the USA.

With the addition of talented people in key positions, we are close to achieving our goal but more work needs to be done.

However, we have noticed a drop-off in Alumni participation. While we only have 2 home games scheduled this spring (besides potential playoff games), we are excited about making them eventful weekends for our fans and alumni. Please take this 5-question survey so we can plan accordingly for you.

It will only take 30 seconds (or more if you are older and need to find your reading glasses) but is important.

Thank you.

~ President Jeff Simon

New Orleans Trip Report

New Orleans Trip Report

The Lions took a squad of 26 players to New Orleans for a pre-season tour and friendly against fellow MLR hopefuls, New Orleans RFC. The squad left in the early hours of Thursday morning, flying to New Orleans before getting straight down to business and training. The squad trained for two hours, focusing on units, defense and game plan before heading to the nearby hotel for a pool recovery session. The squad assembled once again for training Thursday night where the squad focused on individual skills, ruck and restarts.

Chicago LIons in New Orleans

Friday

The day started with an early morning mobility session on the ground of the hotel to ease out some of the stiffness from traveling and a double training day on Thursday. Coach Dave and trainer Jacob took the players through a series of stretching routines before the players left for practice once again with 40 minutes of units work and a 40 minute captains run lead by captain Dan Coci and Vice-Captain Frikkie DeBeer. This was a fantastic session and had the squad feeling that things were starting to click. The players had another recovery session before being given the afternoon to explore the scenic streets of New Orleans and take in their surroundings before a team dinner where the management brought in some local food to a hotel conference room and ate as a group on the night before the big game.

Saturday

Saturday, Game day. The team began with an earlier start or 7am having had kick-off moved back to a 12pm start. Breakfast was followed by a spotters session at the hotel which saw the players do some activation work, hand eye coordination work and walk through some of their set piece plays at a walking pace. The team then travelled in convoy to the New Orleans home ground where there was a Jersey presentation and some final words from the coaching staff before warming up and kick-off in the 78 degree heat.

The starting team for the day was: Angus McClellan, Patrick Rappleye, Frikkie DeBeer, Joe Forgy, Jonah Taylor, Thomas Kacor, Cyrus Shariff, Dave Whitney, Kevin Lydon, Robert Stortz, Brian Rooney, Luke Thiem, Dan Coci (c), Jordan Highberger and Quinn Macali.

The game got off to a disrupted start with the referee awarding multiple penalties and stoppages throughout the first half which did not allow either team to build any momentum. Both teams and some early possession and displayed huge levels of physicality with the Lions getting the better of the territory but without the final execution or patience to convert territory to points. The half time score of 9-6 to New Orleans with the Lions points coming from 3 penalties from the boot of Quinn.

After a half time team talk and some positional adjustments, the Lions came out roaring in the second half with a penalty try for a push over scrum and this was a sign of things to come. The Lions pushed on with a further 6 tries in the second half with scores coming from Frikkie, Gavin, Kevin, Stortz, Coci and Ty. The Lions played a good tempo of rugby and with increased patience through the early phases of the game plan, created opportunities to exploit New Orleans out wide, showing good continuity to finish off some impressive line breaks by the Likes of Luke, Angus, Jonah and Coci.

Chicago LIons in New Orleans

The second half also allowed for the Lions to utilize their bench with new recruit Andrew Rose, a Zimbabwe international coming on at flanker and a number of new recruits making their debut for the Lions such as Matt Hundley, Jonah Taylor, Mike Rassmussen, Jovan Vazquez and Phil Spagnolo. What was extremely exciting about this was the presence of three players aged 20 or younger who will surely have a huge future with the Lions after impressive performances.

The final score, 49-9 to the Lions. An impressive second half performance to score 7 tries and concede no points.

The Lions wish to thank New Orleans for a great weekend and superb hospitality throughout. It will surely be the first of many more encounters over the years to come.

The Lions now take on a strong Columbus side in Ohio on Saturday at 1pm with both sides knowing that the outcome of this game in hand can take them into the top two of the division standings.