SARANAC LAKE - The goal in Sunday's season-opening match for the Adirondack boys under-19 rugby team wasn't necessarily about coming up with a win, although a victory would have been nice.
Fielding a squad with 10 players who have never been in a game, the young Barkeaters were looking to gain experience against the deeper, more veteran Saratoga Mustangs. With just seven players returning to the lineup, the Mountaineers held their own, as well as a 3-0 edge for most of the first half, but Saratoga took control after intermission en route to triumph by a 19-8 score.
Adirondack took an early 3-0 lead when Lake Placid sophomore Andrew Meister made good on a penalty kick, and the edge held up until Saratoga got on the board with a try and conversion kick with three minutes left in the half to grab a 7-3 edge. The two teams then traded scores early in the second half, with the Mustangs upping their edge to 14-3 on a try and another successful conversion kick.
Lou Reuter/Lake Placid News
Adirondack U-19 player and Lake Placid High School junior Mario Gonzalez helps separate a Saratoga rugger from the ball during Sunday’s game at the Spencer Boatworks field in Bloomingdale.
Adirondack cut the deficit to 14-8 when Saranac Lake High School senior Patrick Woodward bulled his way in for a try, but Saratoga answered with the final points on its third try of the match.
Jack Guba, a second-year Saratoga rugger, scored one try for the Mustangs, teammate Nate Sawyer added the other two, and Race Viedt connected on two of three conversion kicks for the winners, who improved to 4-0 overall.
A year ago, Saratoga advanced all the way to the New York state high school championship tournament, and with a mix of veterans and newcomers, the Mustangs offered Adirondack's players a good challenge to kick off a new season.
"We have a very young team," said Adirondack coach Tammy Morgan. "Seven guys, that's all we have back, and the rest, this was the first time they've played in an actual rugby game. That's why I was very proud of them.
"Early on, we were winning the rucks, and our forwards played great," Morgan continued. "We just didn't transition very well. That's because we have a lot of rookies."
The trip to Saranac Lake for a match at the Spencer Boatworks field was a first for the players on Saratoga, who are members of the Capital District Youth Rugby League. Athough the Mustangs went home with another win, they knew they were tested playing the Barkeaters.
"We knew we were going to face a good team, so we were pretty fired up for this match," said August Amirault, a Saratoga captain. "They played with a lot of heart. I just think we had more experience and we were definitely deeper. We brought 33 players up here with us, so we just kept bringing in fresh guys. It was a fun day here. It's the first time I've ever seen snow on the pitch."
Saranac Lake senior Lucas Atkinson was one of the Barkeaters' captains for the match, and he said for the first time out, his squad turned in an inspiring effort.
"They were a good team," Atkinson said. "They were more experienced than we were, and it showed. This is the first time we've gotten together for a game this season, and our team has a lot of potential. I thought our first-year players did a great job. This was a nice start to our season because it brought to light the things we need to work on."
The match was supposed to be the second of a scheduled doubleheader that also featured a match between the Adirondack girls under-19 team and Montreal, but the Canadian side had to cancel its trip because a number of its players had mononucleosis. It would have marked the season-opening match for the Adirondack girls team.
Both Adirondack teams are scheduled to be in action again at the Spencer Boatworks pitch next Sunday, when South Burlington's boys and girls squads visit Saranac Lake for a doubleheader.