The Club · History
In the winter of 2001-2002, NSRFC founder Gus del Puerto recognized the need for a rugby club to represent the North Shore of Massachusetts. There were established clubs in Boston and to the south and west. Despite a rich athletic history, the North Shore had no rugby club to call their own.
Gus put the word out, and among those who joined up were rugby journeymen Liam Brady, Cam Williams and Dan Solomon. They would become core members of NSRFC.
Unlike many clubs that form as an extension of a particular college or splitting from another club, NSRFC pulled players from many backgrounds (former college players, rugby neophytes, and a small foreign contingent).
Future captain Chris LeBlanc-Smith was among a handful of others who jumped at the chance to play competitive rugby and help build a new club. After an initial meeting (and a few pints) at Champions Pub in Peabody, the North Shore Rugby Football Club was born.
Coach: Dan Solomon
Captains: Gus del Puerto, Cam Williams
Guided by the wisdom and enthusiasm of Dan Solomon and Cam Williams, we won our first ever game against Wentworth featuring our first try from Chris LeBlanc-Smith. That season we won a few hard-fought games, introduced the game of rugby to a bunch of rookies, and had a great time. Our home pitch at Cherry Hill Park was a gem, but unfortunately youth sports would force us out in the end.
The spring campaign included wins over Wentworth, Rutland, and Middlesex. The season was capped off by a strong showing in the sloppy conditions at the NERFU Championships in Newport, where NSRFC defeated South Shore and lost a battle to Seacoast.
In short, it was a learning experience - showing us how much we needed to improve and also how much tougher the fall season could be. The season ended with no league wins but valuable match experience for our many young players. The year was capped off by a trip to the New York 7's in November.
Coach: Des Crowley
Captain: Chris LeBlanc-Smith
Hoping to build on our inaugural year, the NSRFC renewed its commitment to fitness and hard work for spring 2003. The club migrated to GEEAA Field which was a bit rough around the edges, but mostly unoccupied and added the element of lights. With new coach Des Crowley in the fold and Chris LeBlanc-Smith leading by example, the club stepped up and saw the results of our hard work - three wins.
The spring season was concluded by two more wins at the Bull Moose Tournament at Attitash Mountain.
This was an outstanding season for NSRFC, with a 4-1-1 record overall. An early season tie at Seacoast would prove to be the highlight, as we remained in playoff contention until the final week of league play.
The fall season provided a lesson about what it takes to improve our level of play and sustain it. It also left the club hungry for another chance to compete for a league championship. Another trip to the New York Sevens resulted in slightly more success than the previous trip, but no hardware.
Coach: Des Crowley
Captain: Martin Mahoney
In the spring of 2004, North Shore Rugby took another step forward under the guidance of Des Crowley and leadership of new captain Martin Mahoney.
The season yielded six wins against zero losses, as well as winning the consolation bracket at the NERFU Championships in Newport and second place in the Bull Moose Tournament B Division. Many players in their second or third year of rugby started putting their experience to use.
The season started in the best way possible, with strong wins over the Wolfhound Dinos, Harvard Business School, and MIT. However, this success was short-lived as we dropped the next three games, due to a combination of injury, lack of player availability and generally being outplayed.
There were strong player additions to the club as we continued to build momentum toward finishing at the top of our division. In three years, the club grew in quality and quantity, and also saw the addition of a women's side. NSRFC seemed to be on the verge of “putting it all together” in 2005.
Coach: Des Crowley, Morgan Rigby (backs)
Captain: Matt Thibault
The spring season began with North Shore's first international tour to Limerick, Ireland. We played matches against sides from Shannon RFC and Garryowen RFC. The tour represented a big step for the club and plans are in the works for a 2007 tour. Also in Ireland the captaincy was officially passed onto Matt Thibault who will lead the club throughout 2005.
The remainder of the season had its ups and downs, with convincing wins over Mount Washington and Central Maine mixed in with bad losses to Mad River and Portland. The NERFU Tournament was a decent showing for us, playing Seacoast close before a late collapse and then pulling ourselves together for a strong second half in a win over Mt. Washington.
With a realigned Division III, we knew every game was going to be tough. We started off with a narrow loss to Portland and bounced back with wins over MIT and Middlesex, all at home. We then lost at Mad River despite putting in a huge effort and keeping the game close to the end. We finished out the season with a highly forgettable performance against the Wolfhounds, where the only positive implication was in the standings.
The scenario somehow worked out at season's end for Portland, Wolfhounds, Seacoast and North Shore to play for DIII bragging rights and possibly a chance of promotion. We ended up paired up with Portland in the semi-finals and could not seem to get anything right in a lopsided loss where we barely touched the ball or threatened.
Also in the fall, our B-side made an appearance in the Division IV semi-finals after a strong season. However they would fall to Mount Washington Valley, the eventual Division IV winners. Overall, both the A and B sides put in some great performances over the course of the season and lots of new players contributed to the club, surely a good sign for the foreseeable future.
Coach: Des Crowley
Captains: Dave Shannon, Reade Morrison, Rob Moran
The spring season started with promise, as several new faces joined NSRFC to start the spring season. We won our first game in grand fashion, incorporating many of those new players. After that game, however, many new and veteran players were affected by injury, relocation or other unavailability, including our captain, and we struggled through the remainder of the spring. However, we did gain a few solid, long term members of the club and younger players to supplement our original core of players.
We knew that the fall season was going to be tough, and fortunately got even more reinforcements to augment our lineup. With relegation possible, we knew we needed to step up — and did. Finishing the season with a 4-2 record and in fourth place, we were only held out of the playoffs by a BCS-style ranking system that will be going away in 2007.
Regardless, NSRFC notched victories over Mad River, Rutland, Mount Washington Valley and MIT while stumbling against Middlesex and New London. With a mixture of proud performances from club veterans such as Chris LeBlanc-Smith, Reade Morrison and Mark Swan, big contributions from new faces and past regulars (thank you Ken Spinale, Rich DePiero, Liam Brady, Dan Donato, countless others) stepping in where needed, the club showed a lot of character in the fall season.
In 2007, we'll have a mixture of veteran and new players as well as new officers to lead us into our 5th anniversary year. We're also kicking off the year with our second International Tour to Ireland.
Coach: Des Crowley
Captain: Jesse Dole
North Shore RFC started off 2007 in style by completing a tour of Limerick and Dublin with two matches played as well as some great atmosphere around the Ireland/England Six Nations match. Many former NSRFC players, as well as a couple of guest players contributed to the effort. It was truly a great time throughout the tour while playing some great rugby and watching some top notch matches as well.
The scores from the tour were as follows:
NSRFC vs. Garryowen J3: 12-22
NSRFC vs. Wanderers J3: 14-20
In a return match from the tour, North Shore RFC hosted Wanderers of Dublin in the first international match hosted by NSRFC. It was an exciting match, with the visitors coming away with the win, but some great end-to-end rugby throughout. The final score was 30-14 (or thereabouts) to the Wanderers. Wanderers went on to play Boston Irish 3rd division side and notch a 60-0 victory. Recap from Wanderers.
The remainder of the spring was a mixture of injury, poor attendance and general inconsistent rugby. It was truly a test of the club's core players to see if we could scrape through a tough season with lots of player turnover, but we managed to keep our shite together and even win a tournament game up in NH. Some new faces started to appear in late spring and into summer, providing some more optimism for the fall season.
The fall campaign started with two tough opponents, eventual division leaders Middlesex and Seacoast, and disappointing results, as we lost those matches with relatively crooked scores, or at least it felt that way. However, we managed to right the ship and come up with a win over Springfield and bonus points for narrow losses against the Wolfhounds and MIT. We finally capped the season with two tough wins, first against Rutland in Vermont, no easy task when traveling and against an improving side, and another at home against New London, a club that had recent bragging rights and made our lives difficult to the final whistle.
The fall was especially challenging given the improving nature of D3, the threat of relegation to D4. more tough injuries and a schedule of seven consecutive weeks. People came out of pseudo-retirement, played out of position, and generally gave big efforts when the club really needed them. We finished 3-4 with lots of close games and new players getting A-side experience for the first time. Next spring will mark a new era as Des Crowley steps aside and Dan Solomon takes over coaching responsibilities in what's sure to be another challenging, but exciting year.
Coach: Dan Solomon
Captain: Mark Swan
This season marked the return of Dan Solomon to the NSRFC coaching fold, as well as the arrival of many new players looking to cut their rugby teeth. The spring season yielded mixed results in terms of wins and losses, but valuable experience was gained by our ever-changing set of players as we moved toward club continuity.
Starting with pre-season training indoors and on the beach including a mini-7s tournament, NSRFC was heading into the season with some positive momentum. After an early loss to Springfield, North Shore would bounce back with a double-win at home against Monadnock and Suffolk Law with many new faces getting to experience their first win.
Next up was Amoskeag Old Boys, the perfect illustration of youth vs. experience and how often experience can win out in rugby. The score probably wasn't too bad but they showed us how positioning and tactical decision-making can be all the difference.
NSRFC followed that loss with a convincing home victory over Boston Ironsides with lots of tries and a balanced team effort. The up-and-down continued in a Friday Night Lights loss to Middlesex, who beat us pretty solidly as part of their preparation for the national D3 championships in Texas.
Next was the NERFU Tournament up in North Conway, where NSRFC had a good showing of players and two losses sandwiching a nice win. Losing to a strong New London side in the opener, we bounced back with a win against Charles River B where some new guys experienced the joy of the try for the first time. Then the third game was a "blame-the-hangover, I guess" loss to the Wolfhounds where we couldn't quite put it together. All in all, more game experience and a fantastic social weekend.
Over Memorial Day weekend the men's and women's squads participated in the Prom Dress Rugby match with mixed sides and probably very little low tackling by the men...all in all a good time and perhaps the start of a tradition.
The season continued with a (shorthanded and frustrating) loss away to Central Maine and then taking part in the Bull Moose Tournament (not much to show for our efforts -- lost to frickin Central Maine again, lost to a young/fast Saranac side, and beat Black River in a 10s game), Seacoast 7s (when you play a team called Nairobi Exiles, it's probably not gonna be good, but we followed up with a win over Seacoast Pack and a loss to Seacoast OB), and lastly Acton 10s (lost to Middlesex, some version of New Haven and then, you guessed it, Central Maine).
All in all lots of rugby, lots of great socials and the all important game experience to prepare for fall.
The fall season would prove to be one of the most challenging we've ever had. Division 3 in NERFU has gotten stronger every year, and top to bottom in 2008 there were tough matchups. We had a good core of experienced players ready to make a run at this challenge, as well as newer players looking to step in and get their first fall season experience.
We started off with a tough loss at the Boston Irish Wolfhounds, with some battling and positive play offset by too many bad decisions, defensive lapses and signs of inexperience. A pattern emerged where we would stop a few phases but then get disorganized or get a penalty and they would benefit. They went on to run in a handful of tries but we would never quit in the match, holding the defensive line until the final whistle.
Next up was another strong side in Seacoast, who made NSRFC's trip to New Hampshire forgettable by running in a bunch of tries, with the lone bright spot occurring on a team try changing hands from Chad Horn to Mark Swan and finished off by Zac Cook.
Taking on Harvard Business School, NSRFC made every effort to hand the game over through penalties, and eventually it worked. Failing to master the offsides rule and other nuances of the game really hurt us, despite hard hitting and not giving them much. We would lose two players to the sin bin and that sealed the deal. Four tries to one in the end. We won the B game though!
Middlesex was next on the list, with a psuedo David vs. Goliath theme developing before the match. Us winless, them undefeated and looking like they would keep up with their success at the top of the division. North Shore stepped up their level of play in this match, and the score was near even at halftime. The play was even as well, with neither team gaining a big advantage but Middlesex spending more time in our end. After halftime, their experience and team cohesion showed as they extended their lead and put the game away. No one from NSRFC was hanging their heads after this match. It was a strong effort, especially compared to past weeks and compared to the outcome one might have predicted based on record/previous performances.
North Shore faced MIT at home in what seemed to be a must-win match. Turned into an almost-won match after we started strong, had a mid-game lapse, and then finished with a furious attack but couldn't get over the line. Their three tries toppded our two, as the game closed with them holding us out of the try zone as we tried everything to get in. Discipline and lack of turnovers were huge for MIT as NSRFC just fell short.
Traveling down to New London, the sense of urgency was apparent again, but we started off on the wrong foot and dug ourselves a big hole. New London spread the field and ran the ball with little problem, jumping out to a four-tries-to-none lead. NSRFC finally settled down to stop the bleeding for a while and kept the game in the middle of the field for the middle portion of the match, but either tiredness or disorganization or them just being better allowed several more tries in the second half, offset only by a VanderMass consolation try in the corner. Not a pretty outcome, setting us up for a true must-win game to close the season.
So it was going to be North Shore vs. Rutland in the battle to avoid relegation. Rutland was coming off a home loss to MIT and needed to travel to Massachusetts, and it's a far ride. So, fortunately for us they didn't travel well, and we took advantage, establishing a lead before their reinforcements arrived that we would not relinquish. This day was highlighted by simple rugby. We kept the ball, rucked and tackled well in general, dominated set pieces, and kept them out of the try zone aside from one score. The win guaranteed we would remain in division 3 and capped a season of struggles, almosts, a few bright spots, and a lot to learn from.
The same core of players is in place for 2009 and the recruiting effort looks promising, so the challenge is on to take another step forward and raise our level of play. Thanks to Dan and the guys who put in all the nights/hours/blood/sweat etc. this year.
Coach: Dan Solomon
Captain: Mark Swan
Smarting from near defeat in the fall, on January 5th we began practicing again at an indoor facility graciously provided by the National Guard. In February, we travelled to Ruggerfest in Ft. Lauderdale, and promptly found ourselves overmatched. Scores went unremembered, but we did our best with a team of mixed North Shore/Charles River players against Boca Raton Buccaneers, Florida's Division I state champions; the Maccabis (a Jewish American team); and the Turks and Caicos national side.
In addition to the odd 10s or 7s tournament, our Youth Rugby program's innaugural summer camp was a huge success. Both spring and summer camps are planned for next year.
We surprised everyone, including ourselves, by winning every game of our regular season, save one. As second place seed for Division III in the New England finals, we defeated South Buffalo, NY, who showed great heart and superior class in nailbiting game in less than ideal conditions (last minute venue change, torrential downpour and failing daylight). We then travelled to Randalls Island in NYC for the New England Rugby finals, where we finally lost to South Jersey on day one, and the Boston Irish Wolfhounds on day two.
Coach: Dan Solomon
Captain: Mike O'Connell
Coming off a short offseason, thanks to a playoff appearance in late November, the North Shore Reds looked to build on a year of success, raise the bar and improve our play — in short, to continue on the path to being a New England rugby power.
We hit the ground – or I suppose it was turf – running in March at the UNH 7s tournament with a fine showing. A mixture of speed, skill and relentless aggression allowed NSRFC to win four games and reach the finals in impressive fashion, only to fall to a speedy college side in the finals. All in all not a bad way to shake off the winter rust.
We followed that fast start with a bit of a stumble against the Middlesex B-side, a young, fit and well-drilled group that outplayed our A-side and B-side in both halves of the match.
Looking to bounce back, North Shore headed down to Canton to take on the Boston Irish Wolfhounds, a team we’ve become all-too-familiar with in the past couple of years. The match was a back and forth battle, with a narrow pitch and the Hounds looking to keep the ball in the pack and drive, with the Reds defending well and looking for chances to spring the backline. The game ended in an unsatisfying draw but a solid effort.
Next up was an ambitious dance card against the Australian Outback Barbarians touring side. This was a regional select side that has toured the U.S. for a few years and travel from coast to coast for matches and tournaments. We started well enough, playing them close for the first 10 minutes or so, and scoring a try and an almost-try to their 2-3 tries. Things opened up from there and they showed their class and skill, running in lots of tries. Good experience for our A and B-side players.
We took on Old Gold in the next fixture in Southie, coming out fast to jump out to a 29-10 halftime lead through our backs’ speed, only to let the hosts come back and dominate possession in the second half en route to a three-point victory. Had a déjà vu feeling from a match a couple years before on the same field.
The next match on the slate was against a Mystic River mixed B/C side following their playoff match. We took advantage of the wide field to run in some tries and got lots of players into the mix, and almost had a glorious prop try which came up just….short.
The next fixture was equal parts rugby and social, as we paid a return visit to the St Lambert’s Locks of Montreal to reclaim the Sin City Cup. Their tour in 2009 had yielded a spirited match (resulting in a tie) and very spirited drink-up around Boston. The return trip turned out to be more of the same, with the Reds notching a victory. The mini-tour started with a long boozy bus ride, border-crossing mayhem, some rugby was played, and we’ll leave the details in Montreal but it seems that copious amounts of Molson and poutine were involved.
Next up was the NERFU tournament, returning in 2010 to the fields of Newport. In our first match we defeated MIT, and then shot ourselves in the foot with a flat performance against New London where a late garbage try meant that we were mathematically eliminated from any further competition on the weekend. A letdown for sure, and showed that despite the improvement in our lineup we still need to travel strong and keep up our intensity.
The season was closed out with the annual prom dress rugby match and a match against the then D4 Framingham Exiles (seeded by former NSRFC players) who kept things very close to the end, a precursor to their strong fall season to come.
We played in the Seacoast 7s, Acton 10s and Middlesex 7s over the summer to keep feeding the hunger for rugby and preparing for our first fall season in Division II.
We started off the season with a home match against the Albany Knicks which was a back-and-forth battle. Sloppy handling led to too many mistakes, and Albany was strong in the pack, but NSRFC held strong and threatened on the wings, and in the end did enough to pull out a narrow victory for our first win in division 2.
Our next match was down in Hartford, a club that would eventually gain promotion to D1 at season’s end, and they showed us why. They were efficient and well-drilled and kept the ball most of the day. An early 3-0 lead would be our last as Hartford used their mix of strong forward and back play to take a big lead. To the Reds’ credit we defended well for long stretches and fought to the final whistle.
The next opponent was Newport, and the Reds came out strong on our home pitch. We led by at least two tries at halftime, only to let Newport come storming back in the second half through lapses in concentration and defense. We ended up losing by two tries.
Charles River was up next, a club that we felt we matched up well against, and that turned out to be true for 40 minutes. If memory serves, the match was 10-10 at half. Something went wrong along the way and we fell apart in the second half, again. A troubling pattern…
On the same pitch, we took on Old Gold the following week, and again came out strong and matched our opponent’s level of play for a long stretch. Another week, another case of contributing to our own defeat. This time it was penalties, as we basically kept handing the ball back to Old Gold, allowing them to put a few tries on the board. It was still a relatively close match, but you can only spin a loss so many ways.
The next match was against Middlesex at Amesbury Sports Park, a place where we haven’t had many good experiences. This one was no different as Middlesex maintained their high level of play in a lopsided match. We lost, bla bla bla. Let’s move on.
As the final week of the season approached, it became clear that North Shore and Seacoast were two teams basically playing to stay in D2, and playing each other. We played the match on a pristine pitch in Danvers which was very wide and right by a river, leading to a very windy and cold day. Once everyone got moving, the Reds showed they were the more dangerous team on the day, with some nice tries scored in the backs and opportunistic play from the forwards. We won 27-8 and secured our place in D2. Hallelujah.
In addition to fighting, surviving and retaining our D2 status, the other major storyline of 2010 was the development of a legitimate B-side, both in numbers and up-and-coming talent. Lots of players who will be pushing for A-side time in 2011. Thanks to all the players, execs and other club members who spent their time and energy on matches, promotion and events.
Season MVP: Nico “El Fantasmo” Tejera
Most Improved: CJ “Lady” Palmer
Coaches: Dan Solomon and Matt Paul
Captain: Zachary Cook
After being introduced to D2 competition, it was time to take what we learned and apply it for our 2011 season. The season was met with some highs and some lows as we play against some tough D3 and D2 teams in the Spring.
Our second season in D2 proved to be a challenge, but also a rewarding challenge. We were able to muster out a couple wins in hard fought games, while also being reminded we were playing against high skilled clubs.
Coaches: Dan Solomon and Matt Paul
Captain: Zachary Cook
A strong start to the Spring season with wins against a couple D2 opponents made 2012 look like a promising year. We even hosted a touring side Wales, which provided a look at what we should strive for in skills.
Our fall season was a tough and long season. We fought hard each game and was able to come away with a couple of wins against Old Gold and Providence.
Coaches: Matt Paul & John Rice
Captains: Adeola Akinola & Brandon Mahler
A strong spring season from start to finish, and a tour of the wonderful country of Iceland, made the 2013 spring season unforgettable. It was also our first year hosting a rugby 10s tournament. As the season was drawing to a close, NERFU came into our scheedule and we took it by storm. Winning our 1st two games ensured we would play for the championship. Despite losing the championship, this was a NERFU NSRFC will not forget. This was quickly followed by a tour of the beautiful country of Iceland and NSRFC hosting a 10s tournament, the first of our kind.
This was easily one of NSRFCs toughest seasons, but we maintained a core group of players to play each game during a 10 game season. We held our heads high and fought hard every game, and finally we had a little luck in a win against Charles River.
Coaches: John Rice & Don Madden
Captains: Ian Nichols & Andrew Hardigan
After a long 2013 spring season, it was decided to shorten the season by a few games. This allowed NSRFC to partake in enough game to prepare for NERFU, but to also not exhaust our players for the summer tournament season. Playing against D3 clubs provided us with some insight for what we were up against come the challenging fall season. With a couple of wins and a couple of losses, we took on NERFU expecting good results from our previous games experience. NSRFC unfortunately only came away with a single win.
Welcome back to D3! After a couple of long and tough seasons in D2, NSRFC made it's way back to D3 to play against better matched competition. The fall season yielded a 4-4 record, with some tough losses that were close within NSRFC's grasp.