Princeton had to work hard to beat a strong William Paterson University team under cloudy skies and steady drizzle on April 22, 2017. It was clear from the opening whistle that WPU was a skilled and athletic team, prepared to attack at every opportunity. A close and even contest continued for most of the first half. The game remained scoreless until right before the break when Princeton fullback and senior Lucas Mazzotti scored a try after receiving a pass from wing Andrew Slade. At halftime, the score stood at 5-0.
Early into the second half, a WPU wing made a long line break down the left flank and was stopped when the opposite Princeton wing made a courageous tackle to bundle the ball carrier into touch. The referee, believing the Princeton tackle to be illegal, promptly awarded a penalty try under the posts and it was converted. WPU took the lead 7-5.
Princeton recovered the kick-off and began a good multi-phased attack. Pressure culminated in Tiger wing Greg McCord’s scoring a try, converted by co-captain and senior Max Weber. This gave Princeton a 12-7 lead.
Princeton’s third try came from an incisive grub kick by Mazzotti. Slade scooped up the rolling ball and beat the cover defense to score the try out wide. The kick was slightly wide but Princeton had extended its lead 17-7.
Tiger tight-head prop and senior Mohamad Shalan scored the fourth and final try for the home side. A Princeton attacking lineout in the WPU 22 was caught and driven 10 meters towards the WPU goal line. The forwards continued the attack via a series of determined pick-and-go attacks. After three phases, Shalan picked up the ball and drove low, crashing over the line to score a try close to the WPU goal posts. Weber slotted the conversion to make it 24-7.
WPU attacked with renewed determination in the game’s final minutes. The Tiger fly half was called for a high tackle and given a yellow card, forcing the Tigers to play a man down for rest of the game. With time running out, WPU skillfully used their numerical advantage to exploit a gap in the Princeton defense to score an unconverted try.
Princeton’s Man of the Match was senior second row Jack Jankowski.
In the day’s other competitions, Princeton’s B-side defeated William Paterson’s B’s 41-0 with Luke Hall winning the Man of the Match award. Rutgers beat Princeton in the Women’s bracket, in the high school Invitational games, Christian Brothers Academy beat Hudson Catholic, and Morris County Girls defeated Union County Girls.
The NJ State Tournament began 11 years ago when the Princeton coaches, led by Richard Lopacki, director of rugby, had the vision to create a State Championship, with the goal that this one-day rugby event would highlight the sport and, in time, grow the interest in rugby within the state. It was then initiated through alumnus and NJ native Stu Rickerson’s support, and the tournament’s main trophy is named in his honor.
A few years after its inception, Princeton Rugby decided to use the tournament to raise funds for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, which seeks to increase awareness, support researchers working to improve treatment options, and promote better understanding of pancreatic cancer, the third deadliest cancer in the United States, and the only major cancer that still has 5-year survival rates in single digits. The NJ State Tournament has raised over $350,000 towards this goal since fundraising through the event began. For more information, or to donate, visit https://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/RickersonCup2016/2017.
Many thanks also to our 2016 and 2017 partner Empire Wealth Strategies powered by Penn Mutual for its strong support for the New Jersey State Championships’ Rickerson Cup and its cause, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Empire Wealth Strategies powered by Penn Mutual is a team of advisors who are dedicated to helping their clients realize their dreams. Their job is to be your trusted advisor, the person people turn to for financial advice, education and counsel. For more information, visit http://www.ewsnyc.com/
Lastly, special thanks to our two student Tournament Directors Jade Williams and Mark Goldstein for all the hard work they did in running the 2017 New Jersey State Rickerson Cup Tournament!