The inaugural season of the Southampton Dragons Rugby League team has been very successful, but on Saturday, the team met its match in the American National Rugby League semifinals.
The Dragons lost to the host Connecticut Wildcats, 50-16, ending the team’s first season in competition in third place with a 3-4 record. The Wildcats, meanwhile, will enter their third grand final in as many years against the New York Knights, who have won the championship the past two years.
“To build a team from scratch, it’s tough,” Dragons co-owner Craig Priestly said. “We did well, though. We came in third in the competition in our first year. I’m very proud of the guys who stepped up for us.”
Southampton was in Saturday’s match through the first half, down just two tries at 18-6. The Dragons made mistakes in the second half, though, that allowed Connecticut to score back-to-back tries and put things out of reach.
“The first half was pretty good,” Priestly explained. “It was a physical contest, and it was evenly matched. We had a good chance in the second half, but we made some unforced errors and some stupid mistakes.”
Siose Muliumu and Blair Wards each scored for the Dragons. Priestly was two of three in goals.
The Dragons, at certain points during the summer, had a hard time fielding a full team of 13 players. This past weekend, that wasn’t a problem, as they had 16 players, but Priestly is hoping that he can get a good, steady group of players for next season.
“Americans not knowing what Rugby League is, especially out here in the Hamptons, it’s tough to get players, and that’s why we did struggle on a number of occasions with having enough players,” he said. “Hopefully, next season, we’ll try to recruit more and have a bigger base of players who are local, who are on Long Island, who can play with us.”
There were a few newcomers to the sport who did have a successful season, Priestly said. Dane Riva and Isaiah Thomas both stood out, and Thomas even caught the eye of U.S. National coaches. Neither Riva nor Thomas will be playing for the U.S. National team, but Priestly, Muliumu, Damien O’Malveny and Wesley Haughton, all Dragons, will be taking the field with the national team on Saturday, August 24, when it travels to Philadelphia to face Canada.
Priestly thanked the fans that came out and supported the team throughout the season and also thanked the team’s major sponsors for also supporting the team. They include Southampton Publick House, Core Dynamics in Water Mill and Landscape Details of Sag Harbor.
“We look forward to another year,” Priestly said. “2014 will be a big year for the Dragons.”