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Boston Irish Win USA Division One Title.

Boston Irish Win USA Division One Title.

The Boston Irish Wolfhounds (BIWRFC) defeated San Mateo RFC, 14-5 in Pittsburgh last Sunday to become the USA Division Rugby Champions.

The Boston Irish Wolfhounds (BIWRFC) defeated San Mateo RFC, 14-5 in Pittsburgh last Sunday to become the USA Division Rugby Champions.

Afterwards a jubilant Patrick Punter Culleton, Treasurer of the club and native of Glenmore, Co. Kilkenny, was presented with the winning plaque by flanker, captain Jason Rose on behalf of coach Steve Teasdale and the entire victorious squad.

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In July 1991 Punter suffered a serious neck injury and was paralysed in a friendly game for the Wolfhounds on Martha’s Vineyard. The victory on Sunday in Pittsburgh was the culmination of the club spirit that was born from the awful injury that day in Martha’s Vineyard. The injury had affected one of the club’s own, and Punter himself became a major driving force behind the club ever since. That effort over a decade has now been rewarded with the 2003 USA Division I Championship.

The Boston Irish Wolfhounds Rugby Football Club came into being ten years ago. The original idea for the club came from founding members Tom Gilvarry and Charlie Mullaney. A few few years earlier, they had the notion of gathering players in the Boston area to travel within the U.S. in the off-season, supplementing the regular season with their local clubs. With an outline of a plan hatched in a local pub, an Irish Wolfhound as a logo, and bags full of commemorative T-shirts, the pioneering ‘Hounds’ set off for California in 1989.

The fun, enjoyment and success of this maiden voyage ensured that, at least once a year, a “Wolfhounds Tour” would be arranged. Successive tours to New Orleans and Texas in 1990 and 1991 further consolidated the Wolfhounds as a touring side – and would soon lead to the development of a Boston-based men’s club bearing the same name.

The serious neck injury suffered by “Punter” in that pre-season friendly, summer of 1991, ironically helped to significantly extend the reach of the team well beyond the Rugby field.

In response to Punter’s immediate financial needs, the Boston community came out in strength to support the fundraising events generated and organised by his friends and colleagues. Buoyed by the momentum gathered during this period, the Wolfhounds formally organised and were accepted as members of the New England Rugby Football Union’s Division II in the autumn of 1992.

In its initial season the club got its first taste of success, with the First XV suffering only one defeat and reaching the Northeast Championships.

Since then, the club’s fortunes have steadily increased. Currently the club competes as members of the Northeast Rugby Football Union’s Premier Division.

To reach this final, the ‘Hounds’ accounted for fellow New England club, Worcester in a tense and tight semi-final, tries from Aussie Dave Mannion and Providence local Mike Liberatore easing them through, 10-8, in a game that was played in heavy rain.

As for the final itself, two-time National Champions San Mateo were favourites to take a third title and included in their side, former US Eagle wing Vaea Anitoni whom they’d coaxed out of retirement to help guide the team’s new young recruits.

However, the side from the San Francisco Bay area seemed a bit surprised by the power of the Boston Irish Wolfhounds, and the match was marked by dynamic, powerful and very physical play.

The Irish started the match with steady pressure and got on the scoreboard first, with a try from Ed Koss after six minutes. Although David Williams missed the conversion he made amends with a penalty in the 15th minute and Boston Irish then defended their try zone superbly as San Mateo laid siege to the Irish line. Another penalty kick from Williams and a glorious drop-goal from John Dalton (30th min) left Boston Irish comfortably in front, 14-0 at half-time.

If anything, the physical intensity increased in the second half, bone-crunching tackles coming from both sides and in the 17th minute, San Mateo’s pressure finally yilded its reward when Josese Savali, crashed over for a try out wide. The conversion was missed and the Wolfhounds galvanised themselves for a final quarter rear-guard action that saw them resist all efforts by a valiant San Mateo side.

Williams (Boston) was awarded the honour of Most Valuable Player for the Division I Championships match, an award that was richly deserved.

“This is a tremendous day for the club and for all who have been involved over the years. It is an incredible achievement”, said an emotional Patrick Culleton, afterwards.

“When the lads decided to take the club full time ten years ago or so the objective was to win this title. At the time it seemed a far-fetched dream. But here we are today, as National Champions”.

According to Barry Murphy there was a steely determination among the players prior to the game.
“The win today was well deserved and having come this far we were determined not to go home without the title, We have had a few good seasons but today the club came of age. The lads played magnificently today and they wanted to win it.

“It was a great gesture of the club captain, Jason Rose, to recognise the importance of ‘Punter’ to this club. After all he was the inspiration that drove some of the older guys to get this club going full time.”