Copperheads v South Florida

Photo Credit: Southwest Florida Copperheads

The Southwest Florida Copperheads posted their biggest ever win in Round 1 of the 2022 USA Rugby League (USARL) South Conference season with an 88-4 win against the South Florida Speed.

Playing at home at the state-of-the-art Paradise Coast Sports Complex in Naples on Saturday, the Copperheads scored early and often, to use an old cliché, en route to the victory.

They led 34-4 at halftime.

Hooker Arnold Mananu led the scoring effort with no fewer than five tries. He also booted two conversions. Right centre Shane Spring and halfback Anthony Halikas were among a host of other try-scorers. Spring was also named Players’ Player of the game.

Copperheads import coach Liam Duffy says despite the lopsided affair, he was impressed with the size, speed and athleticism of some of the Speed’s players. He says he would even like to recruit some of them because they are that talented.

Duffy has joined up with the Southwest Florida team after playing with an Elite 2 club in France.

“The guys are really rallying around him. They really respect him and respect his knowledge,” Copperheads CEO Curtis Goddard tells Rugby League Planet. “He’s a natural leader and that was very apparent.”

“We’ve always had the physical talent as well. Last year we had our own domestic staff because of COVID, and we didn’t do so bad as we were in a lot of close games, but with his help and the extra years that are under the core group of guys, I think we’ll be scary this year.”

The Speed is based in Miami Gardens and typically plays rugby 7s and rugby league during the summer, as well as union in the autumn. 2021 was its first year competing in the USARL South Conference. It also attracts players from rugby clubs such as Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale during their offseason.

The Palm Beach club had just won the Division III national championship in rugby, so consequently, many of its players didn’t make the trip across Alligator Alley to Naples as they were at the club’s end-of-year banquet. Notable among them was Lance Cavanaugh, who is one of that team’s best players.

On top of that, Saturday’s game was the first time the bulk of the SoFlo players had tried rugby league and so they weren’t quite up to par on all of the rules and nuances of the 13-man code.

Even so, the team’s captain Ryan Forston says he feels that they tried hard.

“We were physical but there are a lot of things that we need to work on of course,” he says. “We only had two guys out there who had played league before.”

“Given the circumstances, I’m never happy about a loss, but I am happy about how the guys kept on fighting.”

In Round 2 next week, the Copperheads travel to Tampa Bay to take on the reigning USARL national champions the Mayhem, while the Speed host the Jacksonville Axemen.

Brian is a strong and effective communicator with more than 30 years’ experience in broadcast and electronic media. He has been writing for Rugby League Planet since 2012 and is frequently the first reporter to break news stories about the sport. He has been our North American correspondent reporting on news in the US, Canada and Jamaica covering everything from league standings to strategy analysis to breaking news on key trades to editorials and colourful features on athletes. He is now writing about rugby league on a broader scale to cover developments around the globe. An accomplished storyteller, Brian started his career in Australian radio, before moving to the United States. He is an experienced podcast host and producer and is also a successful TV commentator having done play-by-play and analysis for ESPN, FOX Sports and the Rugby League European Federation (RLEF) among others. Brian has his own YouTube channel @brianlowe5567 where he posts his interviews for Rugby League Planet. Be sure to check it out and subscribe.