No matter what, you just can’t keep Detroit down.
For years, people have said that of our city. No matter what happened around us, be it recessions or corrupt officials, Detroit kept coming back and refused to be held down and pushed to the side, to be told they were done, to be forgotten.
That trend showed itself in more than just words as the rugby club from the Motor City, your Detroit Tradesmen, refused to be defeated and allow a city like New York, this in the form of the Village Lions, to best the Motor City in any way.
On May 21, your Tradesmen went into the National D2 East Round of 8 where were heavily favored to come out on top. And why not? They had steamrolled all their opponents while being the only team in the east to go undefeated into Saturday. It appeared as if the analyst were right when your Tradesmen met their first opponent, Charlotte, and made quick work of them, winning handily 44 – 10.
After dispatching the Wilmington club on the same day, the Tradesmen hooked up with the Village Lions of Manhattan the next day. Rainy weather in the days leading up hindered the playing conditions and the effectiveness of both teams throughout the match.
Unable to move the ball wide and take advantage of their backs’ speed, the Tradesmen fought a gritty war of attrition, which appeared to play to the strengths of the Lions and always seemed to be chasing their opponents in points, always slightly behind.
Down at the end of the half, the boys rallied themselves and came out hard at the start, putting a try in early and seemingly turning the tide of the match and finally coming out ahead.
Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be. Minutes later the Lions also touched down a try of their own and regained their lead. The two exchanged possessions and the Motor City found themselves within two with about ten minutes remaining, but the Lions had other ideas, dotting another try down and putting the Boys in Blue down 7 points now.
With less than five minutes left, a penalty resulted in a team yellow card, putting Pawel Fadanelli in the sin bin (think penalty box). The Lions quickly put another try in off of a long kick and chase, essentially putting the final nail in the coffin of your Tradesmen’s playoff dreams.
It’s here that any other team, any other city, may have given it up. The cards against you, the conditions wrong for you to succeed, everyone checking out, assuming you were done for. It’s here that Detroit chose to succeed.
Some key substitutions and a force of will the backline strung together multiple runs, supported by crushing gains by the pack, a conversion by Adam Saad put the Tradesmen within 5. A try to tie, a conversion to win.
With two minutes left the Lion’s would kick off and not relent. Back and forth these teams would fight until a small patch of green opened up for John Zemmer, the tight head prop, who rekindled his backline days and took the corner, outpacing the Lions wing and touching down for a try with no time to spare. Adam would take the kick but unfortunately not convert it. It was all tied up at 31 – 31 and going into overtime.
If this were a movie, this is where both teams would fight, inch for inch, and the day would be decided by a single point. With the grounds drying from the sunny day, your Tradesmen began to swing the ball wide and play to the pattern of rugby that allowed them to dominate teams.
Subbing in their deep bench of “finishers”, Detroit silenced the Lions and never relented. When the extra session ended, it was the Tradesmen coming out on top 55-31, having put in 24 unanswered points in the last 30 minutes of the match.
Riding the high of this weekend, they will have a chance to do something that has never happened since the club was founded in 1978; move on to the USA Rugby National Championships and, if they can continue this unrelenting push, claim a National Title by beating the Tempe Old Devils.