Women’s Rugby League highlights an afternoon of big hits in Jacksonville
The 121 Financial Jacksonville Axemen defeated the newly formed South Florida Speed last weekend 55-16 on their home field at the University of North Florida. The Axemen dominated for the majority of the game and left the Speed battling in defense. In their first year of joining the USARL, the South Florida Speed are true to their name, and they are particularly fast. However, the Axemen in their 16th year against a first year team still learning the sport was an uneven match up.
“The Speed played well,” said Axemen coach Sean Rutgerson. “Even though we won, they were able to score 3 tries on us. They have a lot of potential, just need more experience and they will see success.”
The Jacksonville Axemen remains undefeated and are leading up to the biggest match up of the season against the Tampa Mayhem. The game will take place at 6pm at the University of North Florida this Saturday July 24th.
The highlight of the day though was the women’s game beforehand, as it was the first women’s rugby league game played in Jacksonville, and only the second one in the USA. The newest members of the Jacksonville Axemen organization, Jacksonville Women’s Rugby League have been training alongside the men all season and have been preparing for this game for weeks.
Ultimately the Tampa Mischief defeated Jacksonville with a score of 36-24 but it was a well fought game on both sides. Coach Sean Rutgerson was happy with how the women have progressed over the past few months.
“We had a slow start and gave away 5 penalties in a row which meant they had 12 sets with the ball instead of 6,” said Rutgerson. ” This meant we had to do twice the defense running into the wind. Once we started moving up and putting the pressure on Tampa they started to make some mistakes, which meant we had more ball and started to catch up.”
“It’s amazing what a little bit of belief and confidence does for a team. We made improvements in a number of areas, and I’m really proud of their effort.”
Although the women won’t likely play again in Jacksonville this summer, several members of the Jacksonville team are planning to try out for the USA National Women’s Rugby League team in Chicago next month. The team has started a GoFundMe page to help bring in donations to cover the costs of travel.
If you would like to help them on their path to representing the USA, you can make a donation here- https://www.gofundme.com/f/league-ladies-go-to-national-camp
Looking forward to this Saturday July 24th, the Axemen are back at home hosting the Tampa Mayhem. This is arguably the biggest game of the season as both teams are sitting at the top of the standings in 1st and 2nd in the South. Jacksonville defeated Tampa in round 1 of the competition, but it’s been 6 weeks since the last took the field against each other and both teams have been progressing since then.
The home game this weekend is also the Axemen’s “Crazy Sock” game benefiting the Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville (DSAJ). Both teams will be raising awareness and promoting inclusivity for individuals with Down syndrome by wearing “crazy” or mismatched socks during the game. The DSAJ Starz dance team will also perform at half-time. Fans are encouraged to join us in wearing their “crazy” socks as well. This is a family fun night event for DSAJ members and their families, and the Axemen are excited them to join in with Jacksonville’s toughest sport.
Fans can find out more about the Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville by going to https://dsaj.org/.
Kick off is 6pm at UNF rugby field adjacent to Hodges Stadium. Tickets can be purchased online in advance: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/150759442551