Crescent City RFC 1976 – 1979
By Jack Breen
Crescent City RFC was formed by a group of former American football athletes who learned to play rugby while earning their undergraduate degrees from Loyola University of New Orleans.
Danny Brasseaux, who has the physique of an NFL athlete, and was frequently mistaken for Terry Bradshaw the famous multiple Super Bowl winning Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback who is a Louisiana native, was one of the Loyola alums who helped found and grow Crescent City RFC. Danny was a prop who anchored the CC RFC front row and served as the club’s Match Secretary. To say that Danny had a welcoming attitude toward new members of the club is a major understatement. He was an ambassador of the club that most opponents would remember as the face of Crescent City RFC during those years. Danny was also an unofficial ambassador of the French Quarter and the tavern industry of the NOLA region. Before he married during the end of this period, Danny took it upon himself to make sure every new member of the Crescent City RFC knew the ins and outs of the Quarter and the better watering holes all around New Orleans and its suburbs, many of which used Danny’s accounting services to make sure their taxes were properly filed each year.
Jack Mauer, who served with the US Marine Corps in Viet Nam after his graduation and then returned to his native New Orleans, was another of those founding members. He played at #10 and was the Captain of Crescent City up through August of 1976. Jack Mauer has some exceptional leadership qualities that were instrumental to the success that Crescent City RFC earned over the next several years, before its merger with New Orleans RFC. One of his abilities was to put team over self, and another was to make a new club member feel very welcome.
Mauer’s ability to put what he thought was best for the club ahead of his ego created an attitude in the club that led to people feeling comfortable in offering their ideas as to how to improve the club, and set the tone for future club captains accepting those ideas. This open-to-suggestions quality of the club, along with the hospitality shown to newcomers allowed Crescent City RFC to add significantly to its roster during those years. Several of those additions were former captains of other rugby clubs whose wealth of knowledge helped the club improve in quality of play as well as quantity of players.
Fred “Big Daddy” Romero is a 6’7” Texas native and former Lamar University basketball star, who played lock and was the primary line out jumper for CC RFC. His line out duals with 6’10” Bob “Big Red” Causey, of LSU and then Baton Rouge, who was about a decade younger than Fred, were legendary. Fred also served as the club president in 1976 and subsequently in several executive offices with the Louisiana Rugby Union. Big Daddy was the lead organizer in the club and another leader in making players who joined the club instantly feel like part of a big family. Fred is a natural innovator and he taught the Yankees who joined the club to eat grits and had added to the grits whatever it took to get those unfamiliar with them to find them delectable. His approach to rugby was much the same, there must be a way to get the job done and Fred was always coming up with ideas that improved CC RFC dramatically during the period from 1976 to 1979. One of them was Fred’s acquisition of a camper van for the team to travel in to the many tournaments the club played in, spread far and wide across the US South. Cutting the cost of those trips for his teammates by providing accommodation as well as transportation increased dramatically the number of players who made those trips and the success the club had at those tournaments.
New Orleans was booming in the late 1970s and many players with rugby experience in other cities in the US were moving to NOLA for work and school, and more and more players from the university teams in Louisiana were graduating every year, and were looking for a men’s club to play with as they were starting their careers in the business world. Welcoming those players to their club is a big part of the way Crescent City RFC grew itself from a good club into a bona fide US rugby power in a few short years.
A first year Loyola Law School student named Jack Breen met Brasseaux, Mauer and Romero in August of 1976 and soon became the fourth member of the leadership cadre at Crescent City RFC. Within just a couple of practices of Breen’s joining CC RFC Jack Mauer asked Breen to take over as captain and coach of the club. It was not that Mauer did not like being captain, or that he had any concern about his being a good captain, it was that he could see that Jack Breen had been exposed to good rugby coaching and techniques Mauer had never before encountered and by empowering Breen as the captain the team would be more attentive to Breen’s coaching.
Jack Breen had indeed been exposed to some of the best rugby coaching in the US. He was an early version of the new breed of the American rugby player, who had the chance to the learn the sport in a high school in the Philadelphia suburbs, played with the Groton Submariners while attending the US Coast Guard Academy and had been named captain of the St. Joseph’s University RFC in 1975. He joined Whitemarsh RFC in Philadelphia then, where George Betzler had decided to coach after retiring from playing with the Philadelphia RFC. Breen learned from a teammate that there was a full time coach at Whitemarsh and by moving the SJU RFC practices to Wednesday and Friday he could practice under Betzler on Tuesdays and Thursdays and simply repeat the practices with the SJU RFC. As the club season was then longer than the university season Breen also gained the opportunity to play with one of the most powerful clubs in the USARFU. George Betzler is an ardent student of the sport and was one of the coaches of the first several USARFU National Teams, and one of the earliest homegrown coaches in American rugby. Betzler taught Breen to be like a sponge that absorbs from every rugby person encountered whatever you can. He also taught Breen that a coach should learn as much, or more, as he teaches, and a huge amount about rugby in particular. Betzler introduced Breen to numerous games to use at practices to build rugby skills. In turn Breen passed what he had learned from Betzler on to CC RFC and returned home each summer break from law school and got new ideas from Betzler, and more playing time with Whitemarsh during the part of the season in Philadelphia that persisted post the season in Louisiana. Betzler traveled the world to keep up with the most current coaching ideas and through him so did CC RFC.
The time available to law students to involve themselves in extra-curricular activities is notoriously limited, but Breen was a hyperactive sort of fellow who somehow managed to complete law school without missing a single practice or match on the Crescent City schedule, and traveled with the club to every tournament during those 3 years, except for each year’s Austin Tournament, which always fell on the weekend before Fall semester law examinations.
Breen also somehow managed to find the time to offer coaching sessions to the Tulane RFC the Loyola RFC, and to become a referee and officiate matches, play for and serve a year as captain of La Select, and tour with the GITS
One of his law professors was so taken with Breen’s remarkable involvement with the Louisiana Rugby Union while attending law school that he nominated Breen for a Rhodes scholarship. Breen did not become a Rhode’s Scholar, but he was named a finalist, which required him to author a thesis and defend it, and to make application to Oxford and gain admission.
The incredible energy level of its captain/coach, who played at open side flanker for his club, and at both 7 and 8 for the La Select, was another reason for the success of Crescent City RFC during the years 1976 – 1979. Breen now lives and coaches rugby on the Island of Maui in Hawaii and was reached by Jack Mauer by email with a request to supplement the history of Louisiana Rugby written by Peter Maud.
Here is a CC RFC list of players found by Breen believed to be for Fall of 1976. 1. Caesar Lamonica 12. Don Evans 24. Terry O’Flaherety 2. Jack Mauer 13. Billy Goodell 25. Kent Savoie 3. Kevin Kelleher 14. Allen Messera 26. Jerry Jones 4. Daryl Roy 15. Brian Foster 27. Pat Delouise 5. Russell Plaisance 16. Steve Udage 28. Ronnie Tenhunfeld 6. Rick Speed 17. Jack Breen 29. Mike Ashe 7. Mark Brennan 19. Joe Souoka 30. Randy Stockman 8. Sam Fornet 20. Mike Majore 31. Bruce Nobles 9. Bill Hatchet 21. George Edson 32. Chuck Calvo 10. Fred Romero 22. Rocky Rocquin 33. Gerald Avery 11. Danny Brasseaux 23. Rocky Capadeville 34. Joe Guinta
Mauer(10), Kelleher (2), Speed (6), Brennan 10, 11), Brasseaux (1,3), Goodell (9), did their undergraduate work at Loyola and Breen (7), Edson (4), O’Flaherety (6), and Savoie (2) were all Loyola Law School class of 1979 graduates. Farnet (6, 2) did his undergraduate studies at LSU, Evans (14), who won the “Mr. Louisiana” contest, graduated from UNO, Messara (9) obtained an engineering degree from Lehigh where he played rugby, Foster (11, 13, 15) was a star high hurdler who graduated from Arkansas State, Udage (8) did his undergraduate work at Florida, Majore graduated from Southeastern Louisiana State and Romero obtained his engineering degree from Lamar University.
A March 1977 article published in the Loyola Law School Code, authored by Breen, notes there were 6 active rugby clubs in Louisiana at that time. LSU was a national power then, as it is again now. New Orleans and Crescent City were the two men’s clubs and close rivals at the time. Tulane and UNO were the school teams in NOLA and Southeastern Louisiana in Hammond was the other team and proud sponsor of the largest rugby tournament in the country, the 64 team Mardi Gras Tournament. The next couple of years saw added to this list, Shreveport, Fort Polk and Baton Rouge and the demise of the club at UNO, which did play matches in 1976 and 1977.
1977 brought a wealth of new blood into Crescent City, as many of the UNO RFC’s former players graduated and joined CC RFC. A team list believed to be for that year reads as follows:
1. Keith Acker 25. Mark Neeb 2. Craig Boudreaux 26. Billy Nixon 3. Danny Brasseaux 27. Terry Perkins 4. Jack Breen (c) 28. Tom Quinn 5. Chuck Calvo 29. Mark Redford 6. Vince Cornet 30. Bob Rehl 7. Frank DePaola 31. Jim Ricciaidone 8. Clay Farnet 32. Skip Rizzo 9. Sam Farnet 33. Fred Romero 10. Kirk Fascio 34. Daryl Roy 11. Brian Foster 35. Kent Savoie 12. Al Freyder 36. Roger Taylor 13. Ronnie Gibbs 37. Neil Woodell 14. Joe Guinta 38. Steve Woodell 15. Steve Juan 39. Bob Woodworth 16. Mike Kerrigan 40. Rick Zimmer 17. Ceasar Lamonica 18. Bob Loup 19. Mike Majore 20. Terry Maistre 21. Jack Mauer 22. Allen Massera 23. Bobby McCullough 24. Tom “Mac” MacIntyre
Boudreaux (1, 2), Freyder (2), Gibbs (9), Nixon (14), Rizzo (11), Taylor (15), both Woodalls (12 and 13), and Zimmer (2,3) were alums of UNO and its rugby club. Mac Intyre (1, 3) earned his engineering degree at Rutgers, where he began his rugby playing career, and he became the anchor on the other side of the front row from Brasseaux. Acker had played offensive line in football for Bear Bryant at Alabama and played at lock. Kerrigan (8) did his undergraduate studies at LSU and Perkins (12, 13) graduated from Southeastern Louisiana State and had been a standout on its rugby club.
That year Crescent City played well in major tournaments in Memphis, Austin, Huston, Galveston, and Mobile and took 3rd place in the 64 team Hammond Mardi Gras Tournament, falling to eventual champion Dartmouth in a semi-final. Third Place 1977 Hammond Mardi Gras 64 Team Tournament, Crescent City RFC From left: Roger Taylor, Al Freyder, Danny Brasseaux, Fred Romero, Jack Breen, Jack Mauer, Eddie Cousins, Skip Rizzo, Ronnie Gibbs, Russell Plaisance.
Mike Kerrigan, Sam Farnet, and Ronnie Gibbs, who had been the captain of UNO, assumed leadership roles with the club during this time, both on and off the field. The Crescent City back row of Farnet, Breen and Kerrigan was high endurance personified. All three were fast enough had good enough endurance to play the open side. Together they allowed Crescent City to dominate getting the first player to the breakdown. At 6’5” Kerrigan also added another problem for opponents at lineouts, in which Crescent City was already winning more than its share of the ball, due to Romero’s considerable ability as a jumper. Farnet’s abilty to play hooker, as well as flanker, also allowed the team to send out a pack with 4 superior open field forwards or to bulk up on the blind side without loosing any speed to the breakdown. Similarly, Gibbs ability to play fullback as well as scrum half provided great flexibility to the club.
Fat Harry’s remained the cub’s predominant uptown Friday night starting spot and Pat O’Brien’s its mainstay for finishing up the pre-match drink ups and song fests in the Quarter, with the West End Saloon being the after practice watering hole and post match party venue. But there were frequent other outings and more and more often they tended to be getting organized by Kerrigan and Farnet as Brasseaux and Romero began settling down a bit as newlyweds and shifted their focus to organizing the club’s rugby functions more and its drink ups less and less.
The Spring Season of 1978 brought more new players to Crescent City, including a couple of Coast Guard Academy graduates, Tim McCarty (3) and Jerry Gallion (5), and experienced players from Chicago, Bob Scully (2), and Wyoming, Bob Jones (4), and several more engineers (about half the club were engineers at the time), one of whom, Eddie Cousins (2), who took over the role as club President when Fred Romero accepted an executive position with the LRFU.
There were also a few more important additions from other clubs in the state of Louisiana, including Larry Antonini (2) who graduated from LSU, Bob Tuminello (10, 11, 15) of SELSU, Gene Carr (12, 15) of SELSU, and George Henderson (12, 15), founder and former captain of Shreveport RFC. Breen recalls that a few other former LSU players also joined Crescent City that year, and the photos he produced show that, but their names do not appear on the phone lists maintained by Breen and he could not recall them. If anyone can identify those players in the photos please send an email to the author of this history, at ????
The Crescent City RFC roster for the Spring of 1978 included :
1. Larry Antonini* 23. Ken George 45. Rob Oser 2. Jack Biven* 24. Ronnie Gibbs* 46. Terry Perkins* 3. Craig Boudreaux* 25. Mike Guiterrez 47. Russ Plaisance* 4. Tommy Brand 26. Hank Gonzales 48. Tom Quin 5. Tiff Barnes 27. George Henderson* 49. Skip Rizzo* 6. Danny Brasseaux* 28. Robert Herbert 50. Doug Rogers 7. Jack Breen*(c) 29. Chris Jacobs 51. Fred Romero* 8. Mark Brennan* 30. Bob Jones* 52. Daryl Roy 9. Scott Byrum 31. Frank Kerrigan 53. H. Lee Rubin 10. Greg Cole 32. Mike Kerrigan* 54. Bob Scully* 11. Gene Carr* 33. Phil Lachin 55. Mickey Shaw 12. Eddie Cousins* 34. Caesar Lamonica* 56. David Sibley* 13. Jeff Eisner 35. Landy Lanza 57. Jeff Songer 14. Don Evans* 36. Peter Makulec 58. Roger Taylor* 15. Clay Farnet 37. Jack Mauer* 59. Bob Tuminello* 16. Sam Farnet* 38. Jonathan May* 60. Ron Vergets 17. Mike Fogerty 39. Dale Messina 61.Woddy Whitacre 18. Brian Foster* 40. Ron Midkiff 62.Rick Zimmer* 19. Jon Freeman 41. Tim McCarty 20. Al Freyder 42. Tom MacIntyre* 21. Jerry Gallion 43. Mark Neeb 22. Jake George 44. Billy Nixon* (* = players who routinely played with the First XV at tournaments)
The Fall Season of 1978 saw further additions to the team, including another law student with significant prior rugby experience, Jeff Finley, who had played scrum half for Doylestown RFU, the EPRU and the ERU, and other significant additions from other clubs in Louisiana. The Spring 1978 roster was as follows: 1. Jack Biven* 24. Hank Gonzales 46. Russ Plaisance* 2. Craig Boudreaux* 25. Gene Hampton 47. Tom Quinn 3. Danny Brasseaux* 26. George Henderson* 48. Keith Raber 4. Jack Breen* (c) 27. Dennis Hedrick 49. Skip Rizzo* 5. Phil Calvo 28. Robert Herbert 50. Doug Rogers 6. Greg Cole 29. Chris Jacobs 51. Fred Romero* 7. Eddie Cousins 30. Bob Jones* 52. Daryl Roy 8. Jeff Eisner 31. Frank Kerrigan 53. Rex Roberg 9. Don Evans* 32. Mike Kerrigan* 54. Bob Scully* 10. Clay Farnet 33. Phil Lachin 55. Mickey Shaw 11. Sam Farnet* 34. Ceasar Lomonica* 56. David Sibley 12. Jeff Finley* 35. Landy Lanza 57. Jeff Songer 13. Mike Fogerty 36. Peter Makulec 58. Jackie Starks 14. Brian Foster* 37. Jack Mauer* 59. Roger Taylor* 15. Jon Freeman 38. Jonathan May 60. Randy Trailer 16. Al Freyder 39. Dale Messina 61. Bob Tuminello* 17. Jerry Gallion 40. Ron Midkiff 62. Ron Virgets 18. Jake George 41. Tim McCarty* 63. Woddy Whitacre 19. Ken George 42. Tom MacIntyre* 64. Duan Willers 20. Joe Guinta* 43. Mark Neeb 65. Rick Zimmer* 21. Ronnie Gibbs* 44. Billy Nixon* 23. Mike Guiterrez 45. Terry Perkins*
In 1978 the club had strong showings in major tournaments in Hammond, Pensacola, Mobile, Memphis, Austin, Houston, and Galveston.
The pool of players from which a solid First XV could be selected was very deep and remained virtually unchanged for the spring of 1979, with one terrible exception. Billy Nixon who had been a regular on the wing for the First XV succumbed to bone cancer after a brave struggle that saw him out to the pitch even after loosing a leg and going bald from rounds of chemotherapy. Billy was a very well liked member of the club who had been instrumental in the decision of the UNO graduates to join Crescent City. He was only 26 years old and still a newlywed when he contracted the deadly illness.
Just how far Crescent City RFC had improved since the Fall Season of 1976 is best demonstrated by how differently their matches against their rivals in Baton Rouge turned out.
In 1977 the tremendous team LSU had put together laid a 59 – 0 whooping on Crescent City on a 95 degree 95 % humidity day in Baton Rouge. It was a humiliating experience that Crescent City used as motivation to improve. The next meeting between the two teams was far different, as the below clipping from the Times Picayune from February 1978 shows, Crescent City beat LSU 21-0 that year. It was a sweet victory for the Crescent City players who had been humiliated by LSU the prior year.
But that was not really the avenging win the Crescent City players who had played LSU in 1977 wanted. In 1978 LSU was no longer the power it had been, as the players that led them to national prominence had graduated and formed the Baton Rouge, RFC. Crescent City desperately wanted to beat the same players who had so humiliated them. That chance came with the matches against Baton Rouge in 1978 and 1979, as BR RFC fielded almost the identical side then that LSU had in 1977.
Champions First Baton Rouge Rugby 7s Tournament (1979), Crescent City RFC Seated from left: Ronnie Gibbs, Terry Perkins, Danny Brasseaux, Russell Plaisance. Kneeling from left: Sam Farnet, Jack Mauer, Jack Breen. Standing from left: Don Evans, Caesar Lamonica, Chuck Calvo, Tom MacIntyre, Fred Romero and Mike Kerrigan.
The First Annual Baton Rouge Rugby 7s Tournament in 1978 was the first ever Rugby 7s competition played in by Crescent City, and is believed to be the first ever Rugby 7s tournament in Louisiana. It resulted in a final between Baton Rouge and Crescent City. Crescent City won that Championship, by beating Baton Rouge by very narrow margin, even though Baton Rouge then featured one of the most powerful rugby players in the US, future USARFU Eagle Gary Lambert.
Crescent City also beat Baton Rouge in Baton Rouge in the Spring Season of 1979 in a full 15 a side match, establishing Crescent City RFC as the premier club in Louisiana that year.
In the Spring Season of 1979 Crescent City also proved itself one of the best rugby clubs in the US South, and perhaps the very best. Over Easter Weekend of 1979 Crescent City won the Galveston International Invitational Rugby Tournament. Crescent City opened with a win over the Dallas Harlequins and then went on to win their pool, and a semi-final against one of the most powerful teams from the UK to visit the US South up to that time, Kettering RFC, and the championship final of the tournament, in which Crescent City defeated the Houston Heathens.
1979 Galveston Rugby Tournament Champions, Crescent City RFC Front row from left to right: Eddie Cousins, Ron Midcaff, Ronnie Gibbs, Jack Breen, Jack Mauer, Randy Trailer, Bob Tuminello. Standing from right to left: Tom MacIntyre, Brian Foster, Roger Taylor, Bob Scully, Greg Cole, Terry Perkins, Fred Romero, Caesar Lamonica, Bob Jones, Mike Kerrigan, Jonathan May, Skip Rizzo, ???, ???, Jerry Gallion, Gene Carr, ???, George Henderson, ???
The Galveston newspaper published a detailed preview article about the tournament, featuring the very strong team from Kettering, England that had demolished the teams it had faced in Miami and the powerful Renegades of Atlanta. The article ended with a prediction as to where each of the 16 teams invited to the tournament would finish, and had picked Crescent City to finish dead last. Obviously the sports writer in Texas had not been paying attention with what had been going on with rugby in Louisiana.
The headline of the sports page the next day, Easter Sunday, indicated that midnight would soon be coming for Cinderella, Crescent City, who had won all of its matches on Saturday to earn a match against Kettering in a mid-day semi-final.
That prediction looked most accurate when Kettering took the first scrum of the match and pushed Crescent City a full 22 meters into goal, three well coordinated short steps at a time. Kettering’s impressive display had moved in a slight diagonal, so that the try was scored out fairly wide, and they missed the conversion kick. But Kettering had made a statement with the most powerful performance in a set scrum ever witnessed by the Crescent City players.
Rather than being intimidated, however, Ronnie Gibbs saw an opportunity in the statement Kettering made that it intended to push around its much smaller opponents forward pack that day. Ronnie observed it was a very humid day in the in the hot Texas sun. His teammates who had been in Baton Rouge in 1976 remembered how such a day could work against the larger side. Gibbs suggested that Crescent City create as many scrum situations as possible in midfield when near enough to the touchline to get pushed into touch while going backwards. Instead of resisting the scrum shove, Gibbs suggested just using those scrum situations as rest periods, while the behemoths from Kettering sapped their own strength in the Texas mid day sun and humidity, to which Kettering was almost certainly very unaccustomed. Crescent City would use its considerable line out ability to obtain its share of possession. Crescent City planned to keep forcing scrums and line outs during the first half and then open the match up in the second half, when the Kettering forwards were likely to be exhausted.
When the halftime whistle blew and Crescent City gathered together they all could immediately see that Gibbs had been right, the huge Kettering pack were totally dehydrated and spent. Kettering had scored another try out wide, but had again missed the conversion. So, the score was only 8 to 0. The strategy for the second half would be to kick high balls to the Kettering backs and to swarm them, knowing they would have no forward support while the Crescent City backs could count on strong support from their very mobile back row. If the Kettering backs were foolish enough to return a kick with a kick, it would play right into the plan conceived by Gibbs.
The strategy worked. The Kettering backs began realizing they were lacking support when faced with up and unders and began to drop some of them after getting pounded by their opponents from Crescent City when the first few catches were made. The first few dropped balls were regained by Kettering and produced nothing but more scrums, during which the giant pack from the UK developed more and more heat exhaustion. Eventually a kick to Kettering was responded to with a kick back. An exhausted Kettering forward failed to retreat and was called for off sides about 35 yards from goal, directly in the middle of the pitch. Gibbs went for goal and made it. The score now stood 8 -3 and Crescent City needed only to put one converted try up to win.
Then, as time was winding down, Bob Tuminello called for the last ditch effort of all his teammates. He was playing at fly half. Mauer, whose nose was broken earlier in the tournament had moved to wing (no substitutions, even for injury, in those days). Tuminello let everyone know the next line out needed to be won, and when he got the ball from Gibbs, who was at scrum half, he would put it up extra high, and the team should make its best effort to put as much pressure under it as possible.
Tuminello hit a high deep kick that required the Kettering fullback to move several yards to get under it. Bob had struck the ball so forcefully his shoe flew into the air after the ball. But Tuminello was undeterred and chased under the ball with one shoe off and one shoe on. He arrived with perfect timing and jumped up high to contest for the catch. Terry Perkins had been following Tuminello by just a step, and kept going when Bob’s shoe bounced off Terry’s shoulder, with the rest of the team close behind. When Bob’s outstretched hand was able to knock the ball back in Perkin’s direction Terry was right there to scoop it up, and ran into goal and downed the ball just as the hooter sounded.
The angle for the kick was about 45 degrees off center, and the score stood at 8-7, with the kick to determine the outcome. Gibbs slotted it dead center, sending Crescent City into the final against the Houston Heathens.
The final at first seemed a bit anti-climatic; as Kettering was the team everyone had projected as the best team in the tournament. The Heathens were deflated, as a result of having lost their chance to prove themselves against the British team, through no fault of the Heathens. Meanwhile, Crescent City was riding a wave of adrenaline and jumped out to a 12-0 halftime lead. But the Houston Heathens were the Texas State Rugby Champions for a reason. That reason was they were a very good rugby team that was not going to let a mere two try lead overwhelm them, particularly when there was a whole half to go in a championship match. They mounted a second half surge and cut the lead to 12 – 10 with 4 minutes remaining in the championship match.
Then, it was time for the Crescent City forwards to pull out a win with a successful end of match maneuver, just as their backs had done in the semi-final. A rolling maul was the tactic chosen to try to hold the lead until the final whistle was sounded, and it worked. The Crescent City forwards kept possession for those last long 4 minutes before the maul collapsed with the ball trapped under it and the final whistle sounded.
Crescent City took home a very impressive large shell trophy from Galveston on Easter Sunday 1979. They also went home with the very satisfying knowledge that they could win against a good English team and the best teams in Texas, their neighboring and arch rival state.
The final event of the 1979 Spring Season for Crescent City RFC was hosting the Greystones RFC, from just south of Dublin, Ireland, a team La Exiles met again on their tour of Ireland in 1980. Mike Kerrigan and Skip Rizzo acted as the social hosts for the tour and showed the players from Ireland the time of their young lives. As the saying goes, what goes on tour is better left staying on tour. The wild times had during that tour are better left to description orally, with a pint in hand, rather than being memorialized in writing.
Post match photo of Crescent City v. University of Alabama at the old Crescent City pitch on the levee at Robert E. Lee and Maroni. The following Crescent City players, have been identified in this photograph: Sitting or kneeling from left: Keith Acker, Jack Biven, Daryl Roy, Caesar Lamonica. Standing from left Kevin Kelleher, Mark Brennan, Dan MacIntyre, Danny Brasseaux, Kent Savoie, Fred Romero. Standing or seated on truck from left: Brian Foster, Mike Kerrigan, Jack Mauer, Mark Neeb, Jack Breen, Sam Farnet, Frank Kerrigan, Al Massera, Skip Rizzo and Roger Taylor.
The history of Crescent City RFC during that time would not be complete without mentioning with gratitude Gene Freeze, a former Philadelphia Philly and Pittsburg Pirate, whose back room at the West End Saloon became the official party site for the club, and the Folks at Crescent Distributing Company who donated 2 kegs of Miller High Life for every Crescent City RFC home match during those years. Two sacks of oysters for every home match also came from somewhere, but you would have to talk to Danny Brasseaux or Mike Kerrigan to find out the source of that bounty.
Among other papers Jack Breen found in his attic out in Maui was a list of the players on the Shreveport RFC when they faced Crescent City in Shreveport for the Northwest Louisiana teams first ever rugby match in the Fall of 1978, won by Crescent City.
Hal Rose, referee Earl Bollinger Iain Martin, Coach Mark Grubb, president Frank Hoke Garry Jones, match secretary John Walsh Curtis Gentz, secretary treasurer Paul Dinkens Bill Ballien Ray Shockley Mike Pass Steve Timmons Danny Dunn Ken Scott Mike Stautzenberger Craig Weaver Chris Linn Brian Taylor (Oregon) Charlie McClure George Demitrinkus Bruce Crank George Henderson Kelly Adams Roger the Skyhook Bob Coons (Colorado) Wally Rowan Gary Kennedy Steve Tauber Gary Matthews Buzz Mills Paul Van Cleve (Houma) Charles Black
Select and Invitational Sides: GITS, La Select, the South Africa Tour and La Exiles
The Louisiana Governor’s Invitational Touring Side (GITS) traveled to England and Wales on a tour organized by Boyd Morrison (LSU ’76), a future USARFU Eagle, and Les Bratton (LSU ’72). That team played some of the finest clubs in and around London at the time, including the Saracens and Richmond RFC, with whom Morrison was then playing, and had a practice session with the London Welsh, which led to ensuring Louisiana got a match during the USA tour of that magnificent club the following year. According to The Rugby Chronicles, authored by Ted McGehee, a journalism student at LSU and a member of the touring side, that were published in the Daily Reveille beginning on January 24, 1978 the GITS led at the half in all 5 games of the tour but ultimately went 1-4. The first loss came against London’s then top team, Saracens, in a televised match that was very well attended that the tour itinerary lists as being played on January 2, 1978. McGehee lists the half time score as 8-6 in favor of GITS and the final score 8-28 in favor of Saracens. The GITS were reported to have been up 10-7 at Richmond before ultimately falling to Richmond RFC 13 – 27, with Morrison playing for the GITS against his Richmond teammates. The tour Itinerary lists that match as occurring on January 4, 1978.
The GITS were told they were the first US side to play in one of the 7 valleys of Wales, when they played at Nanty-Glo RFC on January 6, 1978. The team bus was swarmed by youngsters seeking autographs upon its arrival into the town, to the great surprise of the players. A team member recalls a fantastic try in the corner by Frank Perkins (LSU ’77), one of the few African Americans to be playing rugby at that time and the only member of his race to be on the pitch that day. That try would have won that match for Louisiana, but it was disallowed based on the call of the touch judge supplied by Nanty-Glo that Perkins knee had struck the goal line flag post before the ball was touched down in goal. The players from Louisiana did not agree with that ruling. At the post match disco they sought to find out if there was a racial animus behind the call and were pleased to learn that was not the circumstance at all. A good round of drinks was purchased for the team by the touch judge who complimented Perkins on his fine play and indicated it was nothing personal but he was not going to be the one responsible for his valley loosing its first match against an American side. In light of the great hosting received in Wales the questionable call did not result in any sort of formal protest. No record of the score of the match has been found but the recollections are that the difference was less than 4 points.
On January 8, 1978 the GITS played against Windsor, RFC at the home of the British Royal Family, but no record of the score has been found. The final match was on January 11, 1978 at South End on Sea against Old Westcliffians, after a seafood pre-match lunch that sickened a few of the Louisiana players. No record of the score of that match has been found either.
McGehee’s Rugby Chronicles list Mark Lawson (LSU ’76 then Baton Rouge) as captain of the touring side, and its members as including Les Bratton (LSU ’72 then Baton Rouge), Bob Causey (LSU ’76, then Baton Rouge), Jim Braugh (LSU then Baton Rouge), Joey Husband (LSU ’78), Frank Perkins (LSU ’77) Dave Flotte (LSU then Baton Rouge) and Jack Breen (Crescent City). Wayne Fontenelle (LSU) and Gary Meyers (LSU then Baton Rouge) also appear in some old photos found by Breen.
La Select suffered a major disappointment when the planned tour to South Africa the players of La Select had trained for very hard under Andre Pelzer, the excellent coach of La Select who learned his rugby in his native South Africa, was cancelled. A January 16, 1979 memo from Ivor van Heerden, Chairman of the Organizing Committee – Louisiana Rugby Football Union Tour to South Africa, indicated La Select would tour during the period from 1st to 22nd August 1979 and that the SA Rugby Board had approved the tour that was to be under the patronage of the Natal Rugby Union and was to include 6 matches against teams in Natal and Transvaal. Unfortunately, the same political protests that led to a large boycott of the 1980 Olympics also put an end to this tour.
La Exiles was an invitational side that included many of the La Select of that era who had ties both with Louisiana and the Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union. Coached by George Betzler, La Exiles combined players from La Select and the perennial EPRU Champions Whitemarsh RFC. La Exiles won many tournaments, including the First Saranac Lake Tournament in 1979, which included for each winning team member tickets the Lake Placid Winter Olympic Games of 1980. La Exiles also toured Ireland and Europe in 1980 and came home with a record of 6 wins and only 1 defeat (by less than a try to then Irish National Club Champions Garryowen RFC). Greystones RFC, who had toured Louisiana in 1979, was one of the teams played on that tour, which renewed many friendships with that Irish club.
The above was written by JackBreen at the request of Jack Mauer to record memories of the early years of Crescent City RFC and Louisiana rugby.