WITH THE RHINOS on the way to the IAFL-1 bowl, here’s a look at how they got there.
Rhinos @ Warriors W 27-0
The perfect start to the new season as QB Ethan Foster and rookie Chris Hutchinson open their season’s accounts before LB Paul Richardson and DT Nico Marrimpoey finish the job.
“As the first game of the season we expected a lot of ourselves. We started out slow but the whole team kept their heads up and after the first half we played our football and walked away with a concrete win, and a massive confidence boost. “
David Hosford (WR):
“Galway was a tough game, travelling with pretty much a new team, we weren’t sure what we had, even though training was outstanding you just never know until you play a game how it will play out. What we learned was that our D came ready to play, three massive turnovers leading to scores against a strong side was brilliant.”
Rhinos @ Crusaders W 21-14
A come from behind win saw RB Ian Fanning, Hutchinson and QB Jonny Northcutt get on the board in what many felt was a bellwether for this season.
Chris Cullen (OL):
“The comeback against Kildare. The lads collectively pulled it out when the old Rhinos would have just given up.”
Sandis Buivids (OL):
“We were losing and everyone was losing their shit. We took a time out, talked it out and that’s when I think O-line clicked together for the rest of the season.”
“Kildare was the first time I thought we had something special. We were short enough when we travelled as it was, then we lost three massive players. We finished the game with (RB Robert) Pops playing on the line if I’m right, yet still gutted out a massive win having been behind at half time. To gut out a win there was simply outstanding.”
Rhinos v Eagles L 7-35
A late Jonny Northcutt TD wasn’t enough for the Rhinos who dropped to 2-1 at home to Wexford.
Paul Hosford (WR/K):
“Some days you’re the windshield, some days you’re the bug. You’d have the usual things to say – lads missing, warm weather and that, but we didn’t start playing til the game was over and were deservedly beaten.”
Rhinos v Cowboys W 23-21
Bouncing back, the Rhinos won a game that changed as much as the weather on the day. Ethan Foster with two TDs and Ian Fanning with a 90-yard kick return put the Rhinos in position for Paul Hosford to slot a 37-yard field goal with 5 seconds left to claim the win.
Junior Groves (DE):
“This was a really tough game. Extremely hard hitting, really physical. Their running back was very hard to bring down. Nimble, fast and can really bounce with a really good line.”
“When we got the ball back with 4 minutes left, I knew we had to do something special, but everyone was really calm. Ethan converted a fourth down run that kept the game alive. When we set up to kick, I was pretty nervous, but the second the Cowboys called a timeout, I was really calm. I knew Barry’s snap and Ethan’s hold would be perfect, so I just had to concentrate on getting the ball over the line. Thankfully it did.”
Rhinos @ Minotaurs L 7-10
Travelling to Westmeath confident, the Rhinos were on the end of their own medicine – losing ot a last minute field goal in a place where they had won by the same method last year.
“At this point we had good wins under our belt and went in probably expecting a win. After the first drive that mentality sailed out the window. It was the most difficult game I’ve ever played and we just couldn’t figure out how to gain ground. The defense really stepped up for the team that game, and the offense got a serious wake up call.”
Rhinos v Pirates W 41-7
Darragh McDonnell isn’t letting go off this Pirate RB.
A slow start from the Rhinos saw them roar back to win this Dublin derby. TDs from Foster (2), Hutchinson, Paul Hosford, Paddy Roche and Richardson marking the win.
“The Pirates game was a good game. Their running backs were fast and I was coming up against an old u20s teammate (Oisin Dowling) who was their best player on the day. He had an unbelievable touchdown, but after that we really put the foot down and caused serious pressure on the line and got some sacks and some big tackles in the backfield for a loss.”
Rhinos v Jets W 42-7
Another home win, another 40+ points put up as the Rhinos secured a first-ever winning season. Scores from Foster (3), Hutchinson, Jimmy English and LB Rui Almeida secured the win.
“The Jets was the Junior show wasn’t it? 3 or 4 sacks. I had my first run from running back, so that was fun, starting on the 1 yard line was terrifying but our line created hole after hole for us to punch through. I thought we finally showed how good we could be on the O that day after promising so much all season.”
Game MVP Junior Groves:
“The Jets game was the best game for me. Personally that’s when I knew that this was a season that we were going to be a serious, serious threat.
“I think it was the first or second play I came off the edge with a bad humour blew through the tackle and made a sack think it was the first of three or four that day I made. From that play on it was just fun. In the second half the running back made a good play and I missed the tackle on the edge. I went back to the huddle fuming with myself I was so mad and I knew it was coming my way again. The running back ran out to the right and didn’t see me coming at all I think I just ran full speed through him like he wasn’t even there. For me that was my best moment of the season to come back from a bad play and make a play like that it was easily my best tackle of the season and he wasn’t getting up either.
“From there on I played with aggression and a point to prove every single play and I haven’t looked back.”
Rhinos @ Razorbacks W 22-0
A half-time forfeit with the Rhinos 22 points up secured a 6-2 regular season finish. An Adam Skelly pick-six and scores from Foster and Hutchinson and a Paul Hosford field goal gave the Rhinos the win.
“Coming off of two massive wins at home we were meshing as a single unit. We knew what we could do, and how to execute. After three touchdowns and a field goal on three drives (one defensive touchdown) the game was sealed away; nothing and no one was going to get us out of that groove.”
Wildcard @ Minotaurs W 13-3
Travelling with revenge in mind, but down to the fourth-choice QB, the Rhinos were able to gut out a win on the back of two Paul Richardson TDs and an incredible defensive effort.
“My biggest memories are from some great team plays. Our first touchdown in Westmeath was from a sneak and we just mauled our way into the end zone. It was the perfect way to sum up how the offensive line could dig in and drive people back.”
Semi-final @ Vipers W 24-8
Paul Richardson has a fist pump as he goes into the endzone.
Pic: Desmond Loughrey
A chance at a final awaited the winners and the Rhinos were ahead after just three scrimmage plays, capitalising on a Vipers fumble before Paddy Roche scored. Richardson would add another two along with Paul Hosford’s field goal to set up a final appearance.
“This was a great performance in all three phases/ We scored two TDs where we marched the field against a really good Vipers D, we only conceded with 4 minutes left and we were excellent across the board of special teams. The team’s reaction and the atmosphere coming home was absolutely the best I have ever experienced in sport.”
“Against Derry in our last touchdown, my biggest recollection is hitting the second level and seeing every Rhino on a block and hustling to the end zone. I couldn’t contain the excitement at the end of that play.”There has been a huge amount of passion and fight from every player in the post season and it proved on our big plays.”