© Guardian photo by Nigel Armstrong
Jonathan Murphy tries to carry the ball past Aaron Fitzpatrick during Thursday’s practice for the Hunter’s Ale House P.E.I. Mudmen in Charlottetown.
Pack a lunch if you’re headed to the pitch today to watch the Hunter’s Ale House P.E.I. Mudmen rugby club.
You’ll need the energy to get through a Nova Scotia Rugby League triple-header at Co-op Field in Charlottetown.
First up is the Dartmouth Pigdogs-Mudmen senior women’s exhibition match at noon.
It’s a matchup between potential rivals as the Mudmen hope to field a women’s senior team next season.
Dartmouth has three wins, and with 18 points sits two points out of first place in the women’s Division 2.
After that the Mudmen’s Division 2 men’s squad (2-0) host the Division 2 Dartmouth men’s squad (2-1) at 2 p.m., followed by the Division 1 Mudmen (1-0) facing off against the division-leading Enfield squad (3-0) at 4 p.m.
It’s a full day and with the season nearing the middle point carries a weight not lost on Phil Gallant, longtime Mudmen player and organizer.
Gallant plays on the Division 1 team.
“I feel like it’s a huge turning point for us as a team. It will be huge weekend if we pull out this game. We’re halfway through the season and it’s time to start thinking (about home-field advantage),” said Gallant after a recent Mudmen practice. “We circled the calendar early for this one.”
Enfield, a solid squad from year to year, has jumped out a quick start and leads the division with 14 points. It’s a club that has gotten close to winning it all, but hasn’t found a way to get over the top.
Gallant said he wasn’t surprised for the early lead given Enfield’s consistent, on-the-ball program and welcomed the league’s topsy-turvy season. Most years the Halifax Tars were the team to beat.
That’s changed this season, said Gallant.
“This year, Enfield is clicking. It’s a wide open league this year,” he said.
On the Division 2 side, players Ryan Lloyd and Sheldon Cudmore like how the team has adapted to its new digs. The team played in Division 3 last season and moved up to the tougher circuit.
And, so far, so good, said Lloyd.
“We’re developing and we’re happy where we are and coming together for the end of year,” said Lloyd, who coached the women’s senior team at the recent Eastern Canadian rugby championships in Charlottetown. “I’d say were ahead of schedule to be competing.”
Cudmore, a third-year flanker with the Mudmen, agrees with Lloyd on the Division 1 Mudmen’s progress, but he knows Dartmouth, which dropped to Division 2 from Division 1 this season, won’t be an easy out.
The Pigdogs went 1-23 in Division 1 from 2011 from 2013 but now lead Division 2 with 11 points.
“We have a good chance at winning if we keep (working hard) and practising. Dartmouth will probably bring a good defensive forward team. But I think (we) can break through their backs,” said Cudmore.
It’s the first meeting between Dartmouth and P.E.I. this season, so there are plenty of unknowns. But Lloyd, who’s also P.E.I. Rugby Union summer co-ordinator, has a best guess assessment of the Pigdogs.
“What we know is that they’re a young, fast team. We’ll have to be defensively strong and make our tackles and wait for a hole in the defence. I don’t think we can get around them,” said Lloyd. “Patience is key, definitely.”