Maccabi USA's open men's rugby team wins gold at Pan American Maccabi Games

Philadelphia, Pa. - From December 28, 2015 to January 4, 2016, Maccabi USA's Open Men's Rugby team participated at the 13th Pan American Maccabi Games in Santiago, Chile, winning a gold medal in Rugby 7s, their 3rd in international Maccabi competitions - as well as a silver medal in 15s Rugby.

The Pan American Maccabi Games are held every four years and feature a large variety of individual and team sports for Jewish athletes. This was only the second time that the United States sent a Rugby squad to the Pan American Maccabi Games.

Erik Dollman, the Maccabi USA Rugby Chairman for the Pan American Maccabi Games, was instrumental in organizing a team - as well as securing two Maccabi USA alums to coach the squad - Aaron Davis and Dallen Stanford.

"All of us were proud to continue the legacy of excellence that the Maccabi USA Rugby team has long been known for, on and off the pitch. The camaraderie and intensity of this team was something none of us will forget. There's a lot of American rugby players with fire in their eyes, looking forward to upcoming Maccabiah Games in Israel in Summer 2017." said Dollman.

The Rugby competition at the 2015 Pan American Maccabi Games featured Argentina, Chile and the USA in a round-robin format, as well as a warm-up fixture against the local Chilean National Club champions.

The USA fielded all 25 players during the warm-up fixture, who had met each other the day before for the first time. The second half saw excellent tries from Jake Levine, Dallen Stanford, Howie Goldsmith and Jon Fonvielle.

"Analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of each individual player is the first step in preparing the best side to take the field. Our side was put through the paces in our first match and much was learned," said Davis, Head Coach. "Watching them come together as a team and hold their heads high, in spite of the loss, was one of the best feelings in the world. It spoke volumes of their character."

In the first official round-robin clash the USA faced Argentina, a team that plays together in Buenos Aires. Scrumhalf Jake Levine got the USA on the scoreboard with an early penalty. The Argentineans attacked extremely well and scored two tries, one against the run of play. USA replied from a great combination between Andrew Berson and Dallen Stanford, the latter diving over in the corner to bring the score at halftime 10-8 in favor of Argentina.

The South Americans struck right after the break, using their forwards near a lineout, going up 17-8. USA winger Sam Rabb then bolted into action, smashing through three would be tacklers, and touching down a sensational try under the poles. Levine converted, with the USA trailing 17-15. The next 10-minutes belonged to Argentina who kicked a penalty and scored another well worked try, taking the score to 25-15. However, the USA stormed back in the final few minutes with what could be considered as the try of the tournament. It was Berson who was in on the action again, this time setting off on a brilliant run from inside his own half. The Darmouth prop scored under the sticks, and it was suddenly 25-22. Argentina kicked their final penalty, and lead 28-22 while the USA mounted another counter-attack from well within their half. It took some brilliance on defense to stop Rabb on the charge, and the final whistle sounded with USA just falling short by a score.

In the final 15s match against Chile, a storming first half performance from the USA, where they scored 4 excellent tries, took them to a 26-0 lead at halftime. The moment of the match was a no-look through the legs pass by flyhalf Stanford to outside center Joey Krassenstein - who raced through to score a magic 5-pointer.

The momentum swung in the second half, amidst several substitutes for the USA, sending Chile in for two great tries. The hard running Tristan Sylk scored a double, while Sam Harrison finished off a solid attack for the USA, stretching the lead for the visitors. Matt Sarna produced another outstanding performance, and the center paring of Rudy Rudzinsky and Krassenstein each scored gems near the end of the game. Final score: USA 50 Chile 22.

Results - XVs Competition

USA 22 Argentina 28 
USA Tries: Andrew Berson, Dallen Stanford, Sam Rabb. USA Conversions: Jake Levine (2). USA Penalties: Jake Levine.

USA 50 Chile 22 
USA Tries: Joey Krassenstein (2), Tristan Sylk (2), Dallen Stanford, Howie Goldsmith, Rudy Rudzinsky, Sam Harrison. USA Conversions: Joey Krassenstein (4), Jake Levine.

USA claims Silver Medal in XVs

"The adjustments made after the first test against the Rugby National Club Champions of Chile proved to pay off. Granted it was a different team, but in just one match we were able to close the gap to within a try. The final game highlighted our team's full complement of strengths," reported coach Davis. "Beyond the score, participating in these Games was an enormous effort from so many. I can't say enough about the experience and patience of Assistant Coach Dallen Stanford, who also served as the team's lynchpin on the field. Three cheers also goes to Rugby Chairman Erik Dollman, Maccabi Old Boys, and supporters from around the globe, not to mention the fans that traveled all the way to Chile and tuned in online to cheer us on. We are forever grateful and wouldn't have been able to make it happen without them; I am proud of our results. The focus now turns toward winning gold at the 2017 Maccabiah Games in Israel, as the United States intends to bring a 7s and 15s side, in addition to a women's side."

The 7s competition also saw the same round robin format, with the USA beating Chile 45-12. Krassenstein collected a hatrick, with Howie Goldsmith and speedster Adam Markun scoring as well.

The final against Argentina was much closer, with Eyal Hakim and Stanford racing through for the opening two scores, giving the USA a 14-0 halftime lead. Argentina gained momentum in the second half, bringing the score to 14-7 with minutes remaining. A magnificent defensive stand won the gold medal for Team USA - as players and supporters rushed the field to congratulate the team!

Results - 7s Competition

USA 45 Chile 12 
USA Tries: Joey Krassenstein (3), Howie Goldsmith, Adam Markun. USA Conversions: Dallen Stanford (5).

USA 14 Argentina 7 
USA Tries: Dallen Stanford, Eyal Hakim. USA Conversions: Dallen Stanford (2).

USA claims Gold Medal in 7s

Stanford, a former USA 7s Eagle, was chosen as one of three flag bearers for the United States to lead the delegation into the Opening Ceremony (read more here) at the Pan American Maccabi Games. The Rugby program is extremely proud to also have two current USA 7s Eagles in the Maccabi family - Kevin Swiryn and Zack Test. Read about their #Road2Rio journey as they prepare for the Sevens World Series (article here) and the 2016 Olympic Games.

The Maccabi USA Rugby squad: 
Eitan Babcock; Milwaukee Rugby Football Club, Andrew Berson; Dartmouth Rugby, Erik Dollman; Albany Bootleggers / Albany Knickerbockers RFC, Jon Fonvielle; Mystic River Rugby Club, Dan Freedman; Santa Barbara Grunion RFC / Coach at Santa Ynez Valley Youth RFC, Joe Freundlich; Chicago Westside Condors RFC, Zachary Getson; Auburn University RFC / Griffins RFC, Howard Goldsmith; Chicago Westside Condors RFC, Eyal Hakim; Boca Raton RFC, Sam Harrison; Head Coach at Colorado College RFC, Zachary Hiller; Houston United Rugby Team, Jaeson Kaylegian; UIC RFC / Chicago Riot RFC, Robert Keene; South Valley Rugby / Pacific Club Rugby, Joseph Krassenstein; University of Southern California RFC, Max LaVictoire; New York Rugby Club, Jake Levine; Dartmouth Rugby, Eli Mandel; University Washington RFC, Adam Markun; Middlebury RFC, Samuel Rabb; San Francisco Golden Gate, Ben Rotstein; New York Rugby Club, Michael Rudzinsky; University of South Carolina Men's Rugby / Mystic River Rugby Club, Matthew Sarna; Maryland Rugby, Adam Satz; University of South Carolina Men's Rugby, Dallen Stanford; Tiger Rugby, Tristan Sylk; Philadelphia Fight Rugby League / Media Rugby Football Club.

The Maccabi USA Rugby program now turns its attention to the 2017 World Maccabiah Games in Israel. The coaching staff will be announced soon, together with a detailed itinerary for players wishing to try out and represent the United States at the third largest sporting event in the world.

Stay updated with Maccabi USA's Rugby program on FacebookTwitter and through the offical Maccabi USA website.

About the organization: 
Maccabi USA (MUSA) is a federally-recognized not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization with an extensive history of enriching Jewish lives through athletic, cultural and educational programs. The organization is the official sponsor of the United States Team to the World Maccabiah Games, and the Pan American and European Maccabi Games, as well as a sponsor of the JCC Maccabi Games for teens in North America. As the official Maccabi representative in the U.S., Maccabi USA supports Jewish athletic endeavors, enhanced by cultural and educational activities in the United States, Israel and throughout the Diaspora.

MUSA develops, promotes and supports international, national and regional athletic-based activities and facilities. It strives to provide Jewish athletes the world over the opportunity to share their heritage and customs in competitive athletic settings. MUSA supports programs that embody the Maccabi ideals of Jewish Continuity, Zionism and Excellence in Sport. Maccabi USA Builds Jewish Pride Through Sports. 
Maccabi USA has been selected by the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) as a Multi-Sport Organization (MSO). The nonprofit organization becomes one of 35 MSOs nationwide to be recognized by the USOC for its ability to cultivate a national interest in sport and increase opportunities for participation internationally, nationally and at the grassroots level.