Emotional 9/11 ritual for New York halfback
USA halfback Mike Petri was given an emotional reminder of the events of September 11, 2001 before his team’s opening World Cup game against Ireland last night.
Petri comes from New York and plays for the New York Athletic Cup.
After their 22-10 loss to Ireland in New Plymouth, Petri spoke of an incredibly emotional event that took place just before the game.
''With the American team we do a jersey presentation before our games,” Petri said.
''Usually the captain is the one that gives the jerseys out, but on this occasion it was really special for me because one of my fellow alumni from Xavier High School in New York flew all the way down here from New York City to present me with my jersey.
''His name is John Lugano and his brother Sean Lugano was also a rugby player from Xavier and was killed on September 11.
''He turned down the opportunity to be with his family on this day, to come down here and spend the weekend with us and come to the game.
''I played rugby with his younger brother Mike and it was amazing to get that jersey from him. It was really emotional.''
Sean Lugano was in the World Trade Centre when it was attacked. The rugby field at Maryland University has been named the Sean Lugano Memorial Field in his honour.
The US players attended a church service in New Plymouth before they played Ireland and all were touched by the occasion.
''The important thing for us tonight was making sure we channelled that emotion and coach [Eddie] O’Sullivan did a great job on keeping us focused and that our energy was channelled into a positive performance,'' Petri said.
Petri hoped that people back home felt the significance of the team representing their country on 9/11.
The game was shown on the NBC network in America and those watching would have seen a great performance by USA, their defensive effort was superb and one that saw off any potential Irish onslaught.
''Coach O’Sullivan and our defence coach Mike Tolkin have done well this week to scout Ireland,'' said Petri.
''They certainly put systems in place to give us a chance to be successful and the rest was up to us, but the boys fronted up and laid some big hits.''