Jesse Pearce has made a seamless transition from union to league play rugby.
Pearce, a 21 year old Gloucester native and rugby player at the University of Rhode Island, has been playing union rugby since he was a sophomore in high school.
This summer Pearce began playing league rugby for the first time suiting up for the Boston 13s out of the USA Rugby League, a professional league that extends the length of the east coast. His results on the field have been stellar as he was recently name the USA Rugby League Player of the Month for the Month of June.
“It was a bit of a transition but I’ve gotten used to it and gotten better the more I’ve played,” Pearce said. “Plus the competition is great.”
Union rugby is a slower paced game with set scrums and set plays described by Pearce as more of a grind. League play, on the other hand, is much more fast paced as there are 13 players on the field for each team compared to 15 in union play.
“Union has more set plays and it’s a bit slower paced,” Pearce said. “League is a different style where it’s more wide open and you fly by the seat of your pants. I like both styles of play and I have adapted pretty well to league style.”
The contrasting styles of play has not stopped Pearce from doing a little bit of everything for the 13s. Dubbed “Mr. Consistent” by his team, Pearce has played full back, center, half back and hooker over the first five rounds of the USARL season. Full back is kind of like a quarterback in the game of football and is the field general, center, half back and hooker also handle the ball regularly and are asked to cover key players on the opposition.
Playing all of those positions means that Pearce has had to contribute on both ends, a position that he is very comfortable with.
“I’ve been somewhat of a utility player this summer,” Pearce said. “I started as just a half back but now I’m playing a little full back, center and hooker. I’m comfortable playing wherever the team needs me to play.”
Pearce, who played rugby at Lincoln-Sudbury High School before attending the University of Rhode Island, was introduced to the sport as a sophomore in high school. A football player, Pearce was told about the sport after excelling in a tackling practice, he began playing once the football season ended and hasn’t stopped since.
He found his way onto the Boston 13s after trying out for an all star team where one of the coaches happened to be a coach of the 13s.
The Gloucester native has helped lead the 13s to a 4-1 record at the midway point of the season, good for second place in the league behind the Philadelphia Fight. Boston is looking to qualify for the playoffs for the second time in its four year existence.
The USARL has taken Pearce to several cities along the East Coast such as Jacksonville, Fla., Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington D.C. to name a few. The 13s play their home games at Moakley Stadium in South Boston.
He also finds himself playing with some of his college friends and teammates who play for the Rhode Island Rebellion.
“It’s interesting and fun playing against some of my college teammates,” Pearce said. “They know all of my tendencies and I know all of their tendencies so it’s cool to have to adapt your game.”
Pearce is looking to take the skills he’s learned at the league level and bring them to the union level for his collegiate rugby season this fall, where he will be entering his senior season as a third year starter on the team.
“It’s been a great learning experience playing for a great coaching staff and with some great teammates,” Pearce said. “We have some Australian imports who have taught me a lot. I’m looking to bring what I’ve learned this summer into my college season, hopefully we can win a championship in both seasons.”