This past weekend saw the Blue Jay Rugby Club host two out-of-state rugby teams, the Jesuit-Dallas Rangers Rugby team (a full varsity team) and LaSalle College Prep rugby (another varsity team) of Philadelphia.
Our Blue Jays played LaSalle Thursday evening to a heartbreaking, last-minute loss, 19-17. The Blue Jays dominated the action throughout the match consistently enjoying both possession and territory. Early in the contest the Jays set the tone on defense, punishing the LaSalle runners with consistent and repeated double-tackles, the first being executed by seniors Zac Beckman and Patrick Gallagher, who drove a crashing LaSallian runner backward for a five meter loss. Immediately thereafter seniors Johnny Tindal and Paul James blessed another LaSallian runner with fierce double tackle, which resulted in a three meter loss, which left LaSalle reeling from the defensive pressure. The Jays soon thereafter gained possession and went on the attack. Powerful runs by the Blue Jay forwards led by senior Charles Lobrano punched holes in the LaSalle defense resulting in LaSalle chaotically scrambling to cover. The pressure led to mental errors and penalties by LaSalle, which resulted in the Blue Jays having the opportunity to drive a powerfully built “maul” across the try-line (goal-line), which Chuck Lobrano dotted down for the match’s first score. The remainder of the half saw much the same action, with the Jays consistently pressuring LaSalle on both offense and defense, which eventually led to another Jays score when Zac Beckman executed a lightning-fast pick’n’go over the try-line.
LaSalle, a proud rugby school, was not cowed, however, and managed to use its powerful inside-center (running back) to find a seam through the Jays’ defense for a LaSallian score, which was later followed by a cheeky score by the LaSalle number two, who snuck around the back of a pileup to dive over for LaSalle’s second try. The Jays later regained the lead after senior Matt Palmer saw an opportunity to “quick-tap” off a penalty and use his swift feet to dash through a flat-footed LaSallian defense for the Jays third score of the day. The conversion kick was good by Gabe Massey. Jays 17, LaSalle 12. The match reached “full time” with the Jays leading. LaSalle had the ball with one play left in the match. Any stoppage of the clock would end the match. LaSalle was awarded a lineout after Jesuit errantly kicked the ball out of bounds. With zero seconds on the clock, LaSalle threw a lineout to its back lifter, who under the cover of a nearly set sun and dark pitch, sprinted past an unaware Jays defense for a centered try. LaSalle then kicked the conversion, to steal a 19-17 victory from a stunned Blue Jay squad.
The following day, the Blue Jays, Jesuit-Dallas, and LaSalle all met for a skills camp hosted by our local professional rugby team, the NOLA Gold. Marconi and Harrison saw 100 rugby players from the three schools all meet to work together to improve their rugby technique. Thereafter, all three squads met at Jesuit for a tour of the school, followed by a first-ever “rugby mass,” which was led by Father Dyer. The hungry ruggers all then met for a social of fried catfish and
mac’n’cheese in the Commons. The LaSallian players from distant Philadelphia, being unfamiliar with fried catfish, initially demurred, thinking the Jays were serving fried chicken on a Lenten-Friday. They quickly learned their mistake, to their bemusement and eventually happy delight.
The following day saw more great rugby action. The Jays took on the Jesuit-Dallas Rangers in an action-packed blitzkrieg of a rugby match. The belligerents were evenly matched, with each team attacking the other’s defense line without sustained success. Jesuit-Dallas would gain meters, only to lose possession repeatedly to senior Gabe Massey, who was a ball-poaching fiend, who consistently ripped possession from unsupported Rangers. Despite this, Jesuit-Dallas drew first-blood, when their fleet-footed fullback found a seam through the Jays’ defense and took the pill over the try-line, Dallas 7-0. The Jays soon answered, after senior Gabe Massey executed a crafty “show’n’go” only to then lead a one-man assault on the Rangers’ defensive line. The Rangers were found wanting, as four of their players could not stop a determined Massey, who touched down for the Jays first score. Massey good for the conversion, 7-7. The match was a see-saw contest thereafter. The Rangers again found paydirt, when they gained considerable territory into the Jays’ red-zone after a questionable penalty call. A series of powerful runs found the Rangers again in the Jays’ try-zone, Dallas 12, Jays 7. Thereafter the Jays would control most of the action. Zac Beckman received a clever pass from junior Langston Goldenberg, which he took round a pileup and into the maw of the Rangers’ defense. It was all the Rangers could do to stop Beckman, who was charging like an aggrieved rhino, just short of the try-line. From there quick and crisp passing from senior scrumhalf Brady Moran to Gabe Massey saw Massey explode at several flat-footed Ranger defenders, who were unprepared to stop Massey’s lightning strike, which saw him dive over the try-line, for another conversion. Massey’s conversion kick sailed wide, however, and the match ended a 12-12 tie.
This coming weekend the Jays next take on Regis-Jesuit of Denver, in Denver, at professional rugby stadium Infinity Park, as a curtain-raiser match for a professional match between NOLA Gold and the Glendale Raptors. The Denver match will be the Jays final pre-season match.