Greenwich Rugby takes second at Tier II national championships

During the High School Rugby National Championship Invitational, Joe Kelly give the opposition a huge stiff arm during play,

During the High School Rugby National Championship Invitational, Joe Kelly give the opposition a huge stiff arm during play,

UPDATED: Wednesday, May 23, 2013:  The Greenwich High  rugby team proved that they could keep up with basically everybody they compete against.

During last weekend’s High School Rugby National Championship Invitational, the Cardinals competed in the Tier II bracket and advanced to the championship game, smoking LaSallette and Brownsburg before falling to Chicago’s Brother Rice.

“We did a great job,” Greenwich High School head coach Joe Kelly said. “We opened up against a really tough team and dominated the match.. The next day we played another top-notch team that was very physical and we dominated the match again. However, three days of rugby in a row is tough and I think they guys couldn’t pull the victory out against an extremely tough Brother Rice club team.”

After advancing to the High School Rugby Tier II championship game in convincing fashion, the Greenwich High School rugby team fell to Brother Rice, 25-17.

Members of the Greenwich High School rugby team get pumped up prior to the start of a game during the High School National Championship Invitational.

Members of the Greenwich High School rugby team get pumped up prior to the start of a game during the High School National Championship Invitational.

Trys in the game were made by Joe Kelly, Pieter Zenner and J.P. Doyle, while Soh Nakayama converted one kick. With the loss, Greenwich finished the Invitational with the second place trophy.

“They are a really tough club team that has been playing in the fall and spring,” Coach Kelly said. “We have been playing for three months. We still gave them a very good match. They went out early out and scored, but we came back. If we had another five minutes left in that game, I honestly think we would have won.”

Earlier in the tournament, Greenwich had little trouble. On Thursday Big Red started play by beating LaSallette 53-14, as Zenner paced the team with three trys. Jesse Adelberg took home two trys and Mateo Gowland, Matt Alfano, Gardy Lebon and Nakayama each had one try. The trio of Yoh Nakayama, Gowland and Soh Nakayama each converted one extra point.

On Friday, the Cards weren’t able to score as much as they did the previous day, but were able to take care of Brownsburg, Ind., 21-7. Kelly finished with two trys and Alex McMurray finished with one. Yoh Nakayama converted all three extra points.

In addition to the GHS athletes that found their way to the scoresheet, Scott Atkinson, Javier Rivera, Mark Bernstein, Eric Tack, Ben Jones, Grant Cuchussi and Federico Mato all had stellar performances.

While Coach Kelly was proud of the way his team handled the pressure on the pitch, he was also thrilled with the way they represented GHS.

“This team couldn’t have been better behaved,” Coach Kelly said. “I am very proud of the way they represented the school, from the way they behaved in the hotel to the way they traveled to the field. We all behaved like gentlemen. People left the tournament with a great view of players and people from Greenwich. We represented our town, our state and our school really well.”

This year’s team will hold a special place in Coach Kelly’s heart, however he knows that it was the dedication of last year’s team that helped pave the way for the team’s appearance in Indiana last week.

“A lot of the boys that were on this trip or a mainstay on last season’s team that got us the invite to this tournament are the reason we went here,” Coach Kelly said. “We are proud of the boys last year that graduated from the program and proud of the boys this year who kept on playing aggressively to allow us to compete in this tournament.

The boys left Nationals with the runners-up hardware in their bracket, but there’s little rest for GHS.

Greenwich got off the bus and immediately started preparing for the state championship, which GHS has claimed for the past six years. Greenwich’s first game in states was against Staples Wednesday at Cardinal Stadium. Big Red made quick work of the Wreckers and went on to win 76-14.

With the victory against Staples, Greenwich advanced to the state championship match and take on Fairfield Prep Tuesday afternoon at Fairfield Warde High School.

“We came back from Nationals with a positive attitude, took Monday’s practice off because we are a little beat up, but we will practice a day before we play Staples,” Coach Kelly said. “We need to prepare for a tough game against Staples and if we beat them we will play Prep, who has vastly improved since the last time we saw them.”

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