Greenwich High rugby splits first two at Nationals in Indiana

GHS senior captain Mateo Gowland starts play during a recent game against Xavier earlier this year. — John Ferris Robben photo

GHS senior captain Mateo Gowland starts play during a recent game against Xavier earlier this year. — John Ferris Robben photo

Last year, Greenwich High School achieved its goal of securing an invitation to the Boys High School National Rugby Championships, but being included in the elite, eight-school championship bracket eluded them. This year, Greenwich, with its fifth seed, was included in that championship flight.

Thus far, the Cardinals have split their first two matches, going down to a 29-3 defeat to area rival Xavier of New York on day one of the championships, before rebounding yesterday with a resounding 28-14 victory over Brownsburg, Ind.

The latter ensured that the Cards will play La Salette Academy (Olivet, Ill.) later today for fifth place in the Championships.

In the Brownsburg match, Greenwich spotted the local favorite Bulldogs an early try, with wet conditions causing numerous handling errors.

The Cardinals finally broke through with a try by junior wing Jack Freiheit, and with scrumhalf Mateo Gowland’s subsequent conversion, the half ended in a 7-7 deadlock.

Continuing to press the advantage from the second half kickoff, Greenwich executed a precise backline movement off a scrum in Brownsburg’s end, with fullback Eric Thakor finishing the play through a gap on the right side. Gowland’s conversion put Greenwich up, 14-7.

It was now time for wing Luke Bienstock to display his elusive talents, and the swift sophomore finished two consecutive tries, the second a 70-meter dash, to put the match away with a 28-7 lead, before Brownsburg touched down a late try to narrow the final gap to 14.

“I was very pleased how the team rebounded from what was undoubtedly a great disappointment in losing yesterday to Xavier,” said head coach Joe Kelly after the Brownsburg match. “Obviously the dream of winning the national championship was out of reach to them, but they showed great spirit in coming back against a team that was bigger physically. We now have one more opportunity tomorrow to go out on a winning note to make this trip a great success.”

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