Ruck in Rock Hill Massive Success
Ruck in Rock Hill Massive Success
The concept behind the Ruck in Rock Hill was very simple - hold the inaugural Rugby NIT for middle school to meet the demands of the exponentially growing ranks of middle school rugby in the USA.
It was something that was long overdue, and this past weekend the fact that it happened made it a success, and how it expanded was a win, too.
During the weeks building up to the MD NIT, a middle school girls 7s division was added. Then, a high school girls 15s division was added to accommodate teams that do not split into JV and varsity for official RCT tournaments. Then some HS boys teams saw they had a chance to play, and a Boys 7s bracket was added.
In the end, then, the Ruck in Rock Hill turned into an epic tournament with matches for all youth divisions filled with 20 teams from 7 states.
In the Middle school girls division final, the girls from Charlotte, NC beat out the girls from Virginiain a super-tight match, 15-14. Virginia was driving into the try-zone as time expired only to be tackled into touch less than two feet from scoring. That was Saturday when they played 7s – on Sunday, all the girls from all the teams mixed and matched to form two large teams and many of the girls got to suit up for their first 15s tackle match – a rare thing for middle school girls where sometimes finding an opponent to play even 7s is very difficult.
In the U19 Boys 7s division people saw six championship-caliber teams all fighting and scrapping for the top spot. Ultimately, the Charlotte Tropic edged out a very strong Chapel Hill side that quite frankly was absolutely wiped out short a couple of players thanks to a super-tight semifinal match an hour earlier. No one in the stands could sit down during the U19 action – it was fast, technically strong, and non-stop action all the way.
The high school girls did not disappoint either. None of the teams walked away winless, which illustrates how competitive it really was. In the final, the Illinois beat out a surging Tennessee side 15-10. Tennessee scoring the final try of the match and looking like if the match went another few minutes they might have scored again to tie.
The best match of the tournament, however, was the Boys Middle School NIT final between Charlotte and Virginia.
Last Summer at the 2016 RCT South, these same two programs found themselves facing off in the final. They tied in regulation and remained tied after five minutes of overtime. They ended up settling the match with penalty kicks, and Charlotte won by a single kick.
So there was certainly some unfinished business for this weekend. The two teams met again in the final and played a hard-nosed, technical, and creative game. Both teams were knocking on the door to score only to be stonewalled, leaving the game deadlocked 0-0 at halftime.
The second half was much the same but with only minutes left, Charlotte seemingly broke through the line and dashed in to score in the corner. The referee, after consulting both assistant referees and the closest in-goal judge did not award the try. Shepherding - obstruction - was the call
So it looked for all the world like it would be overtime again. But just before time expired, Charlotte was called for a penalty in the breakdown, and Virginia, to the surprise of the gallery, pointed towards the posts. Their kicker called for a tee and lined up for a full 35-meter kick, 10 meters left of center at the spot of the infraction. 35 meters is a very long kick for a middle school athlete to make, and in a National final, and with no time on the clock in a tied game, it had plenty of added pressure. No problem for the kicker - he knocked it over with distance to spare, and Virginia won 3-0, becoming the first MS NIT Champions.
Organizers of the event say they could not have scripted better final matches for the event, asked for better weather, or had a better venue to host the tournament in. Plans are already underway for expanding the 2nd Annual next Summer.
For all match results – you can visit www.RugbyNIT.com