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Future Looks Good For Neuqua After Ruggerfest

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Future Looks Good For Neuqua After Ruggerfest

Neuqua at the airport.

Neuqua's season in Rugby Illinois may well be in question, but the Naperville, Ill. HS team came away from the Carolina Ruggerfest feeling pretty good about what they could do.

This was the first time since 2015 that Neuqua went to the Ruggerfest. With just three outdoor training sessions under their belts, including one on the Friday evening in Charlotte, Neuqua looked good in the opening half against Badger Selects out of Wisconsin. The Wildcats took a 14-0 lead but the Badger Selects got one back to make it 14-5. In the second half, Nequa mistakes led to two more Badger tries for a 15-14 lead. With time up on the game, the Badgers held out a final surge by Neuqua to win it.

Losing by a single point against a select side wasn't that bad a start, but still stung by the loss the Wildcats wanted to rebound. This they did, beating Hudson 48-0.

The big story line was the Neuqua defense, which turned in dominant tackle after dominant tackle. At one point, Hudson had a five-meter scrum, and a series of huge tackles from Neuqua sent Hudson back to midfield.

Senior lock Kyle Kasche led the charge with a crushing tackle and drive that moved a Hudson ballcarrier back about 12 meters. Lock Keegan Murray, flanker Younis Nooraldeen, and prop Nolan Baker were all effective on defense. In attack, scrumhalf Brandon Eng was effective, while flyhalf Nick Pastore and the center pairing of Nate Williamson and Sean Larkin had their second straight strong game. Fullback Carl Reina also showed well.

The next day, Neuqua was beaten well by a very disciplined and athletic Charlotte Tigers side. Neuqua was hit with three cards on the day, which didn't help.

All of that was a bit of an eye-opener for the Neuquas squad, but useful nonetheless.

Meanwhiloe, the JV squad finished the weekend 3-0, beating the Richmond Strikers 7-5, Clayton 31-12, and Atlanta 36-7.

Neuqua's JVs featured as many as nine freshman playing the bulk of the minutes. Standouts included the midfield setup of Justen Crawford and Aaron Rice, who came up through the local middle school program, with Grant Larkin getting his first minutes of rugby in impressive fashion at wing and outside center.  

Freshman Matt Chevalier, also from the Naperville Crusaders Junior High program, led from the front as he split time between scrumhalf and flyhalf. Those players, along with flyhalf Charlie Ashley and prop Charlie Meadow, bode well for the future of the Illinois program.