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Gonzaga Edges Xavier In Battle Of Top HS Teams

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Gonzaga Edges Xavier In Battle Of Top HS Teams

Adam Smith photo.

In a battle of the #1 single-school team versus the #3 team, Gonzaga, recently ousted from #1 status, defeated Xavier 21-20 over the weekend.

It was, as usual, a tight and contentious clash between the two squads and it went down to the final whistle.

Both coaching staffs left the game a little frustrated.

"That's the second time in three years that we allowed Gonzaga to come back and beat us on the last play of the match," said Xavier coach Joe Sweeney. "We need to improve our ability to close out games. Too many mental and physical mistakes at set piece gave away good possession."  

"Rugby is a funny game," said Gonzaga Head Coach Peter Baggetta. "Sometimes you don't play very well and still win the game. We played poorly, especially in the first half, making basic errors like missing three kicks to touch on penalties inside the Xavier half. We also struggled to handle their rush defense and could not get any continuity going in the first half.  Additionally, we made some poor kicks which made our kick chase break down."

As a result of Gonzaga miscues and a strong beginning from Xavier, the New York team was up 15-0 at halftime. However, there Xavier also had some errors.

Adam Smith Photos and Gonzaga Rugby

"Simple things like not centering a ball when we score a try to get a better conversion kick took points off the board, so, while we dominated a lot of possession and territory, had a bunch of line breaks, and scored four tries to three, not hitting our kicks gave Gonzaga the opportunity to get back in the game," said Sweeney.

Which, of course, was what they did.

"The second half was a bit better for us," said Baggetta. "We did a much better job of maintaining continuity and our forwards started to assert themselves in the game.  However, we still kept hurting ourselves."

Two yellow cards didn't help.

"The biggest thing was that the players kept grinding away and never quitting even when we made mistakes," added the Gonzaga coach. 

Gonzaga scored two tries to Xavier's one in the second half to make it 20-14. Then Gonzaga No. 8 John Thompson scored with no time left. Scrumhalf Gordie McMillen hit the conversion from right of the posts to win it.

"Very disappointed with the result and felt we let ourselves down by not executing at the right time," said Xavier Head Coach Greg Norris. "Perhaps having Gonzaga be the third game out was not ideal. We needed to fine-tune a few things and lost vital ball off set phases that should have ended in points but instead resulted in turnovers. On the other hand we produced some great rugby in the first half with three well-worked tries. I am very proud of the teams ability to work the opposition into situations where we could score. We still need to work on the teams set phases and the ability to put together 70 minutes of rugby with our complete squad."


Gonzaga owed a note of thanks to McMillen, who was perfect on his conversion kicks, and made a big try-saving tackle. Center Matt Freeman, and prop and captain John O'Toole, led from the front. 

But you get the feeling this is just the overture.