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Gregory the Great Takes Rugby PA Title

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Gregory the Great Takes Rugby PA Title

Gregory the Great breaks around the edge. Alex Goff photo.

Gregory the Great pieced together a intelligent and rapid-fire performance to defeat Doylestown for Rugby Pennsylvania’s Boys D1 high school championship.

Doylestown, having dismantled West Allegheny with a quick-offload, high-paced type of game to day before, had little answer as they struggled to maintain possession or put themselves in scoring position.

GGA, behind the playmaking, attacking flair, and goalkicking of flyhalf Eli Ziglinski, who scored two tries, converted two tries, and kicked four penalty goals. This sparked Gregory the Great to a 31-5 victory and a state championship.

“This was the most physical game I’ve played and the most fun I’ve had playing rugby,” said flanker Joseph Kirsteins, who was a force all day. 

The game began with Doylestown on the front foot and they found quick ball out of the ruck and scrumhalf Chris Cleland sold a dummy and blazed through a gap to go in for the opening score.

It seemed like Doylestown would produce more of the same, but after that try GGA was able to get better field position, using their quickness to the ball to stymie Doylestown continuity, and to get their own continuity flowing.

Ziglinski weaved and powered his way through to tie the game with the first GGA try, and then converted to give his side a 7-5 lead. Doylestown began to get into penalty trouble and even though GGA had passed up a kickable penalty option earlier, they turned to Ziglinski with a penalty 40 meters out and the flyhalf had no trouble—10-5.

That, in fact, was how the first half ended. Doylestown had tried to unleash their dangerous attackers, especially the 8-9-10 combo of Ford Rubel, Cleland, and Dalton Reinheimer, but the breaks they made didn’t last.

Exhorted by captain Isaac Martin to stay “laser-focused” in the second half, GGA didn’t exactly break the game open as it did squeeze hard enough for it to crack. An early penalty kick from Ziglinski made it 13-5 and Doylestown had to contend with a yellow card as well. They didn’t contend well as they made too many high tackles, and it was those kinds of penalties that saw them having to scramble to contain outside backs like Gabriel Wright and Jack Martin. Eventually a penalty led to a lineout and a maul barreling right over the tryline for Gregory’s second try and a lead of 18-5.

Penalty trouble once again bit Doylestown, this time a not-releasing infraction that set up a relatively easy PK for Ziglinski. Now it was 21-5. Ziglinski then sidestepped and toughed his way over for his second try, and converted to make it 28-5. The flyhalf would add another penalty later.

“I was really happy with how we played in the first half,” said Doylestown Head Coach Mike McCandless. “We were playing the way we wanted to play and we were right there with them. But we had too many penalties in the second half.”

“We like to play at pace and we like to test our lineouts but we also like to kick for posts,” said Isaac Martin, GGA’s captain. “We just like to make cool-headed decisions.”

Martin was brilliant on the day on both sides of the ball, and Kirsteins was immence. But you also saw  some key moments throughout the team. Hooker Demetrius Gergerich was in top of his game, and lock Aiden Fletcher was an intriguing factor as he’s not tall at all, but he is quick and aggressive and gave the GGA attack an extra dimension.