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Intense Game in Houston as Woodlands Faces SoCal Crusaders

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Intense Game in Houston as Woodlands Faces SoCal Crusaders

Left to Right: Alex Clarke, Woodlands; Dayen Joyce, SoCal; Mattox King, Woodlands; Dillon Wilson, SoCal; Jack Johnson, Woodlands; Connor Malauulu, SoCal

The Woodlands cruised through much of a very active weekend, but ran into a bit of a brick wall on Sunday.

Woodlands beat St. Pius X 76-0 on Thursday Woodlands Opens Busy Weekend With Big Win and then rolled through with their JV beating Brazoria and then shut out Rock Rugby by a surprisingly big score 94-0. All of this was, in part, designed to test the team in preparation for HS Nationals. So the final test was on Sunday, as Woodlands played the SoCal Crusaders touring team as part of a curtain-raiser for a Major League Rugby game.

Thomas Wagner is coaching the Crusaders and also coaches with UCLA. He ran the curtain-raiser games at Aveva Stadium in Houston, and oversaw the competition as the Crusaders and NOLA Gold's Academy team faced off. The Crusaders ran in eight tries to beat the NOLA Gold Academy 48-7 while the Woodlands team was taking care of Rock Rugby.

So after those results Wagner suggested the Crusaders take on Woodlands and NOLA Gold Academy face Rock Rugby. This worked out as NOLA Gold went on to beat Rock (reported scored of 55-17 is unconfirmed) while Woodlands and the Crusaders battled to a very tight final score.

The Crusaders, which entered a preseason Bi-Coastal tournament in Charlotte and performed well, is made up of players from teams such as the San Diego Mustangs, SoCal Raptors, and Thunder Rugby. They train at the Olympics Training Facility in Chula Vista, CA.

The game with the Woodlands was a well-played game that was very defensive. 

"I have never seen a more clinical game of rugby being played in a High School Boys match in the six years I've been involved with Woodlands Rugby," said Woodlands Club Boardmember Wayne Herndon. "Every mistake was capitalized upon by both sides, switching field position by 30 to 50 meters."

It was a kicking battle in many ways and both teams had the skill and talent to kick well. The game was played with rolling subs (in order to ensure the Crusaders players all got some time). Ultimately the rolling subs may have favored the Crusaders as they had good depth, and experience with many of the players being seniors.

"Coach Wagner did a really good job managing their substitutions," said Herndon.

The game started with SoCal putting the Woodlands under tremendous pressure, and the Texas team spent the first ten minutes of the game pinned in their 22. The Woodlands defense held on, however, adjusting their angles to corral some dangerous attacking players such as Dayen Joyce.

Eventually, Woodlands forced a turnover and marched down the field. Suddenly under pressure themselves the Crusaders scrambled but Woodlands was able to score and take a 7-0 lead.

Soon the Woodlands was back in the Crusaders' half. This time they got a penalty but the kick at posts drifted wide.

More Woodlands pressure resulted in a five-meter scrum, but SoCal halted the eightman pick and got a penalty which enabled them to clear their lines. From there SoCal worked their way down the field and tied it up with a converted try.

The second half was back-and-forth, but the Crusaders went over with about ten minutes left making it 12-7. 

That's how it ended. It was a very good, challenging game for Woodlands at the end of the weekend of games. If Woodlands does well in the postseason, they might point to this game as one of the reasons.

The players met to present their picks for top players with jerseys. Joyce, who was excellent, was named Man of the Match. He normally plays for Thunder Rugby.

Top Woodlands backs were senior flyhalf Alex Clarke and senior outside center Mattox King while Connor Malauulu, another Thunder player, was named top SoCal back.

Dillon Wilson of Thunder Rugby and Woodlands No. 8 Jack Johnson were named forwards of the game