Goff Rugby Twitter     Goff Rugby Facebook

Jesuit NOLA Takes Louisiana Final in OT

irish rugby tours

Jesuit NOLA Takes Louisiana Final in OT

Jesuit found a way through at the end. Hudson Ellis photo.

Jesuit of New Orleans took the Rugby Louisiana state title with a dramatic overtime decision.

The Bayou Hurricanes finished 1st and Jesuit 2nd in the regular season, with the Hurricanes defeating Jesuit 29-23 in their league meeting April 1. Both teams went on to win their semifinal games to set up the rematch in the final. And this time, it was Jesuit on the winning end, kicking a penalty in overtime to win 25-22.

The match started a very one-sided affair, with Bayou dominating the action.The first half saw Bayou enjoy the majority of territory, if not possession. The Hurricane’s imposing physicality, including Kieran Webb, a veritable rhinoceros at prop, and Elijah Hayes, an equally massive 300-pounder at lock, kept the Blue Jays planted within their own 40 for nearly all the first half. The Hurricanes were assisted by the very brisk wind that rendered Jesuit's clearing kicks fairly useless. Three times during the first half the Hurricanes were able to cross the tryline. Two scores came off bruising runs by Webb, who was about as easy to tackle as a minivan. Another try was added by the Hurricane’s outstanding outside center, Xavier Triplett, whose speed, power, and elusiveness make him very difficult to stop. The first half ended with Bayou up 17-0.

Bayou's powerful runners tested Jesuit throughout the first half. Paul Beckmann photos.
Louisiana State HS Rugby Final 2017. Jesuit Blue Jays v Bayou Hurricanes. Paul Beckmann photo. Louisiana State HS Rugby Final 2017. Jesuit Blue Jays v Bayou Hurricanes. Paul Beckmann photo.

The second half proved a different matter. The Jesuit Blue Jays, with the wind now in their favor, were able to play a territory game. Jesuit flyhalf Case Ellis used his boot frequently and smartly to keep Bayou pinned in its own red zone. With about ten minutes gone in the period, Bayou attempted to kick to clear, but was called for offside. Ellis, who fielded the kick, realized the referee was running back towards the penalty mark, and sprinted to catch him. Both Ellis and the ref hit the mark at the same time, and Ellis (who never stopped his sprint) quick-tapped and charged at a flustered and disorganized Bayou defense. Two sidesteps later and he crossed the line for Jesuit’s first try to make it 17-5. 

Shortly thereafter, continued Jesuit possession and territory led to a penalty right in front of the posts, and Jesuit fullback Jack Gab converted to make the score 17-8. 

The momentum may have shifted, but Bayou shifted it back. Despite still being pinned deep in its own zone, Bayou remained a scoring threat. Their offload game was solid, and coupled with their powerful, athletic backs, the Hurricanes had the ability to turn the field around in a hurry. That's just what they did, when two offloads saw the ball find the hands of wing Davin Tompkins, who was able to turn the corner and streak for a 70-meter try. Jesuit’s defenders did not give Tompkins a pass, however, and chased the entire way, preventing him from centering the try. The conversion from the touchline was no good and that would prove critical as Bayou led 22-8 with ten minutes left.

But it was an eventful ten minutes.

Cashio scores the tying try, lft. Paul Beckmann photo. Right, the crowd gets behind a Jesuit break. Hudson Ellis photo.
Louisiana State HS Rugby Final 2017. Jesuit Blu Jays v Bayou Hurricanes. Paul Beckmann photo. Louisiana State HS Rugby Final 2017. Jesuit Blue Jays v Bayou Hurricanes. Hudson Ellis photo.

Jesuit quickly regained possession and went back to work kicking to keep Bayou pinned deep. The pressure began to show, and Bayou was called for repeated infringements, which Jesuit used to kick to touch. Jesuit’s lineouts were superb throughout the day, and they used the mauls from those lineouts to push Bayou back. The mauls set up a platform for Jesuit to peel off and continue to pressure the Hurricanes. This strategy eventually paid dividends, as a maul-feint led to a series of quick hits by Jesuit’s forwards that drew in Bayou’s defense. Ellis, called for the ball to be spun to the backs and he found inside center Matt Palmer, who drew two defenders before tossing a perfectly weighted pass to blitzing fullback Jack Gab, who was in for the try. Gab converted as well, and it was 22-15.

But within a converted try, the Blue Jays had their tails up. They attacked from the restart and despite there being little time, stayed with the play to kick for territory. It worked. Jesuit was able to regain possession following a Hurricane penalty, and then with about a minute to play, worked a lineout.

Jesuit knew they needed to score close to the posts. They hit Chuck Lobrano at the back of the lineout and set up a maul that Bayou opted not to contest - thus hoping to send in one tackler to bring it down. The Jesuit players sensed this and got the ball out quickly on a peel move from prop Peyton Cox. He took the pass and thundered to the line, but was halted just short. Jesuit retained possession at the ensuring ruck, and then scrumhalf Josh Cashio sold a dummy that got him by two defenders, allowing him to stretch over the line as another Hurricane desperately grabbed for him. Gab hit the conversion and the game was tied 22-22.

That was also full time, so on to sudden death OT. Jesuit won the toss, and elected to receive. Bayou kicked high and chased. Lobrano gathered the kick, and worked his way through the onrushing Bayou players. Then  Ellis attacked the Bayou line, drew som attention, and passed off to Palmer, who took off for about 50 meters. Just like that it seemed Jesuit would score the winning try.. But he was dragged down just short. Jesuit's support was there and for the next eight minutes battled inside the Hurricanes' 22.

Several hard runs almost ended the game, including a lineout middle peel by reserve flanker Gabe Wax, who was stopped just shy of the tryline. Jesuit’s big men Peyton Cox and Nick Gauthe each had bruising runs, that were only just barely stopped by Bayou. A not releasing against Jesuit gave Bayou a chance to clear, but that kick for touch only found a few meters. Jesuit defended the lineout, and 6-5 sophomore Langston Goldenberg out-jumped the Hurricanes forwards to steal the ball. 

Several phases later saw Bayou concede a penalty, and the Blue Jays elected to kick for points. Gab calmly stepped up to the kicking tee. It wasn't the prettiest kick in the world, a little low and a little to the left, but it was high enough and just inside the left upright, and good for three points. Jesuit had won 25-22.

Gab's kick makes it over. Gab and Webb congratulate each other post-game. Paul Beckmann photos.
Louisiana State HS Rugby Final 2017. Jesuit Blue Jays v Bayou Hurricanes. Paul Beckmann photo. Louisiana State HS Rugby Final 2017. Jesuit Blue Jays v Bayou Hurricanes. Paul Beckmann photo.

Jesuit Head Coach Adam Massey praised the Bayou Hurricanes for their brand of smash-mouth, “tackle me if you can” rugby. “The Hurricanes are impossible to stop. They will score against you. And their physicality makes it tough to return the favor. They beat other teams by an average of 70 points all season. Despite this, our boys believed in themselves, and simply played with a steady, calm, confidence—sangfroid, in a word—throughout the match. Their trust in our systems and game plan paid off.”

"The Match was well contested with the Hurricanes coming up a little bit short with fitness being the ultimate downfall," said Bayou Head Coach Conrad Breit. "While the Hurricanes will graduate 12 seniors they will have a good core to build around and will look to be back and redeem themselves in the championship again next year."

Jack Gab was awarded the championship’s most valuable player. He personally accounted for 15 of Jesuit’s points. Josh Cashio, Jesuit’s halfback, was awarded MVP runner up. Kieran Webb was honored as Bayou's top player.