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Monkey Removed From Back as Eagan Takes Minnesota

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Monkey Removed From Back as Eagan Takes Minnesota

Eagan boys wait for their medals.

Eagan HS defeated Albert Lea 34-17 Saturday to take the Minnesota Youth Rugby Boys HS title, going 7-1 on the season.

Minnetonka defeated Becker 50-3 to take 3rd.

Eagan started the final off on the front foot, with flyhalf Callum Jones zipping in for two tries. It was fitting that Jones was the scorer as the Eagan #10 has been excellent for his side all season. The first came from a series of phases and half-breaks, capped off when Jones was driven over from close range. The flyhalf converted to make it 7-0.

The second came from a kick out of Eagan territory that took a couple of funny bounces. Jones swooped in and gathered the ball and was in at the corner. He converted that one, too. Albert Lea put pressure on and burned Eagan on the edge. No. 8 Kellen Stewart the powered over from a lineout to extend Eagan's lead, making it 19-5.

Albert Lea responded, pounding down the middle with their forwards and then capping it off with a quick snipe around the ruck. That made it 19-12 going into the break with Albert Lea pressing. Eagan loosehead prop Thomas Lavin caused a key turnover just on the stroke of halftime to preserve Eagan's seven-point lead.

Albert Lea's freewheeling attacking style certainly caused problems for the Eagan defense as they were liable to break one open at any time.

So Eagan responded with a strategy of sitting back and playing sound defense, forcing Albert Lea to run through multiple phases to get down the field.

"They are excellent at capitalizing on your mistakes so we worked very hard at limiting our penalties in practice so we weren't gifting them field position and scoring opportunities," said Eagan Coach Terrence Bro. "We have a very large pack and played our one-gap zone defense as they love to run those gaps on the breakdown and I thought we did an effective job on that with only a few lapses in coverage."

Eagan worked an extra pass into their forward pods to attack Albert Lea away from the breakdown and force their forwards to move. It worked nicely, Eagan held a one-try lead at 24-17 going into the latter part of the game. Then Jones worked a loop play with captain Carter Smith and raced around and through the Albert Lea defense for the game-sealing try.

"Eagan has had some great teams over the last several seasons but we have had difficulty finishing when we get to the Championship," said Bro. "Our Head Coach Teli Veamatahau has done a fantastic job building our system and instilling a quiet confidence in these boys that finally came together and resulted in our club's first State Championship victory. A lot of  credit goes to our Director Eric Curtin who has tirelessly worked to create a successful and sustainable Middle School, Girls, and Boys program that put us in this position to compete for state titles, with our Assistant Coaches and Boosters organization sharing in that vision."

Eagan had been thinking state championship in 2020 but the COVID shutdowns halted that dream. This championship was additionally important, then, in terms of winning for the 2020 group that never got the chance.