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Penn HS Beats Royal Irish

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Penn HS Beats Royal Irish

Jonny Ho supported by Brendan Toombs attack the Irish line. Heather Gollatz Dukeman photo.

Penn HS defeated top-ranked HS club Royal Irish 22-19 Saturday in a Rugby Indiana Boys Super League match.

Played in heavy wind, the game hinged somewhat on how the wind was used. Royal Irish won the toss and opted to play with the wind in the second half. By that time they were behind 15-5.

Penn flyhalf Cian Messner opened up the scoring with a penalty goal in the 4th minute. Royal Irish replied with a try, but at 20 minutes Penn pressure eventually produced a try by Alex Kennach, and then Trenton Horvath scored to make it 13-5. Messner converted for a 15-5 lead that held until halftime.

Royal Irish scored two tries early in the second half, and erased that deficit in short order. Down 19-15, Penn mounted an attack that capped off with flanker Kalet Ponce de Leon going over. Twelve minutes remained but Penn held on 22-19.

“We’ve been working hard and put in a lot of work this week,” said Penn head coach Bart Bottorff. “We’ve been progressively getting better but even today I don’t think we played our best game.”

Messner was strong in directing the attack, and Pone de Leon scored the winner but was more impressive as a defender—his tackles didn’t rock people backward, but he got everyone down.

“His work rate was fantastic,” added Bottorff. 

Overall, however, Bottorff said that it was a team approach that produced this victory. The Penn team is playing more cohesively and they are making better decisions as a result.

“They’ve been spending time together outside of rugby and it’s paying off,” said Bottorff. “But as happy as we are, we are not satisfied. We have so much more to give.”

For Royal Irish, it was a meaningful loss. Head Coach Scott Peterson said Penn was very physical on both sides of the ball and used their big ballcarriers wisely, setting up space for the faster guys out wide. It didn't help for Royal Irish that their starting flyhalf left the game injured after just five minutes.

"We played hard but were in a tough spot," sais Peterson. "I thought we fought back well in the second half and got the lead, but we couldn't close it out."