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Power Second Half Sees Aspetuck Past Xavier

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Power Second Half Sees Aspetuck Past Xavier

Aspetuck goes up for the lineout. Alex Goff photo.

In something of a momentous clash of highly-regarded high school teams, Aspetuck rode a dominant second half to come back and defeat Xavier High School 41-17 Saturday in West Haven, Conn.

This was Xavier's first game back from the COVID shutdown and they were up for it, but were perhaps not as polished as they hope to be, and certainly didn't have as much game experience as Asptuck. 

The game started with Xavier on the front foot and their quick ball and speed to the breakdown quickly had Aspetuck under pressure. After a scrum in Aspetuck territory the Connecticut team infringed, and with the penalty advantage Xavier executed a sublime chip kick to the corner where Jack Burcker raced in to catch and score. The kick from Mike Strehle was good and Xavier led 7-0.

Back came Xavier, once again off the scrum. Good hands out to wing Nick Bruno made short work of a slow-moving Aspetuck D and suddenly it was 12-0.

But there was plenty more rugby to be played and Aspetuck started to use their power and size to knock Xavier off balance. A kick to touch after a penalty didn't find touch but what Xavier needed to do was kick the ball deep and chase. They didn't have time as the Aspetuck chasers alertly swarmed in, prop Matt Weiner snatched the ball away and was in at the corner to make it 12-5. Aspetuck kept up the pressure, and while they lost the ball when opting for the lineout over an easy three points, eventually they got another penalty in Xavier territory, took the lineout, and mauled in off a short throw to make it 12-10.

We were in a ballgame now. Xavier responded well, finally getting the ball back and working through the hands to the left and then to right and then to the left again before sending Jerry Lanning took an offload off the deck to score. It was pretty stuff and a crucial score right before halftime.

But the momentum shift didn't last through the break. Determined to keep Aspetuck's big runners in check and then exploit them out wide, Xavier became too impatient. They were guilty of several high tackles (not dangerous but high) as they struggled to bring down Weiner and his cohorts; they were also in trouble for not releasing the tackled player. This led to a difficult second half for the New Yorkers.

Aspetuck applied pressure from the get-go, got a penalty, took the lineout, mauled, and then sent Ryan Perriera over after an impressive movement. Xavier then took a yellow card for repeated infringements and that opened the floodgates. More pressure led to another penalty and this one was tapped quickly by Joel Venables who stayed low and stretched over.  

Right after that, flyhalf Pearson Hill fended off a couple of tacklers, made a couple of brilliant sidesteps, and was gone for 60 meters. Suddenly Aspetuck was up 29-17, and they weren't done yet.

Another tap penalty produced another try. This one was almost comical in its power as Weiner was delayed a significant amount of time because the referee needed the kick taken from the mark. No matter. Everyone knew that Weiner was going to charge ahead. He did, protected the ball, absorbed three hits, and was over anyway.

Quick ball to Mike Monaco finished it off.

Xavier 17
Tries: Brucker, Bruno, Lanning
Convs: Strehle

Aspetuck 41
Tries: Weiner 3, P. Hill, Perriera, Venables, Monaco
Convs: Mange 3