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Rivalry Night Heats Up Cold Ohio Night

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Rivalry Night Heats Up Cold Ohio Night

It's a St. Ignatius put-in. Photo Alex Goff.

In one of the most intense high school rugby rivalries in the nation, #7 St. Ignatius defeated #9 St. Edward in an all-Cleveland-area clash Wednesday night at the St. Ed's field in Lakewood, Ohio.

The two schools are massive rivals in any sport you can name, and are located just a few minutes from each other on the western side of Cleveland. Wednesday night they renewed their acquaintanceship with a hard-hitting affair in raw, cold weather. 

The big question circulating around the game was whether St. Ignatius captain and loose forward Marty Lenehan would play. Lenehan was red-carded on Saturday in a weird win over Moeller in which eight cards were doled out. Lenehan's red was for a challenge for a high ball that prompted his coaches to insist he had jumped to catch (and actually succeeded in catching). Whether it should have been a penalty or a yellow or a red was up to such debate that Lenehan was cleared to play pending an appeal.

It was a massive decision as Lenehan was superb, roaming the field making bone-rattling tackles, stealing lineout ball, and scoring three tries in the first half. The first came after St. Edward had cleared their lines. Some elusive running got Ignatius back on the front foot, and with a penalty advantage, Lenehan decided to box kick off the back of the ruck and chase. The ball sailed to the back of in-goal, bounced straight up, and Lenehan was there to grab it and touch it down as he landed. Bobby Voth converted and it was 7-0 Wildcats.

"I look up thinking the 15 wouldn't be back and I saw an opportunity to chip it over ... and it took a good bounce right back to me," Lenehan said later. 

After that St. Edward put some pressure on Ignatius and spent a long period in the Ignatius end. They came very closer to scoring, but the cold air made for cold hands and some ill-timed knock-ons, plus some issues in the scrum, made finishing it off tough for the Eagles. Then a grubber through was fielded by fullback Jack Patton for Ignatius, and he sidestepped his way out of trouble, and cut upfield. Soon the ball was spun out to wing Isaac Gingerich, who showed some pace and elusiveness, and Ignatius was on the attack again.

"The grubber came in pretty hot and it bounced up right where I wanted it and I was able to use my feet, fake a kick, and help out my team," said Gingerich.

Lenehan also got his team out of trouble as well, working a nice lineout take and maul, and then breaking out of that maul to race down the sideline. St. Ed's needed to make those times in the opposing 22 count, and they didn't.

Lenehan then raced down the sideline to score, and later alertly took a quick tap to power in at the corner—Lenehan's body position and ability once again to touch the ball down just inside the line were top-drawer. Voth slotted one conversion and it was 19-0.

In the second half, Ignatius had the increasing wind at their backs and used it well. Voth played a smart game and he and Gingerich both kicked well and intelligently for field position. Putting the pressure on the Wildcats put lock forward John Reddy and it was 24-0.

St. Ed's didn't wilt, and in fact fixed some of their ball-handling issues to start top pressure Ignatius. Meanwhile, Ignatius grew a little impatient on defense, trying to take the ball back to get more tries, and eventually got into penalty trouble. The forwards worked hard at the goal line and got Ian Fairfield and then AJ Pataky over for St. Edward, making it 24-12. There was time for the Eagles to finish the comeback, but some excellent kicking from the hand from Ignatius, and a couple of key scrums, helps run the game out. St. Ignatius 24, St. Edward 12.

"We have to take those opportunities in the green zone," said St. Edward Head Coach Andrew Martin. "St. Ignatius played a very good game and they used the wind well. Bobby Voth was great for them. But we had some chances and didn't take them. Still, our guys fought back and with five minutes to go it's 24-12 and we were in with a shot."

"We feel we left tries on the table," added Ignatius Head Coach Dan Arbeznik. "It was a good win but we also had those penalties late."