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Rugby Maryland Beats Welsh Tourists

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Rugby Maryland Beats Welsh Tourists

In sweltering triple-digit temperatures, Rugby Maryland welcomed Bryntirion Comprehensive from Bridgend, Wales as part of the Welsh school's USA tour.

The game was scheduled to take place after a Maryland Exiles Youth Rugby practice. Both teams warmed up surrounded by several different Exiles age grade teams that were practicing.  One of the game highlights took place The Rugby Maryland side entered the field through a tunnel of Maryland Exiles U11, U9, and U7 players, most of whom stayed to watch the big boys play.

Bryntirion Comprehensive opened the game with structured play, and punished their opponents over and over for their naive play and mistakes.  Seven successive penalties planted the Welsh team on the Rugby Maryland goal line, pounding away with their forwards in phase after phase.  Only outstanding defense by a determined Rugby Maryland kept the Welsh from scoring.

After Rugby Maryland turned Bryntirion Comprehensive back, the local team started taking quick penalties and running massive second rows Owen "Big Red" Caverly (6'7" 325 lbs) and Kevin "Bird Killer" Durbin (6'8" 285 lbs) at the Welsh team.  Senior No. 8 Dawson MacKay was able to take an inside angle run following a ruck and touch down.  The difficult conversion from the touchline was good and Maryland had a 7-0 lead.

From the kickoff Bryntirion Comprehensive was back at it again, punishing the Exiles with tough angled runs.  It didn't help the Maryland squad that they lost Junior Flanker JD Desroaches to a yellow card for a high tackle.  The Welsh team were able to convert the penalty into points, and the score was a tight 7-3 with Rugby Maryland playing a man down.

Despite their disadvantage, Rugby Maryland were able to create the most beautiful play of the game on the following kick off.  Senior Flanker Boris Ngouabe raced downfield, leaped in the air, and caught the ball in midair at full stride.  Quick ball was sent to Junior Hooker and Team Captain Tristan McAlistar who engaged several opposition players before laying back quick ball.  The pass went to Sophomore Flyhalf Noah Lucas who dummied the opposition and weaved his way through the defense for the second try of the day.  The conversion kick was on the mark, and Rugby Maryland had a 14-3 lead.

Back came the touring Welsh team, as Bryntirion Comprehensive used their skills at the breakdown to frustrate the home team and create scoring opportunities.  When Rugby Maryland were penalized for holding on, nobody thought that the kicker would be able to nail a penalty kick left of the posts and from over 40 meters out.  However the kick sailed straight through the posts and the score narrowed to 14-6.

Rugby Maryland continued their pressure and the weather conditions and jet lag began to weigh on Brytirion Comprehensive's.  Rugby Maryland used their bigger forward pack to run the ball in the middle of the field.  After several phases, Maryland was able to send Junior Flanker Andrew Engel through the opposition defense for the try.  The conversion kick was good again, and Rugby Maryland had a 21-6 lead going into halftime.

Returning from halftime, the local team from Maryland turned up the tempo and physicality.  Five minutes into the half, Senior Wing Elijah Bruce was able to begin a counter attack, as he neared the right touchline the speedster stepped the defense and offloaded to Sophomore Fullback Joseph Zarrelli in full stride for a try at the corner.  The conversion kick from the touchline was too difficult and the score widened to 26-6.

Rugby Maryland's next opportunity came outstanding defense.  Bryntirion Comprehensive worked the ball methodically to a few yards of the Rugby Maryland goal line.  Using misdirection and Maryland penalties, the Welsh team searched for a way through the defense.  A turnover however, allowed Junior Scrumhalf Ben Carroll was able to pass quick ball to Tristan McAlistar.  The 5'8" 205 lb Hooker with surprising speed zig-zagged his way 80 meters to the tryzone.  The conversion kick was wide right.  Score 31-6.

Off the ensuing kickoff, Bryntirion Comprehensive was again working the ball through the phases and taking advantage of Rugby Maryland's mistakes.  It was at this moment that Rugby Maryland was disciplined when Junior Center Quinn Freeman's was sent to the sidelines with a yellow card.  The Bryntirion Comprehensive kicker made another unbelievable penalty kick to make the score 31-9

With their opposition playing a man down, the Welsh tourists were successful in moving the ball closer and closer to the Rugby Maryland try line.  It was at this moment that a chipped ball was collected by the Joseph Zarrelli.  The Fullback dodged a defender and then took off from the goal line.  As the cover defense approached near midfield, Zarrelli took an inside line.  As he was tackled, he was able to offload to Dawson MacKay, who gathered the ball at full pace and scored his second try of the game.  The conversion kick was good leaving the score 38-9.

Minutes later, Rugby Maryland were pressing again, mixing forwards and backs with over/under line attacks.  Sophomore Eight and USA U17 HSAA Selection Charles Martel initiated the next score from the base of a scrum.  Martel picked the ball and stepped the cover defense.  Junior Scrumhalf Aiden Howe was able to gather Martel's offload and finish the movement.  The conversion kick was wide leaving the final score: Rugby Maryland 43 - Bryntirion Comprehensive 9.

Junior center Tommy Baldwin priased Bryntirion: "We were running great angles and hitting open gaps, but they would close them right away and the opportunity was gone."

"We'd get something going, and then they would get their hands on the ball or they'd force us to go off our feet - and, bang, we would be going the wrong way," added prop Chris Morris.

Coach Dan Soso was pleased and thankful for his team performance.  "It really all comes down to good kids, and we had great participation from programs like the West Carroll, Roosters, Landon School, Georgetown Prep, Anne Arundel County, Mount Saint Joseph's, North Bay and the Maryland Exiles.  You also have to have great support from the community like Aegis Engineering Consultants and Cuisine Solutions allowed us to provide these opportunities for the kids. What a great experience for them to play against an outstanding rugby school from Wales like Bryntirion Comprehensive."

Coach Mark Cohen was impressed with the skill level of the the Bryntirion Comprehensive team. "I know that the score flattered us, but they really frustrated us on offense with their layered attack and on defense with their ability to jackal the ball.  They are outstanding ambassadors of their school, their country and Welsh Rugby in general. We appreciate them coming here to play us."

Both teams got together for pictures, food and conversation after the game.  It was a great surprise to the Maryland players, that the none of the Welsh players had ever had Chipotle before.  Brytirion Comprehensive will tour the sights of Washington, DC, and participate in a soccer tournament on Saturday as they continue their tour of the United States.