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A Ruggerfest Roundup

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A Ruggerfest Roundup

Oceanside vs South Meck. Alex Goff photo.

Teams from all over flooded Charlotte, NC for the Carolina Ruggerfest as a warmup event but also a cap to the winter season.

Teams such as Oceanside from South Carolina, and South Meck from North Carolina, used the tournament as a way to finish up their winter single-school season. Other North Carolina clubs or cold-weather clubs used it as a warmup.

And it was warm, so there's that.

Boys Teams

Oceanside and South Meck boys capped off their season after their single-school playoffs—Oceanside won South Carolina and South Meck made the North Carolina semis. They played well and showed a good structure and understanding of the game. South Meck was in the game in each contest but ended up 1-2, while Oceanside went 2-1. They met in the early portion of Day One and it was Oceanside's quick line speed on defense that stymied South Meck's wide attack that led to a 17-7 Oceanside win.

With Tucker Swisher running the show and Peyton Hayes finding gaps Oceanside was impressive.

Vienna beat Oceanside, South Meck, and Clayton in three games in which they showcased a very patient defense that was quite content to tackle and tackle even deep in their own 22. Why? partly because players like Charlie Taylor patrolled the edge very well and know how to defend the wing, and partly because the forwards worked very well together. Hooker David Kendig was exceptional for Vienna, bringing a work rate, leadership, and toughness that was contagious.

But all of this led to Vienna's quick-strike ability. With flyhalf and captain Camden Erickson smart enough to use his talented backs, Vienna runners such as Andrew Evan punished turnovers ruthlessly and repeatedly scored from long range. You started watching them thinking they got lucky, and then realized it wasn't luck. 

Charlotte Tigers showed up with several of their expected started playing with Oceanside or South Meck for that one last hurrah. Despite this, the Tigers went 2-1 in their Varsity bracket, and their B side went 3-0 (albeit against opposition they were still favored to beat). This showed that the Tigers' depth is back, and they played a smart, entertaining brand of rugby. They did have to battle it against Four Points (who were very competitive in a 1-2 weekend) but that's the whole idea. In the end, playing under some duress, the Tigers laid down a marker.

Alpharetta Phoenix went 3-0. Led by Sederik Saxon, who is a monster of a human being (on the field, off the field he's a pussycat), they have a solid game plan throughout. Saxon, who moved with his family from Charlotte to the Atlanta area, said he was eager to join the club and not stride in like he knew everything. It's clear in how Phoenix plays, as they are a team and showed it beating Raleigh Rattlesnakes, Southern Pines, and the St. Edward Green team.

Oh, and St. Edward. The Cleveland-based school team had struggled with depth last year, but made the trip south with about 70 players on three teams. It was a bit of a trial by fire for the youngest team, as they lost all thee games, but they are very young and learned plenty. Their Green team, which is essentially their JVs, beat Raleigh and Southern Pines, and their loss to Alpharetta Phoenix was only 28-10.

But the St. Edward Gold side was quite impressive. While they are taking their time to really unleash their backs, their forwards were on point. Luke Stuart was a power in the second row and Jayden Williams led from the front and St. Edward were the most disciplined and exact team going through the phases. They have open-field talent and fullback Seamus Kennedy scored tries and was a good finisher, while flyhalf Conor McGuirk's kicking, both for territory and as a way to put chasers through for tries, as outstanding. 

Girls Teams

Teams from Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Indiana, Georgia, Maryland, and South Carolina joined those from North Carolina in a really robust competition. The news here is more about the whole tournament. There were more teams, more players per team, and a great number of experienced players per team than last year. It's no secret that girls rugby rebounded from COVID more slowly than did boys rugby. 

But this tournament is an indication of what we've been hearing generally—girls are getting back into rugby and it's noticeable simply by seeing how many players are on the sidelines when their team is playing. All of these games were 15s, in contrast to how many girls leagues had devolved into 7s. All of this is massively good news.

Who was good? The Badger Academy out of Wisconsin thumped their opposition (Charlotte Tigers, Warsaw, West Carroll) to go 3-0 and did so with perhaps the best group of forwards in the competition. 

Oceanside, despite being a team with very little experience, went 2-1. Highland out of Ohio was quick to the ball, aggressive, and know how to exploit space. But really they rode the defensive horse through their three games, beating St. Joseph's B, Oceanside, and Southern Pines by an average score of 53-2.

St. Joseph's A, another Ohio side, is looking classy and while they don't have a ton of size, used fitness and team play to beat Lady Rebels, Moon Area, and a solid Hough team (they were 2-1) to also win their bracket.

Full scores are here:


The Stats

86 Teams, representing 38 clubs, from 13 different states:

24 - Boys HS Varsity
18 - Girls HS
12 - Boys HS JV
12 - Boys 14U
14 - Coed 12U
6 - Coed 10U

Numer of athletes: 1,800.