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Simple Things Lead to EIRA SoCal Win

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Simple Things Lead to EIRA SoCal Win

The EIRA SoCal Players before the RMC last week.

One of the common issues in rugby across almost any level of play is the idea that an opposing (and usually winning) team had an unfair advantage.

This could be that the players are from overseas (but legally in the US) or the players use some weird tactic. For the winners of the Rocky Mountain Challenge Boys Varsity Bracket, the grumblings were more about the EIRA SoCal team somehow being some special all-star team.

Well, here’s the breaking story, everyone in Aurora, Colo. was a special all-star team. Any team in that tournament could draw any players they wanted to (and did - Arkansas had a couple of players from Oklahoma - completely fair and above board; 5785 drew players from Colorado Springs and Boulder, but had no limitations on who could play for them).

Was EIRA SoCal different because they had some outstanding talent? No. Everyone boasted outstanding talent. What EIRA SoCal had was some players many had heard of because they were either featured on Goff Rugby Report (Patrick Madden, Justin Johnson), or had been on previous HS All American or EIRA touring sides. Well that’s just logic - good players liked the system that developed them and came back.

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And that’s where we really come to the crux of it all - the system. We’ve already outlined how one week of intense preparation helped South Carolina play well at the South RCT. And we’ve spelled out how scouting over a long period and familiarity with the players helped the Indy Speed.

So here’s a combination of those approaches. Players who are involved with Eagle Impact Rugby Academy (a Goff Rugby Report sponsor), train on a regular basis. They get together once a week or every two weeks or once a month, and work on skills as a group. That’s all.

But familiarity breeds unity of purpose, and working on skills is something everyone should be doing, right?

“We weren’t doing anything special,” said EIRA SoCal Head Coach Jeff Bonnett. “Our backline run four plays, an inside option and an outside option. We weren’t flashy. We just ran the pattern consistently, and the rest took care of itself. I feel that if you put too much on them they can disintegrate. But what we did do was we built on our skills. You’ve got to be able to tackle right and support. You’ve got to be able to catch and pass, and pass left and pass right. And you’ve got to practice those things all the time.”

Bonnett’s JV team did well, losing in the final to an excellent Indy Speed team, and Bonnett told them to observe the Varsity team and said - there’s nothing they do that you don’t do. You’re learning the same things. It’s just that they do it with 120% confidence, and you’re doing it with 70% at the moment. You’ll get there.

The EIRA SoCal Varsity team, in the end, was special. They defeated Oklahoma 71-3, Wisconsin 40-5, Colorado 36-0, and Utah in the final 29-0. In four games against really, really tough select sides they allowed one try.

The JVs were also as good, going 3-1 and allowing just two tries in their three wins.

“We set the bar pretty high,” said Bonnett. “They put the expectations on themselves. We thought the offense would be there. But perhaps a bit of a surprise was the defense. That was pretty impressive.”

They showed skills, which were coached to make them better, and a lot of tenacity and heart, which can’t be coached. That’s why EIRA SoCal won. Simple as that.


Leading the way was Mira Costa lock/loose forward Justin Johnson, who was just unstoppable, roaming the field and leading by example. For anyone who followed Mira Costa, that news is no surprise at all. Prop Owen Duvall had a very good weekend, also. And EIRA SoCal’s backline, with Anton Grigoriou, Sean Lumkong, Ryan James, and Patrick Madden, was special.


EIRA SoCal Varsity Roster


Owen Duvall

Jeremy Ockomichalak

Benny Gonda

Max Walding



Wes Anderson

Oscar Ocko-Michalak

Nicholas Zimmer



Blake Richards-Smith

Beau Falco

Devin Short

Jeremiah Bates


Back Row

Sosefo Mailangi-Ray

Brandon Cole

Justin Johnson

Christopher Noggle

Chris Napoli



James Downey

Katin Pesarillo



 Anton Grigoriou

 Justin Petersen



Sean Lumkong

Quinn Perry

Clive Manuao



Ryan James

Taylor Damron

Hirad Zamani



Patrick Madden