Tacoma Wins Washington - Plus JV Thriller
Tacoma Wins Washington - Plus JV Thriller
The Tacoma Tsunamis opened up their Rugby Washington season with a somewhat humbling loss to Chuckanut, but finished it this past weekend with a convincing 41-18 defeat of Liberty to win the 2017 Rugby Washington Boys DI HS championship.
This was the fourth straight different Rugby Washington champion, as the league continues to be one of the most competitive in the nation. Moving up from DII, where they won the 2016 state title, Tacoma was humbled early on by Chuckanut.
"It taught us a lesson," said Head Coach Dakota Quill. "It taught us a lesson about what it takes to compete in DI."
Quill brought in some additional coaches to share their experience, and that staff began to instill a more structured approach within the Tsunamis team.
"We showed them how to play structured rugby, and we got the senior players more involved in the leadership of the team," said Quill. "The players took over the team talks, and they took ownership of th team as a result."
The Tacoma team pulls heavily from the southern part of the county, which is heavily Polynesian. The players and their families love rugby, and with Quill teaching in a local middle school, they have a connection, as well. The players love to use an offload game, and it was the work of the season for the coaches to get the players to make better decisions about when to offload, and when not to.
"You can get hurt if you force the pass at the wrong time," said Quill. "The players learned that keeping the ball was the key to our success, and sometimes that means keeping the ball, setting a ruck, and building the phases."
That's how it all worked out against Liberty. The Patriots struggled to control possession, and th Tsunamis kept it.
Leading the way was senior tighthead prop Xavier Tapasa. The captain and a former flanker, Tapasa was everywhere, making tackles, winning ball in the rucks, and making sure the team bought into the more structured approach. Lock Leitumalo Hunkin had, what Quill called, "a beast of a game." On a hot day that would have wilted other big men, Hunkin was a powerhouse, while Adrian Pea was a strong tackler. Scottland Vise continued his scoring touch, while sophomore scrumhalf Luvander Taatiti kept the entire thing moving with consistent and accurate passing, and a devastating sidestep. James Kuahiwinui made some big plays.
Leading up yo the big game, the team had a dinner, and one of the coaches' friends came in to discuss the haka. The Tacoma team presents a haka before the game, and they got a talk on what the haka means to the Maori people, and why it should be meaningful to the players. It was a unifying moment, said Quill, and it was fitting that after the Tsunamis won, they presented the haka one more time, to thank their parents and fans.
Meanwhile, the JV final saw Eastide and the Rainier Highlanders meet for the 3rd consecutive yar. The game started with Eastside predominantly maintaining possession inside Rainier's half of the pitch, executing what was clearly a defined and structured coaching strategy. An early error by Eastside led to a score by Rainier's right wing Dayjon Brooks. Eastside replied with a penalty kick and a well-worked team try, ultimately carried over by Waisale Serevi, Jr. to close out the first half at 10-7 in favor of Eastside. Capitalizing early in the second half, Serevi went in for a second try of the day. Following this, Eastside scrumhalf and captain Karl Keane went over for another try after a perfect restart and kick chase saw Ethan Fryer force a turnover. Tiai Vavao took the ball and offloaded perfectly to the supporting Keane, who ran in from 20 meters.
Eastside then slotted over another penalty. The Highlanders however, were not out of it. They answered back with two late tries of their own making for a thrilling final few minutes. In the end Eastside's structured play and controlled defense won the day 27-24, closing out an undefeated season.
The Eastside Development (7th/ 8th grade) squad also came out on top against a valiant Budd Bay side.