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Thoughts and Notes from HS Nationals

HS Boys

Thoughts and Notes from HS Nationals

Dan Bandoni photo.

Some things I learned and saw at th Boys HS Rugby Nationals.

Jesuit was really as good as everyone said

Everyone who talked to me through the season said Jesuit was the real deal. The Marauders beat a long list of really strong teams, and beat most of them by large margins. Sometimes big wins are because the opposition is tired, or hurt, or holding something back, or something. But in this case, we got the feeling that everyone was throwing their best at Jesuit ... and Jesuit was winning.

Then comes nationals, and Jesuit is hit with a virus that was running through the Sacramento schools. Players were dropping off their Varsity and 2nd side. The coaches moved some players up from the 2nd side to help the 1st side, and Jesuit II bore the brunt of the changes, losing Friday and Saturday after winning their opener in Tier II. But somehow, th Jesuit Varsity team persevered, and put in a truly gutsy performance to win it all.


Safety 1st

We heard several minor complaints about the refs - mostly disagreement with a call here and there. But overall, the referee team at HS Nationals did a great job under difficult circumstances, and worked hard all week. And as far as safety went, they could hardly have done better. It was clear early on that the refs would be strict with high tackles, and they were. Tackles where one hand was near the next or on top of the shoulder were penalized. And they did it every game, without concern about the score, or how much time was left in the game. It was really nice to see.


Close Games?

You can't have all of the games close, especially when the #1 seed plays the #8 seed. But overall we've got to give the BHSRNC tournament points for competitiveness. Of the 36 games played, 12 were decided by less than a try, and 19 were decided by less than two tries. There were a few big blowouts, most involving the late replacement teams, who did their best.

The finals were all close - overtime, two-points, and eight points.

The average semifinal score was 18-11.


Skill Level

With my coverage on the FloRugby.com live streams, I worked with a number of people who don't normally cover high school rugby. They were hugely impressed. The skills level, the understanding of the laws, and the tackling technique were, several said, better than most colleges and many clubs. These kids are inexperienced, but they practice intensely, and they practice a lot. It shows.


One More Note About Aquinas

I wrote something on St. Thomas Aquinas winning Tier II and how they did it through three super-close games. See Here.  But one thing I didn't mention but was worth noting was that Aquinas beat three teams that ended up 2-1. Meaning that the only games Charlotte Catholic, Brownsburg, and South Bay lost was to Aquinas. That doesn't happen too often, and certainly shows how tough their draw was.


Staying Power

The Boys HS Rugby National Championships lives on, sanctioned officially by USA Rugby or not, because teams want to play at the highest level. I think it's important. I think it's enormously important. It helps groom these young people for life after high school. It helps educate players and coaches about what it takes to prepare and win against the best. There's a reason we see the same teams get to the top every year - they understand what it takes. 

So while there are some regions that don't send teams to Nationals, I think it's something you have to try to do. They would love to see Texas, Minnesota, and Pacific Northwest teams involved. I think leagues benefit from one of their members being exposed to this level. 


So That Makes Us Say

Doylestown and Fort Hunt are for real. It takes a LOT to challenge at the highest level. Fort Hunt came from not-quite-nowhere to almost win the national championship. Now they need that staying power. Granite Bay managed it. Now Fort Hunt needs to.



Some links:

Royal Irish Wins HS Club

Jesuit Wins Single-School

A Look at St. Thomas Aquinas Winning Tier II  

Aquinas Players Talk Winning Tier II (Video)

Royal Irish Players Talk Winning HS Club (Video)

Jesuit's Carlos Ramirez on Jesuit's Big Win (Video)