Top-ranked Greenwich crushes Staples rugby in state semis
Updated 11:08 am, Thursday, May 23, 2013
The Greenwich High rugby team returned home determined to put its defeat in the final round of nationals behind it.
Continuing its status as the best team in the Connecticut is a good start.
Joe Kelly scored three tries and Alex McMurray added two as the Cardinals throttled visiting Staples 76-14 to advance to the Connecticut Division I state final. Greenwich will meet Fairfield Prep in the final at a time and date to be determined. The Cardinals defeated the Jesuits 46-14 during the regular season.
"We were worried because when you play three games in three consecutive days it will wear you out," Cardinals coach Joe Kelly said. "I was concerned about some of them not being ready to go, but they were. They did a great job."
The Cardinals (10-3) recently visited Indiana for the national tournament, defeating a pair of nationally ranked teams from the Hoosier State to reach the Tier II final. The Cardinals, however, fell to Brother Rice (Illinois) on Saturday 25-17 to collect runner-up medals.
"(Brother Rice) was a club team, so I think they were more used to the three games in a row format than we were," Kelly said. "Even so it was a very close game, all of the bounces went against us and we were still in it at the end. Five more minutes and we would have won."
Greenwich took 15 minutes to find its groove Monday despite scoring 1:46 into the contest thanks to Scott Atkinson. Staples weathered the early storm and tied the match seven minutes later before McMurray put the Cardinals up for good with 23 minutes left in the first half.
Nine different players scored tries for the Cardinals, who outscored the visitors 38-7 in each half. As a result of the grueling tour, Greenwich fielded a blend of starters and reserve players with one eye on the Jesuits next week. The Division I competition is in its second season.
"We have to regroup, all of the starters will be back in for that one," Kelly said. "Hopefully we play as well as we did in nationals and I anticipate we will."
Burim Trdeva and Will Newman scored tries for Staples, which will face Fairfield Sunday in the third-place game. Wreckers coach Oscar Barahona was pleased with the effort of his undermanned squad.
"Considering we were down six starters and three captains I thought we did well," Barahona said. "I thought we did well. The boys stepped up; we had guys out there that hadn't played A's all season. I was proud of them."
Staples sits at 3-4 after not winning a match in 2012. Although the Wreckers struggled to keep up with one of the best squads in the country, they are quickly rising up the state ranks.
"We went from being 0-8 to being No. 3 or 4 in the state," Barahona said. "The boys put in a lot of hard work in the offseason and it's starting to pay off. Coming that far is pretty good if you ask me."
Ryan Lacey is a freelance writer