Fifth-Ranked Aspetuck Rugby In National Tournament
The Aspetuck Rugby club was slated to travel to Kansas City to take part in the High School Boys’ National Rugby Tournament, held over three days, beginning June 16.
Aspetuck Rugby is winding down its 2021 season and is ranked fifth among its peers in the nation. Aspetuck chose to take on the hardest schedule it could, reaching out to any high-level ranked team to fill its calendar over the last four months. The team set out to prove it deserved a place in top-tier national competition.
The season started with a game against Berks County in early March at the Aspetuck field in Newtown. Berks, which is a top 20 ranked team out of Pennsylvania, came for what was the first game of the year for any Northeast high school team. The cold, sometimes snowy weather made for a messy game. Aspetuck after a tight first half, came out and dominated the second half for a 34-11 win.
Two weeks later in March, Aspetuck traveled to Pennsylvania to meet Berks again in its home field opener — a mini tournament with Berks and another ranked team from Pennsylvania, West Shore Rugby. Aspetuck played West Shore first, in a shortened 22-minute half game on the cold, rainy morning, prevailing 19-5, then proceeded to shut out Berks 45-0 in the wet, muddy final matchup, also a shortened tournament game.
Next, Aspetuck took on the team from Westport’s Staples High School, in the first weekend in April. After agreeing to some coronavirus rules that limited the forwards’ game a bit in mauls and scrums, Aspetuck settled into a battle against a hard-hitting Staples team. Aspetuck defeated Staples 29-7 in a good test for the Aspetuck forwards. It was a big game in the Connecticut high school rugby world, and for what seemed to be a battle for the best team in the state, since Staples went on to beat Greenwich, which chose not to play Aspetuck this year.
Over the next two months, Aspetuck traveled to North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Indiana to play three teams ranked in the top five of high school rugby nationally. In the first game, Aspetuck faced the top-ranked high school club team in the nation, the Charlotte Tigers, out of North Carolina. Aspetuck took the field missing five of its starting A-side for the biggest game of the season. In the end, Aspetuck played hard but came up short 38-21. The following day saw Aspetuck completely dismantle the South Carolina state champs, the Wando Rugby Club, 45-0. After that weekend, Aspetuck’s national ranking crept from eighth to seventh.
Their matchup in Indianapolis, against the third ranked high school club in the nation, the Royal Irish, turned out to be a terrific game — a back and forth battle of two of the best teams in the country. In the end, after Aspetuck went up by two with less than five minutes left to play, the Irish took advantage of a turnover and broke away to put it up by three with no time left for Aspetuck to come back in a 22-19 setback. The team had a great time on the trip and the Irish were very good hosts, Aspetuck representatives said.
In a travel break the following week, Aspetuck hosted rival Xavier High School, from New York City. Xavier had not yet played a game at this point in the season as New York has had very strict rules for sports during the coronavirus. Xavier got off to a big start putting two tries on the board early before Aspetuck got going. Aspetuck answered back, but gave up another try before the half, leaving the score 17-10 Xavier. Aspetuck regrouped at halftime. Working as a team, Aspetuck scored 31 unanswered points in the second half to beat Xavier 41-17.
Then it was on the road again to Pennsylvania, this time to take on St Ignatius High School, Ohio’s reigning high school champs. In a game that took place on a cold, rainy day, both teams played an extremely hard-hitting game of grinding, physical rugby. Aspetuck took the lead and held it at 14-7 until the end of the first half, when St. Ignatius, with a drive that included accurate kicks and deft passing, tied the game up on the last play. The second half began with the same physical play, and for a short time Aspetuck was in the lead, 19-14. Quickly, though, St Ignatius’ tenacious offense and stifling defense wore the team from Western Connecticut down, taking the lead and putting the game away in the final minutes of the second half, 28-19.
After a two-week break, Aspetuck traveled to northern New Jersey to take on the Morris Lion Rugby Club, one of the top teams in New Jersey. It was a long day for the Lions as Aspetuck started early and kept going throughout the afternoon scoring quickly on long broken plays and playing dominant defense.
It was a needed game for the Connecticut team after having a schedule over the past few months unlike any other in high school rugby. The final score was 50-12.
For the final game of the season, Aspetuck invited Xavier High School for another contest. For Aspetuck, this was a good way to get one more game in before traveling to Kansas City for the national championships. Aspetuck, with its full lineup and a couple of weeks off, made for a long day for the club from NYC. Unrelenting defense and an offense that scored almost at will for most of the game gave Aspetuck a 53-14 win.
There was also a good showing from Aspetuck in its first-ever girls’ season, with the team defeating Play Rugby and Doylestown in impressive fashion in early June. Aspetuck also lost to Morris, 26-12. All this with a team that had no seniors, and with more than two-thirds of the team freshmen.
Jennie Weiner, Ashley Torres-Brown, and Avery Laird led the scoring in the loss to Morris. Jayden Smith scored two in a 38-10 victory over Pennsylvania champs Doylestown. Reese Smith, Ella Venables, Andria Hamilton, and Jocelyn Riley also scored. Against Play Rugby, Torres-Brown scored three tries while Riley added another.
Aspetuck Rugby is a local club sport and has been growing its national recognition over the last handful of years. Girls and boys interested in being part of one of the best high school programs in the country, visit aspetuckrugby.org. Former Aspetuck players now suit up for Fordham University,the University of Arizona, Kutztown University, Norwich University, UConn, and McGill University.