Rugby Finishes Third at Nationals
Saturday, May 19, 2018
Another trip to the National Invitational Tournament for Jesuit, but for the first time in a number of years the Marauders were on a collision course to meet with archrival Gonzaga in the semi-finals, not in the finals.
Standing in the way were the Fisher Tigers from Indiana. Jesuit had faced them in round one in 2017, but this was a vastly improved side that came to win. Jesuit got on the board early with a try created by flyhalf Max Schumacher and scored by Vili Hopoi. Fishers came back and scored on a very direct line of running to signal that they would not be going away. Schumacher got on the board after a nice run and offload from fullback Mason Phillips.
Wing Ben Skinner went on several mazy runs to help create chances off counter attack ball and the team punished turnovers to create more chances.
Jesuit then started to play some of the best rugby of the year with backs and forwards moving the ball to open man. The team scored six tries on the day with the backs scoring three and the forwards scoring three. The pick of the day was a kickoff taken by Skinner who went on a long run before being tackled close to the 10-meter line, the team moved the ball left and then went right with quick ball before flanker Tucker Collins scored in the corner. The ball moved 80 meters with eleven Jesuit players touching the ball. Final score was 38-14 Jesuit. The team was able to rest a few starters and get ready for the semi-final match.
Next up was the old rival, the Eagles from Gonzaga. The first twenty minutes was a battle with both teams putting in big hits, but Jesuit got trapped in their own end for long stretches and had trouble getting out. Mason Phillips then picked up a yellow card for a trip and it allowed Gonzaga another chance to attack. Jesuit defended for ten phases before Gonzaga was able to get across the line. Jesuit then went on the attack and probably had the longest attacking stretch of the year with the team attacking over ten phases before center Devin Florez got knocked out of bounds. Gonzaga was then trapped in their 22-meter and Jesuit made them pay with three quick phases before finding Prop Joe Marchant on the wing. It was no contest and he scored to cut the deficit.
The conversion was missed and it made it a 7-5 Gonzaga lead. Marchant went on another rampaging run to get Jesuit right back on the attack. Gonzaga kicked away possession and Jesuit went right back on the attack, moving the ball into space and the backs opened up Gonzaga for scrumhalf Elias Ramirez to score with an opportunistic try. A penalty to Gonzaga off the kick off allowed them right back into the game. Jesuit came right back with an aggressive attack, but a turnover allowed Gonzaga to clear their lines. Another Jesuit penalty allowed Gonzaga to launch an attack, but Jesuit was able to hold out and get a penalty. Jesuit then tried to play a bit too much rugby and Gonzaga pounced on the ball to get a try. In the last minutes of the half Jesuit a series of attacks, but a crossing penalty ended the half with Gonzaga up 19 -10.
The second half started with Jesuit again trying to play out of their end and they paid the price. Gonzaga got a turnover and then gained a penalty to make it a 12-point game. The handling errors started to mount and Jesuit was forced to defend. Jesuit then went quick on a penalty and with three passes, and one massive hand off from Joe Marchant, the ball was out and Max Schumacher was in the under the posts. With that it was a five-point game.
Neither team could get a rhythm and there were a few errors on both sides. Gonzaga even missed two penalties, but got the try that would see them through. Jesuit never quit, but just couldn’t keep the ball at key times. Final score Gonzaga 27 Jesuit 17.
The third game was a challenge both mentally, and physically, but the seniors took control of the game right from the start. Facing a tough Xavier team that had lost a close one to Herriman out of Utah in the semi-final.
Xavier had played some very attractive rugby in the first two games, but the Jesuit defense led by Senior Centers John O’Brien and Devin Florez were not fooled and Florez put in a big hit to cause a turnover. Jesuit went weak on the attack with two phases they scored to take a 5 – 0 lead. Jesuit continued to attack with ball in hand and some good work saw Eric Cervantes cross the line to give Jesuit a 10-0 lead.
A couple of penalties allowed Xavier back in the game and they were able to get close to the line and they punched one in to make it a 7-10 game.
The second half started with Jesuit on the attack, but a knock on gave Xavier an attacking scrum and a simple switch allowed their center to walk in and score. Mistakes continued to plague Jesuit and they soon had their heels on their try line. They defended for several phases and were able to get a penalty. The Marauders started to run everything and gained meters with some hard running, but a knock on stopped the attack. Jesuit got right back on attack after a key turnover by replacement center Villi Hopoi. On the ensuing penalty play big man Joe Marchant went to work then a quick recycle from flanker Max Sackett allowed Laiatu Latu to go a run where he dragged three defenders before offloading over the top for Mason Phillips to go over for the crucial score. Wing Ben Skinner hit the conversion to make it a 3-point game. The team then controlled the ball for long phases, including a 15-phase stand before Schumacher kicked into space for Skinner to get the bounce and relief some pressure. A knock on let Xavier back, but Jesuit won the scrum and Sackett went on a run. Another dubious call saw Xavier win a penalty. Xavier was back on the attack, but every time they went on a run two Jesuit defenders were there to stop them. Latu made a big hit that resulted in a turnover and Flores kicked to clear the Jesuit lines. Xavier had one more chance, but the Jesuit defense held strong.
“It was probably one of the more competitive NITs that we have attended, but the improvement this team showed over the past month was massive with thirty players ready to step up and make a difference,” said Head Coach John Shorey. “The entire coaching staff couldn’t be more proud of this squad that battled in every game and we are especially proud of the seniors who rallied the team in the 3rd place game to come back and show what it means to play for Jesuit. We want to thank all of the supporters, parents, staff, trainers and administrators who made this trip a success.”
Notes – Jesuit’s only loses to domestic competition were two close loses to Danville, which finished as the top ranked Club team in the nation, and Gonzaga who won the Single School competition.