Brother Rice rugby wins national title
June 6, 2013 5:46PM
Brother Rice High School’s rugby team captured the USA Rugby High School Tier II national championship. | Supplied photo
Updated: July 10, 2013 6:07AM
Bookended by a pair of Sean Martin penalty kicks, powered by captain James Gannon’s two tries, and led by a relentless Crusader defense, the Brother Rice rugby team capped an incredible weekend by winning the USA Rugby High School Tier II national championship with a 25-17 win over favored Greenwich (Conn.) in Elkhart, Ind.
The two kicks by Martin proved to be huge. The senior goal kicker settled the nerves in the opening minutes by slotting a penalty to give the Crusaders a 3-0 lead, and later would add the final points, giving the Crusaders an eight-point cushion that would stand. Martin also added two conversions to tally 10 points on the day.
Brother Rice was able to build upon the 3-0 start with huge runs by Gannon. Twice the senior prop was able to find himself in space after great phase play by the Crusaders, and twice he dotted down to give Rice a 17-0 lead.
A late Greenwich try made it 17-5 and gave the team from Connecticut a bit of momentum.
That momentum wouldn’t last long as Rice was able to capitalize when Greenwich knocked on the opening kickoff of the second half. Junior eight-man Luke Mueller picked off the base of the scrum and ran with power and purpose as he was able to muster over for the try, giving Rice a 22-5 lead.
The elusive Greenwich backline was shut down all day by the defensive center pairing of Nate Swanberg and Brad Thomas. Rookie senior flanker Tim Barry also was a menace to the Greenwich attack.
“It’s a commitment,” said Rice coach and former USA national team player Dave Fee. “The boys have to buy in back in January, knowing they could pass up proms, graduation parties and other year-end activities. The boys told me early on that they wanted to be here, and finish what they started.
“It’s a gruesome weekend: eight teams, three days, three games. They battled. These guys are a special group and everything that happened was hard-earned. They did it. When I took over the program three years ago, I always said we should pursue the highest levels out there.”
Juniors Mueller and Swanberg, along with senior Gannon have all been selected to come into the USA High School National Team program this summer as a result of strong performances over the weekend.
Provided to SouthtownStar