Penn, Jesuit, Herriman, and Gonzaga are into the Boys High School Rugby National Championships single-school semifinals after all four won first-round games on Thursday in Kansas City, MO.
Playing at the Swope Soccer Village, the single-school bracket was as competitive as expected.
Penn looked solid in its 33-12 victory against a very good Greenwich team. Led by the powerful running of Will Vakalahi and some good work from scrumhalf Iason Tereziz and center Lucas Robinson, the Indiana team made it tough for Greenwich to get out of its own half. In fact, defensive pressure and forcing a long field was the secret to victory for many teams on day one of the tournament.
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Jesuit was clinical in its 62-3 dismantling of Fishers. Captain Garrett Kay was his usual impressive self, but flyhalf Dylan Boylan and locks Connor Bellinger and Laiotu Latu were the pick of the Marauders on Thursday.
Gonzaga had to really work for its 28-5 win against a tough-minded St. Edward team. St. Edward defended well, with flanker Charlie Green getting a ton of work done, and made Gonzaga work for its supper. Flyhalf Ian Kilcullen played a smart game, and scrumhalf Max Draddy worked well to keep the tempo going despite St. Edward's defiance. Roger Mellado had a big game in the pack.
Herriman's 24-20 victory over Xavier proved to be, as expected, the tightest game of the day. The teams traded tries early, and then around halftime Xavier took a 15-7 lead with solid work from scrumhalf Connor Buckley, fullback Cam Annderson, and lock Nick Valentino. The try came from a brilliant break from flyhalf Owen Sansavero, who set up his support for the try.
But Herriman came back, running whenever it could and taking unexpected options. Flyhalf Maea Leakehe was electric at times, while No. 8 Zak Barker was a powerful presence in tight. Hooker Gabe Mahuinga pulled off a big break to set up a try for Drew McDaniel. That was the key play, as it put Herriman up 24-15 with time winding down. A red card to prop Misi Vakapuna slowed the Mustangs down (and also meant the end of the day for Xavier's Sansavero), but the Herriman held on to win.
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