Three quick tries in the second half won it for Gonzaga. Colleen McCloskey photo.
Gonzaga HS defeated Xavier HS 36-20 Sunday in front of hundreds of fans at Gonzaga’s home field, thanks in large part to a 15-minute scoring spree in the second half.
The two teams battled to a 10-10 tie at halftime, with Gonzaga scoring first on pressure and a quick tap, and added another to lead 10-0. Xavier ran wing Rory Kinsella on an inside move off a scrum to score a try, which Kyle Strehle converted. Strehle then added a penalty goal to tie it up.
“Xavier knew exactly what they needed to do against us and that was in part slow our ball down in the rucks and blitz on defense,” said Gonzaga Head Coach Peter Baggetta. “And they did that. Their backs are phenomenal tacklers. But we have some big bodies and we have more big bodies coming off the bench. We made some tactical subs at halftime and also saw that we needed to resource more players to the rucks in the second half. In the first half, Xavier was winning the one-on-one battles, and we needed to change that.”
Minutes into the second half, Strehle kicked a penalty to put Xavier ahead. But then a Xavier player was penalized for making a tackle on a quick-tap penalty even though he had not retreated ten meters. That professional foul cost the New York team as Gonzaga powered over from short range right after, and then over the space of the next 15 minutes or so, ran in three more tries to lead 36-13.
“We were feeling good and getting ahead felt good,” said Xavier Coach Joe Sweeney. “But we also made some mistakes in our end and their driving maul was really effective. They have some big kids and we had a tough time holding them off.”
Still, Xavier did have two interception opportunities that, had they gone to hand. might have changed the tenor of the game. Captain Zach Cilmi scored late for Xavier to make it 36-20.
Baggetta got some good work from sub scrumhalf Owen Sheehy, whose older brother, Patrick, was effective with his tactical kicking at flyhalf. Fullback Mark Lewis scored two tries for Gonzaga, but Baggetta said it was the bench that brought the result home.
The game was preceded by a tribute to Neil York, Class of 2011, a Gonzaga rugby alum who passed away last year. The game was played in Neil’s honor.
Click here or on the image to see photos from the ceremony:
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