Blue Jay Rugby Upsets Top-Ranked Gonzaga, 31-14

Posted March 14, 2017 / Last updated March 16, 2017

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Sophomore Langston Goldenberg (left) and sophomore Will Newell (right) wrap up a Gonzaga Eagle.(photo by Hudson Ellis)

Sophomore Langston Goldenberg (left) and sophomore Will Newell (right) wrap up a Gonzaga Eagle. (photo by Hudson Ellis)

This past weekend, the Blue Jay Rugby Club made its first-ever trip to the nation’s capital to challenge the Gonzaga College High School Eagles, a Jesuit school located blocks from the White House. Boasting a student body of 960 — 260 of which play rugby — Gonzaga is a powerhouse, evidenced by their last three consecutive high school national championship wins.

Yet the Blue Jays shocked themselves, and — no doubt — their hosts, by earning an emphatic victory.

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Gonzaga started the match with a kickoff to Jesuit’s unsuspecting backs. The mental lapse saw Jesuit mishandle the ball, earning Gonzaga an unforced error and turnover within the match’s opening seconds. Thereafter, the two squads settled in for a lengthy volley of back-and-forth possession, each side pressing the other, yet neither yielding any points. Both Jesuit and Gonzaga put together several multi-phase operations, only to suffer turnovers from poached balls and infringements around the ruck. Gonzaga was particularly successful in punching holes in Jesuit’s defense with powerful runs from its number one.

The scoreline was eventually opened following a deep run by Jesuit flyhalf senior Case Ellis, but Gonzaga regained possession as Ellis’s run left him isolated. Gonzaga’s clearing kick was caught by Jesuit fullback senior Jack Gab, who darted past defenders for the match’s first try. After a missed conversion, Gonzaga returned the favor with a penetrating 50-meter run by their powerful number one, who — though eventually dragged down — made an offload to Gonzaga’s bursting number six who dotted down. The conversion was good, but Jesuit closed out first half scoring off a scrum when Ellis found space through several Gonzaga defenders left flat-footed by a convincing dummy-line. Forty meters later, plus a successful conversion, Jesuit was up, 12-7.

The second half opened much like the first with a series of back-and-forth exchanges. Jesuit yielded to the pressure first, as Gonzaga fielded an attempted kick-and-chase by Ellis and quickly mounted a counter attack against an unorganized Jesuit defense. Three phases later, Gonzaga found its way into the tryzone again, and their conversion was good.

Three more tries would be scored on the day, but the points were all Jesuit’s. A deep run by Gab was followed by a penalty against Gonzaga for not releasing the ball carrier. Jesuit halfback senior Josh Cashio quick tapped, attacked, and passed to 8-man senior John McCord, who crossed the line. Again, the conversion was good. Shortly thereafter, Ellis poached deep in Gonzaga territory, which — within two quick phases — saw Jesuit blindside junior Chuck Lobrano cross for five more and a good conversion. With time running short, Jesuit again pressured deep in Gonzaga territory when Ellis ran a crisp switch with center junior Matt Palmer, who burst through the line and stepped a defender for the match’s final try. With a final good conversion, Jesuit emerged victorious, 31 to 14.

Gonzaga awarded Case Ellis man-of-the-match. Jesuit head coach Adam Massey complimented the entire Gonzaga program — from coaches to players to parents — for the exceptional hospitality and very fine showing of rugby culture.

“It’s quite apparent why Gonzaga sits at the pinnacle of high school boys’ rugby year-in and year-out,” said Massey.

On Saturday, March 18, the Blue Jays take on Sharc in Gretna at 1:30 p.m.