Blue Jay Rugby Defends Title as 2018 State Champion

Posted April 25, 2018 / Last updated April 30, 2018

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Senior Captain Gabe Massey surges across the tryline for the second Jesuit score of the match.

On Saturday, April 21, the undefeated Jesuit Blue Jay rugby club squared off in the state championship match against a surging and powerful Brother Martin squad. Brother Martin had not been in the state title in a decade and were determined to plant a Crusader flag atop the high peaks of Louisiana rugby. The Blue Jays, for their part, were looking to defend their state title and become the first team since the Blue Jay squads of 2010 and 2011 to be repeat champions. The Crusaders were looking for victory. The Blue Jays were looking for legacy.

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Langston Goldenberg and Patrick Gallagher maintain high intensity for the Blue Jay defense.

The opening stanza of the match saw a pitched battle between the squads. The Jays’ early momentum was repeatedly stymied by a combination of unforced errors and a much improved Crusaders’ defense. Yet the Crusaders were unable to mount any sustained offense against a very aggressive Blue Jay defense. The Crusaders were repeatedly deprived of possession by ball-hawking Jays, including senior Zac Beckmann and junior Langston Goldenberg. A lightning quick attack off Goldenberg’s steal saw the Jays make slashing meters deep into Crusader territory. Jesuit was awarded a penalty, which they elected to kick to touch. Following a successful lineout, senior halfback Brady Moran distributed the ball the senior Gabe Massey, who attacked the Crusader defense with fire and fury. A well-timed flat pass from Massey allowed senior Matt Palmer to blast through a gap in the Crusaders’ line for the first score of the match. Jesuit up 5-0.

Jesuit’s defense remained an impenetrable wall of blue and white. Senior Laith Akhalby and Gabe Massey teamed up on a ferocious double-tackle of Brother Martin’s massive number three, who the Crusaders had been lobbing at the Jesuit defensive line all afternoon. Zac Beckmann recognized a Brother Martin switch and quickly moved into the switch-runner’s line, stuffing him the moment he caught the ball. Despite the Jays’ stifling defense, a series of penalties found the Crusaders on the Jesuit goal-line, which they were eventually able to cross. Conversion missed. Jesuit 5, Brother Martin 5.

The Crusader score was perhaps just the tonic the Jays needed, as it seemed to inject cayenne into their attack. The Jays quickly regained possession after the restart thanks to a series of smothering double-tackles, the first by senior Johnny Tindall and junior David Childs, and the second by Childs with senior Matt Palmer. Senior Gabe Massey promptly stuffed the next Crusader salvo, which led to a timely poach by senior Tony Cesar, which put the Jays back on the attack at midfield. Halfback Moran quickly dished the ball to Massey, who erupted through a gap in the Crusader defense for a long run. Although the drive ended in a knock-on call, the Jays were now deep into Crusader territory. The Jays regained possession following the Crusader scrum and went on the attack, repeatedly punching holes in the Brother Martin defense. After a Crusader penalty at the 15-meter line, senior Matt Palmer elected to quick tap and attack. He passed to a thundering Gabe Massey, who punched like a steam-hammer through the Crusaders’ defense for Jesuit’s second try. Tobin’s conversion was true. Jesuit 12-5.


Noah Tobin earned the high distinction of being the first player in league history to come off the bench and win the state championship MVP.

Yet a series of penalties against the Jays for their aggressive poaching attempts saw Brother Martin move up the field, and the Jays found themselves suddenly in a desperate goal-line stand. Jesuit’s defense held true for several phases, but a Crusader quick-tap on the one-meter line to one of the Crusaders’ rhino-sized props was too much for the Jays’ to withstand. Following a converted kick, the score was suddenly Jesuit 12, Brother Martin 12 with 20 minutes left in the match.

The final act of the match saw Jesuit place a tight tourniquet on the meters given up through penalties by ceasing all attempts at counter-rucking and poaching. Brother Martin’s offensive attack suddenly had one gear only: reverse. Jesuit continually tackled Crusader defenders behind their gainline. After regaining possession, Massey punctured the Crusaders’ defense with a powerful run that advanced the Jays into striking distance. Moran quickly recycled the ball to senior Pat Gallagher, who plunged into the Crusaders’ line. Moran than hoisted a daring 20-meter pass to junior Jack Diliberto, who used his patented footwork to outmaneuver three defenders before being brought to the turn. After a Crusader penalty, Captain Gabe Massey elected to quick-tap and attack. Drawing several defenders to him, he dished to an eager Noah Tobin, who collected the rock and then powered low into several wide-eyed defenders. With a powerful leg drive Tobin drove the defenders back and across the try-line, for what turned out to be the game winning try. Tobin then converted his own kick. Jesuit up 19-12.

With the match still an uncertain contest, a penalty against Brother Martin gave the Jays the chance to kick for posts. A hush fell over the crowd as Tobin measured his approach. And moments later, as Tobin’s kick split the uprights, the crowd erupted into cheers, as the match was now all but sealed, with Jesuit up 22-12. Shortly thereafter, the Sir blew the final whistle, and with it, the Jays’ victory, and the making of a new Blue Jay rugby dynasty.

In recognition of their exemplary play throughout the year, the Jays have been invited to play live, on CBS Sports and ESPN, on May 19, during the halftime of the professional match between the NOLA Gold and the Houston SaberCats. Details to come.