Rugby Advances to Texas Semifinals, Tops Louisiana Playoff Seed

Posted April 17, 2024 / Last updated April 30, 2024

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Photo: freshman Carter Kennedy

The Blue Jay rugby team has fought, scraped, and clawed its way to the semifinal round of the Varsity Cup (Texas rugby league) with a statement victory over St. Thomas (Houston) this past weekend, 21-5. They have likewise positioned themselves well approaching Louisiana state rugby champions with a defeat of Warren Easton, 54-5.

With regard to their Texas competition, Jesuit has battled hard in their inaugural season in Texas, with big wins over Family Faith (Dallas), St. Pius (Houston), and St. Thomas (Houston) while suffering tough losses against powerhouse Texas teams Jesuit Dallas, Jesuit Strake (Houston), and Lake Travis (Austin). Despite their battle scars, or perhaps because of them, Jesuit’s body of work earned them a berth in the quarterfinals this past weekend against Houston rival the St. Thomas Eagles. The ruggers knew it was win or go home. They chose to win.

From the opening whistle, the Jays confronted St. Thomas’s smash-and-bash offense with an impenetrable, suffocating wave of blue—wherever the Eagles went, they were met by a horde of Blue Jay ruggers. St. Thomas was given no quarter and found only frustration all evening. However, despite the Jays’ smothering defense, a host of handling and other unforced errors kept the match close in the first half, which ended 7-5 Jesuit. After some halftime adjustments, the Jays’ offense finally ignited and kept the Eagles on the back foot for the rest of the match. Midway through the second half, freshman second-row Griffin Vorhaben found himself steaming downfield with the ball. As St. Thomas closed on the big man, junior center Noah Burgau, who was trailing in support, called for a “Kiwi,” which saw junior flanker James Roniger step a hard “unders” line, which froze the St. Thomas defense and created space for Burgau who benefited from a surgical no-look pass from Vorhaben. Burgau burst into the open field only to be tackled just shy of the tryline. But the Jays were not to be denied—senior flanker Greg Lane grabbed the ball and bullied his way through St. Thomas’s defensive line for Jesuit’s second score.

Shortly thereafter, junior center Jacob Howat received a crisp pass from junior flyhalf Andrew Sampedro. Howat charged the line like a berserker, drawing several defenders to him. As they closed, Burgau appeared to Howat’s left calling for a pass. St. Thomas’s defenders hesitated, not knowing who to defend. Howat saw the opportunity and executed a perfectly timed “show and go” dummy, which caused the Eagle defenders to freeze with uncertainty. Howat punched through the line only to issue a perfectly weighted pass to Burgau, who then steamed up the field, showing dummies to any defender who approached. As defenders looked certain to tackle Burgau, he flicked the ball to senior center Keiran Brannan, who finished for the Jays’ third and final try, culminating in a final score of 21-5 against St. Thomas.

This Friday, at 5:30 p.m., at Marconi, Jesuit takes on Jesuit Strake in the Texas semifinal match. If the Jays prevail, they play in the Varsity Cup (Texas) Championship in Dallas on April 27.

In local competition, Jesuit decisively defeated Warren Easton with a score of 54-5. While many Blue Jays contributed to the scoring, Warren Easton players managed only a single try. Jesuit’s A-side remains undefeated in Louisiana league play and holds the top seed as it gears up to defend its state championship title in the upcoming playoffs. A victory would secure their status as three-peat state champions. Remarkably, this season marks the first occasion that the Blue Jay rugby squad has reached the playoffs in two different state leagues simultaneously.