Greenwich High

Greenwich High boys rugby team aiming to make its mark at the national level

Photo by David Fierro: From left to right: Luke Ware, Charlie Beney and Garrett O’Dell are senior captains of the Greenwich High School boys rugby team, which has its usual high expectations for the season.

How’s this for an absolutely dominant start to a season? Greenwich High School’s boys rugby team downed visiting Fordham Prep, 75-0, in its season-opener, marking the first of what should be, numerous victories for the Cardinals this spring.

Greenwich has a rich rugby history, with 11 state titles and plenty of appearances in the National Tournament to its resume and it hopes to make program history during its 2022 campaign.

“Win Nationals, that’s our goal, we came in fifth last year,” Cardinals senior tri-captain Charlie Beney said. “Right now, thought, we just have to think about winning our first game at Nationals.”

Indeed, a lot has to happen before the Cardinals can entertain thoughts about competing in the 2022 Boys High School Rugby National Championships in Elkart, Indiana, but of course, the prestigious tournament is in the back of the team’s minds.

“My big thing since taking over is it’s their team and program and I know they want go to Nationals and win every match there,” said Greenwich coach Mike Fina, who is in his third season at the helm. “We also want to play well one match at a time and improve from last year.”

Photo by David Fierro: Members of the Greenwich boys rugby team get their running in during practice on March 21, 2022 at Greenwich High School. The Cardinals won their first match of the season against Fordham Prep, 75-0.

The Cardinals placed fifth at the Boys High School Rugby National Championships last season and have performed well at the tournament over the years, consistently placing among the top 5-10 teams. Greenwich’s 2020 season was cancelled due to the COVID 19 pandemic and its 2021 campaign was modified due to COVID safety precautions, so the team is looking forward to playing a full schedule of games this year. Friday at Cardinal Stadium, GHS hosts Aspetuck Valley at 5:30 p.m. – a rematch of the 2019 Connecticut State championship matchup.

Like Greenwich, Aspetuck Valley is nationally ranked. Aspetuck Valley ended the Cardinals’ streak of 11 straight state titles by posting a 20-12 win over GHS back in 2019. The season-opener showed the Cards had plenty of scoring ability, as they reached the try zone frequently against Fordham Prep.

“Our team did great, our team was flowing really well, everything was going super well offensively and defensively,” said Greenwich senior Luke Ware, also one of the squad’s captains. “We were making plays on offense, nice runs, nice lines – it was just a good game.”

Ware suffered a shoulder injury during Greenwich’s football season – played linebacker and was also one of the team’s captains – so he’s working his way back to the rugby field. He plays the inside centre position (No. 12).

“My responsibility is to get the team hyped up,” Ware said. “Hit people, knock people over – everything physical and get them fired up. I love doing it and I think I do it pretty well.”

Luke Ware is one of the Greenwich rugby team’s captains.

Ware has competed on the rugby team since his freshman year.

“These guys are family, I love it being a part of this team,” Ware said. “Last season, we went to Nationals and placed fifth. Seeing what we did last year when we got fifth, I’m so excited to see what we can do this year, because of last season’s great success. We want to win Nationals, we want consistently put a good team on the field and improve.”

Fina saw plenty of positive signs from his squad in the season-opener and he hopes they’ll continue to build on their strengths each game.

“The first game of the year was good, we got to shake off a little bit of rust,” Fina said. “Some of our returning players are coming off injuries, so we had some of our newer faces playing. It was nice to get out and play at game speed. The result was obviously, something we were happy with 75-0. But we have plenty to work on still.”

Garrett O’Dell is ready to perform a leadership role as one of the captains of Greenwich’s rugby team.

Garrett O’Dell, a senior captain, brings a lot of versatility and skill each time he takes the field.

“Right now, I’m playing flanker, but I can play a bunch of different positions throughout the 15 guys on the field,” O’Dell said. “There’s definitely a lot of things we need to improve on. Just getting back into the process of playing the game and getting into the habit of making good decisions. Communication is something we have to improve upon, so communication is of utmost importance.”

He is impressed with the leadership qualities he sees from a lot of his teammates on and off the field.

“We have a great group of guys this year, a lot of leaders on the field, who weren’t named captain, which is what you want when you are leading a team,” O’Dell said. “As a captain, I try to make sure I’m being a leader on the field, leading the boys and making sure they make the program looks good on and off the field and making sure they make each other look good.”

Charlie Beney is playing an important leadership role as one of the captains of the Greenwich rugby team.

Beney, who is a standout player at the No. 8 position for the Cardinals, tore his anterior cruciate ligament during the summer and is currently working his way back from the injury. He is attending every practice, but may be sidelined for the season, as he continues to strengthen his knee.

“I’ve been playing rugby for a while, so I’m pretty much a coach this year. I’m coaching the forwards,” said Beney, who plans on playing rugby in college. “A lot of them are new guys, not much varsity experience. I’ll be there during the games, supporting the guys and trying to hype them up.”

“I feel that first game we were definitely looking really good,” Beney continued. “We have a lot to work on, with Aspetuck coming up, we have to work on the little things.”

The Greenwich rugby team hosts Aspetuck Valley at Cardinal Stadium on March 25.

Whether they’re on the field or not, the Cards’ captains are key in preparing their teammates for each matchup.

“Charlie Beney, Luke Ware, Garrett O’Dell all had critical roles last year and started to step into leadership roles last year as juniors,” Fina said.

Junior Segundo Mas is stepping into the No. 8 position role, while senior Santiago Borrego is playing flanker, along with several positions. Thomas Foster, a senior, who is coming off an indoor track and field season in which he earned All-American honors, should be among some of the difference-makers, along with senior Luke Vivier. Greenwich’s program features three teams – a Division I/varsity team, a Division II squad and a team that includes freshman and sophomores.

“The varsity I squad needs to be fit and make smart decisions,” Fina said. “Our big things this year are discipline and effort.”

Greenwich rugby players do a conditioning drill, running around the football goal post.

The program’s assistant coaches include: Glenn Fox, Jamie Everett, Michael Laczkowski, Aaron Brown, Wyndsor Doyle, Gareth Gibbs and Chris Swan. Greenwich schedule includes games against Aspetuck Valley (March 25, home), Fairfield Prep (April 2, away), Fort Hunt, Va., (April 7, home), the Gonzaga Rugby Classic (April 23-24, away), Staples (April 30, away), Xavier (May 7, home) and Simsbury (May 12, Senior Day, home). The Boys High School Rugby Championships in Elkart, Indiana is scheduled to be held May 18-22. They also have a game at Trumbull on May 27. The state championship game is scheduled for June 4 at site to be determined.

“One of our big things is helping guys continue to play the sport,” Fina said. “Rugby is a sport you can play for 30 years after high school. So, we want to continue to help them grow as a player.”

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