Building a 17-point lead just over 10 minutes into its state semifinal-round showdown today at Cardinal Stadium, Greenwich High School’s boys rugby team left little doubt which direction its all-important matchup against Fairfield Prep was heading.
Scoring tries early and often, it was apparent from the game’s opening minutes that the Cardinals were bound for the title game they’ve had their sights set on all season.
Greenwich, which won the title game of the Connecticut State Boys Rugby Tournament 11 straight seasons from 2008-2018, will have an opportunity to regain its championship status when it competes for the state title on Thursday. The Cardinals earned the right to play either Staples or Trumbull in the finals of the Connecticut State Tournament by rolling to a resounding 41-7 triumph over Fairfield Prep at Cardinal Stadium.
This marked the second time this season Greenwich topped Fairfield Prep. The Cards defeated the Jesuits, 26-12, back on April 2.
“Prep is a tough team, they were definitely prepared,” Greenwich coach Mike Fina said. “We said they weren’t going to give up no matter how many points we put up on them. They played us tough the first time we played them as well, but I think we just wore on them a little bit.”
Greenwich’s execution was on point both on offense and defense, throughout. Their possessions were impressive and their tackling was stellar in this semifinal-round showdown.
“We have been clicking on all cylinders, so even when things get a little bit sloppy we tend to settle it down or get the ball in the right guy’s hands,” Fina said.
Junior JB Meier scored two of the game’s first three tries, setting the pace early for the Cards.
“It was really significant to get off to a good start in this game,” Meier said. “A good start is what kicks off the team, what gets us going.”
Just 48 seconds into the game, GHS senior Tristan O’Dell gave the home team a 5-0 lead with a try. Junior Nico Figueroa split the uprights with the ensuing conversion kick for two more points and a 7-0 Cardinals advantage. Meier’s first try came at the 25:17 mark of the opening half, putting the Cardinals on top, 12-0.
On his second try, he bulled his way into the try zone near the right sideline, breaking a pair of tackles along the way, making it 17-0 with 19:55 to go in the first half.
Continuing to dominate, Greenwich went ahead, 22-0, when Figueroa ran into the try zone with 15:45 still left in the first half. After the Jesuits responded with a try of their own with 6:22 remaining in the opening half, senior Ignacio Rocca used his speed to reach the try zone for the Cards, making it 29-7 at halftime.
In the second half, senior Charlie Beney, one of the squad’s captains and junior Anthony Barallon had one try apiece for the victors.
“I think we played pretty well, we did everything we had to do to win the game,” Beney said. “We were definitely very confident that we were going to win and we capitalized on their mistakes. We have to work hard the next two days in practice for the championship game.”
It’s certainly nice to see Beney back on the field after he spent months recovering from an injury to his anterior cruciate ligament.
“It feels great to be playing again,” said Beney, who will play rugby at Northeastern. “I’ve been playing rugby since I was five and It’s been a long time for my ACL recovery. It feels great now, it doesn’t hurt and I’m glad be back.”
Should Greenwich play top-seeded Staples in the championship game, it will be the third time they’ll face the Wreckers.
“I think we’re ready, we beat them at nationals, they beat us, so it’s tied 1-1,” Meier said. “I think it’s going to be a good matchup.”
Among some of the other numerous players that sparked the Cardinals offensively were seniors Clay Griffin and Thomas Foster, both of whom played on Greenwich’s football team that lost to Fairfield Prep in the Class LL Tournament this past fall.
“We all really wanted it,” Griffin said. “There’s a lot of football kids on this team and after what happened during the season and being upset about what happened in the football playoffs – we wanted this game a lot more.”
“Being a part of this program has been amazing,” Griffin continued. “I’ve been a part of this program for four years and we’ve been a family. We travel together and we’re all close. It’s a great program.”