Friday, May 8, 2015

Rugby Colorado Championship Saturday

Colorado State High School Rugby Championships
The championships and 3rd-place matches for the high school Premiership (Division-1) and the Division-2 leagues take place Saturday, the upcomer, at Glendale’s Rugby Kettle beginning early (9am for D-2, 3rd- place fixture) and culminating with the elite final that kicks at 2:40 in the afternoon. Sandwiched between will be the Premier 3rd-place match: Colorado Springs Grizzlies v PAC at 11am; and the D-2 final, which kicks at 12:40 and features Titans (Parker) and Fort Collins Rugby Clubs.
Fort Collins has a storied history that includes the first-ever Colorado High School Rugby Championship, way back, when Coach Jim Opperman was yet instructing the Northern Colorado side. Titans are a relatively new construct and topped the Division-3 table in 2013 before their promotion to the middleweight league. Both play the wide, flowing game with formidable maulwork and fractive action at breakdown sure to thrill and excite the fans in the stands.

Premier Division-1 
“The rainy weather prediction is a bit concerning, but hopefully conditions will allow for a good match,” says longtime East head coach Bill Baer, whose staff is comprised of many Denver East High Angels alumni. Whatever the meteorological conditions on tap Saturday, nevermind, this contest is guaranteed to be a blinder!
With the clubs showing similar type schemes, rest assured the contest will be well-fought and well-won by the XV that ultimately claims the 2015 D-1 trophy. Each have powerful forward packs and prolific three-quarterlines. Both sides big men are largely unsung, displaying their respective collaborative skillsets in steady industry as they compete for possession at the all-important breakdown phase when a tackled player must release ball; and that pill is there for the brave of heart and nimble of hand.
The fast figures of the backline share similar qualities as well. Spectators should see much activity with spreads out wide, though that roomy style of play may be weather-dependent. East have one of the best halfback duos around in Chris Musselman at #9 and Adam Leonard at #10. Veteran coach Baer has instructed a rich mix of offensive methodologies: expect the high hanger to the box from Musselman, while Leonard can boom the long ranger for territory and the wee chippy for short gains that he may collect on the gallop. Also Jesuit will need to contain the Angels outside center, Jack Martin, who but for a couple elusive snares would have dotted a brace himself last week. When the Jesuit launch their own air attack, Angels fullback Augie Bennett and his jinky, janky counters can cripple an opponent and set them on their unstable rear heels to great effect.
Baer has respect for the competition: “We know that Regis will come out well-prepared and (that they are) well-coached, and we believe our boys are also ready to play.” Regis’ head coach, USA Eagles front row Zach Fenoglio, commands an equally impressive group of young men. From the eight no-name forwards who work sublimely well in association to retrieve and maintain possession, to the backline containing the State’s most dangerous back, inside center Drew Schlagel, Regis have all the weapons necessary to claim their first championship in a decade. And if East play the bad boys and cause the field magistrate to assess penalties, Jesuit fullback Isaac Vargas will pot sticksplitters from all over the park, stinging the Angels with three-pointers all day long.
“This is shaping up to be a fun state championship match. Two teams - East and Regis - both play expansive 15 man rugby,” reports Baer, and he continues, citing integral support and prospects as bright as you’d like: “We are grateful to Rugby Colorado, the referees and Glendale for providing this opportunity to allow the boys to play in this match. I have been involved with high school rugby in Colorado for a long time. I remember when the state tournament was all in one day… And the finals were the third match of the day, played in a park in front of a handful of parents. This championship, in this venue, shows how far high school rugby has come. And I believe we will see much more positive growth and organization in the near future.”

Saturday, as every sentient being knows, is The Rugby Day! And when it’s Championship Rugby Day with four estimable age-grade days on tap, whyever would you be anywhere else? 

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