The Mystic River U19s of Boston toured Ireland this past month, on a tour put together by RUGBYMag.com partner Irish Rugby Tours (www.irishrugbytours.com ) and Managing Director George Hook.
This was the second consecutive tour for the Young Mystics, and it looks like it could become an annual tradition. Irish Rugby Tours put together a custom itinerary highlighted by three competitive matches with top Irish sides, three training sessions with professional coaches, and attendance at two professional matches.
This year’s tour party included 30 boys for two full sides, drawing from nine different high schools programs (St. Johns Prep, Malden Catholic, Brookline High, BC High, Catholic Memorial, Arlington Catholic, Marshfield, Xaverian and Bishop Hendricken in RI).
The players trained two nights a week for six weeks in the gym at Athletic Evolution working with a professional strength and conditioning coach. The second half of each training was spent on rugby skills led by the Mystic U19 and senior side coaching staff.
On tour, the first stop was Galway and upon arrival the team got right to work training in the mud with the head of the Connacht Youth Development and Academies program, Nigel Carolan.
After cleaning up the team attended the Connacht v Glasgow Warriors RaboDirect Pro 12 match, which ended in a 13-13 tie on an exciting last-second kick by the home team.
“It was a great experience for the boys and especially those that had never seen a live professional rugby match,” said Mystic Youth Rugby Director Dave Rudzinsky.
The next day the team opened up against a Connacht developmental side made up of select players trying to earn a spot on their U18 squad. The first half was very close, although the Mystic had the measure of Connacht Development up front. Mystic took an early lead, 3-0, through a penalty from Chris Laughland.
Connacht responded with a converted try to make it 7-3 and then Mystic inside center Brian Reilly scored to make it 10-7 in favor of the Americans. Connacht responded with two more tries to lead at halftime 17-10. The home team made some key substitutions up front which helped them run away with the second half for a final of 39-10. The B side also lost to a Connacht group that was just a little more polished out wide.
The next day featured a tour of the Aran Islands and then a trip to Nenagh Ormond in Tipperary.
The team was treated to a special GAA Hurling clinic where all the boys learned the game and were given an opportunity to try hitting the ball.
“It was decided we should stick to rugby,” said Rudzinsky, diplomatically.
Off to train at a local club with one of the Munster Rugby development officers and a former Ireland Junior coach.
The next afternoon the B Side played St. John the Baptist at Bruff Rugby Club in a light rain.
The slightly older Mystics were more physical and were able to move the ball in the backs enough to win 12-10. Michael “Sergio” Cirbee and Connor Kilday scored tries with Jamie Santo breaking the tie with the winning conversion as time was winding down.
That set up the A side playing a night game with Nenagh Ormond U19s.
The conditions at Nenagh were brutal as the mud was deep and neither team could really get their footing. The Mystic pack gave the Nenagh scrum all sorts of issues and controlled the ball well int eh forwards.
Nenagh was able to score by kicking the ball through and playing to the conditions. It was a very physical battle with both teams defending well. In the end Nenagh were able to capitalize on some Mystic penalties and end up on top 15-7.
Michael Sullivan scored the lone Mystic try, which Laughlin converted.
The Mystic performance earned them much respect with the large Nenagh crowd as the match could have gone either way, but the U19 scrum rules worked against the dominant Mystic pack as they were whistled multiple times for pushing past the meter and a half allowed. After the match there was a presentation right on the field with local politicians welcoming the team and then they were hosted at a local restaurant.
More sightseeing the next day at the Cliffs of Mohr. Then the Mystics settled in Limerick which is known as Ireland’s home of rugby.
There they had a training session at Shannon RFC with their U21 Coach.
“Each training session on tour helped us build on our rugby fundamentals,” said Rudzinsky. “We started with a lot of work on rucking which proved to be our strength in all the matches. For the second match we worked on our team defense which showed great improvement. At Shannon we worked on attack and decision making combined with communication.”
After a day off and a tip to see Munster v Cardiff Blues at Thomond Park, the Mystics prepared to face Thomond Rugby Club.
This was another tough, physical, close game. Thomond kicked a second half penalty to win 3-0 but Mystic was solid in almost all aspects of this game.
“We controlled possession, dominated the scrums and owned the lineouts. Our backs were able to break some tackles but we just couldn’t finish any of our moves,” said Rudzinsky.
The Mystic B side also faced Thomond and lost 19-0.
“The Young Mystics really came together as a team over in Ireland,” said Rudzinsky. “They represented themselves, their families, Mystic River and USA Rugby with great character and strong rugby. We should all be extremely proud of these young men and how they conducted themselves on and off the field. Mystic Youth Rugby is all about teamwork, sportsmanship and having fun, and this group really exemplified those principles.”