|Gonzaga in black, Xavier in blue. Chris Newkumet photos|
Gonzaga won the third-annual Jesuit Rugby Classic Championship over top-ranked Xavier, 26-17, in Alexandria, Va.
The tournament, co-hosted by Gonzaga and Georgetown Prep, included three nationally-ranked programs (Xavier, Gonzaga and McQuaid Jesuit).
Gonzaga defeated Georgetown Prep and Fairfield Prep on its way to the final, and Xavier dropped Fordham Prep and McQuaid Jesuit to advance. The game started with the two heavyweights going right after each other with crash balls and forward attacks from scrums, lineouts and rucks.
Xavier got on the board first with a penalty kick from 25 meters out for a 3-0 advantage. The Eagles came back, using sophomore Ben Cima’s tactical kicking for territorial gains. A scrum 15 meters from the Xavier tryline setup a try by Bayo Adebonogo on a weakside attack. Cima slotted the conversion for a 7-3 lead.
After some back-and-forth play, the Eagles had a lineout at the Xavier five-meter line. A driving lineout produced a try for flanker Matt Brune. Another Cima conversion made the count 14-3.
On the last play of the first half, Xavier intercepted a pass in the Gonzaga backline and took it 50 meters for a try under the posts to close the deficit to 14-10.
The second half was similar to the first, with the Gonzaga forwards grinding the ball and maintaining possession to set up powerful runs by inside center Danny Flynn and wing Jace Caulfield. Two packies were rewarded with scores, as Andrew Iscaro pushed the lead to 19-10 and Matt Flynn, with another Cima conversion made, it 26-10. With five minutes to play Xavier mounted a furious attack.
The Eagles then received a yellow card to put them a man down. Xavier sustained pressure and attack and came away with another try.
For the Eagles, it was the third-consecutive Jesuit Rugby Classic Championship, each one with a victory over powerhouse Xavier in the final.
The city of Alexandria was a wonderful host, with the mayor and several city council members attending the tournament both days. TC Williams played Eleanor Roosevelt in a curtain raiser to the final showcasing local rugby. Roosevelt won the Godek Cup 24-22 in a thrilling match. Fordham Prep defeated Fairfield Prep in the third-place game, and McQuaid beat Georgetown Prep in the fifth-place game.