The Deep South Conference hosted a day of rugby this past Saturday at Pan American Stadium in New Orleans. It's a traditional invitational event where visiting high school teams from out of the area take on some of New Orleans' best and brightest.
This season's guests were White Station from Memphis and the motley-sided Central Illinois All-Reds, which was composed of players from Peoria and Metamora area as well as a few players from the Chicago suburbs.
Central Illinois All-Reds opened against Jesuit New Orleans. The well-oiled team of Jesuit ran into the very physical pack of Central Illinois that controlled the ball for the entirety of the first half and a good portion of the second half. Thanks to strong rucking and power running from Central Illinois' hooker and strong side flanker, the Blue Jays were down 27-0 at one point.
However, they finally got their game back on track and surged back strong and rattled off three tries in 10 minutes to bring the game to 27-21. The All-Reds had enough left in the tank to dig deep and mount an offensive attack to keep Jesuit out of their half of the pitch for the final six minutes of the match to secure the victory, 27-21.
The White Station Spartans brought a Varsity and Junior Varsity side to NOLA. The Varsity side played first in a very physical match against the Crusaders of Brother Martin. The Spartans were outsized and out played but never outdone.
Brother Martin played a patient, technical game that capitalized on White Station's handling mistakes. The Crusaders worked the rucks solidly, winning many of them. They proceeded to work the ball from sideline to sideline until they found space where upon they took it, leading to a 41-12 win.
White Station's B-side took the lesson from their more experienced teammates and played as hard as they could. Unfortunately, Brother Martin's B-side did the same. The Crusaders’ pressure was just too much for the Spartans and resulted in a 24-0 win.
White Station's A-side took the field one more time to face the Audubon Barbarians. White Station's last game was pretty much a repeat of their first – flashes of great plays and a tenacious mindset countered by a team with more experience, bigger players and a better gameplan. The Spartans never backed down, even when they were down by more than 30. The Barbarians looked polished and in control at all times en route to a 49-14 victory.
In the final match under the lights, Central Illinois took the field against Lake Area New Tech Early College High School. The Leopards are the first public high school rugby team in New Orleans history. This is their second season in existence.
Lake Area's imposing size and speed difference helped get the ball rolling their way as they jumped out to an early 7-5 lead. However, the All-Reds excellence of execution in set pieces, almost stealing Lake Area's put-ins at will, along with their punishing running, helped them regain control and roll up a 27-7 lead.
The Leopards capitalized on All-Reds penalties and tired legs to pull the score to 27-17 with six minutes left. This time, the All-Reds backline took control, and every time the Leopards brought the ball in their territory, they found a way to get possession and boot the ball back into Lake Area territory or run it 50 meters deep before getting shoved into touch. Alas, the Leopards comeback ran out of time and the All-Reds escaped with a 27-17 victory and a 2-0 record on the day.
Central Illinois All-Reds 27
Jesuit New Orleans 21
Brother Martin A-side 41
White Station A-side 12
Brother Martin B-side 24
White Station B-side 0
White Station A-side 14
Central Illinois All-Reds 27
Lake Area 17