By Charles Vermont
Westlake Picayune Contributing Writer
The Westlake rugby team played under the lights at St. Thomas Stadium and shocked the home team and their fans. Ranked No. 9 in the nation by Rugby Magazine, the Eagles are not used to being beaten – much less soundly beaten on their own pitch.
In addition to knocking off a nationally ranked team, 47-38, Westlake also got a measure of redemption after losing to St. Thomas in the finals of the state high school rugby tournament in the spring of 2012 and in a match earlier this spring. With this win, it is likely that Westlake will go into the tournament in Austin April 27-28 as the number-one seed.
The Chaps won the match against the much larger and stronger Eagles with very aggressive play, speed and a level of fitness that St. Thomas could not match in the second half. The first half was a close affair with five lead changes. The Chaps finished the first half with a narrow 19-17 advantage.
In the second half, there was an additional lead change as the Eagles scored the first try of the second half and took a 24-19 lead. However, that was the last time the Eagles fans had much to cheer about. The Chaps responded with four straight tries and conversion kicks to take a huge 47-24 lead going into the final minutes of the match. This series of second half tries came from impressive play by both the backs and the forwards.
In the first half, the very large and equally strong Eagles forwards disrupted the normally impressive rucking by the Chaps. In the second half, the smaller but faster Westlake forwards aggressively took control and won the lion’s share of loose ball. Aggressive rucking kept the Eagles on their back foot and allowed both the Chap forwards and backs to put the ball into the try zone four straight times with no response from the Eagles.
In the final seven minutes, St. Thomas managed to punch in the ball for two late tries but it was too little too late.
The Westlake scoring came from both the backs and forwards, and the Eagles were unsure of the direction of the next attack. Scrum half Justin Brown and flanker Charlie Schwan each had two tries while Carter Smith, Anthony Patino and Grant Beadle also had tries. Alex Rees had a nice night of kicking and hit six-of-seven conversion kicks.
“I asked the boys to seize the day and come to Houston with an attitude and beat St. Thomas in their own house,” Westlake coach Jason Spodick said ecstatically after the match. “They did exactly that, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Backline coach Aaron Cahoon and forwards coach James Lowrey were also celebrating this impressive win. But both coaches cautioned that it is likely that the Chaps will meet the Eagles in three weeks in the state tournament and that the team can’t afford to get overly confident since the Eagles will be looking for a bit of payback.
Per normal, the Chaps junior varsity side won in a lopsided victory that is clear evidence of the depth of Westlake rugby. The JV forwards completely dominated the Eagles forwards and the Chaps second side won 52-18. The Chaps second side forwards played almost flawlessly with beautiful rucking and hard running from the loose forwards. Charlie Person had four tries and flanker Jackson Cantrell had a hat trick with three tries. Fullback Daniel Bassett had the remaining try and Jack Lynn had a good day of kicking by hitting six-of-eight conversion kicks.
Westlake plays Dallas Jesuit Friday in Dallas. JV starts at 5:30 p.m. and varsity at 7 p.m.
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