Belmont Rugby Topple St. John’s Prep


Belmont Rugby RFC improved to 2-0 {1-0} on the season with a gritty, hard nosed, come from behind victory over St. John’s Prep. The Eagles have dominated Massachusetts rugby for the better part of 7 years, having not lost a game since the last decade.

It was a brutally tough contest – physical, aggressive, and chippy- with hard tackles, rucks, and hits from both sides. But there was impressive skill and flow to the match, with each side showing off their rugby acumen as they went back and forth.

With the wind whipping strongly and the temperature dropping, the teams started tentatively, testing each other’s defense. Belmont was limited offensively by a strong, well coached, St. John’s Prep attack that secured ball with big forwards and nimble half-backs. Much of the early parts of the match were played in Belmont’s half. When the home side did emerge with ball in hand they used their backs quickly and spread the ball wide to wear down the Eagle’s bigger pack.

Belmont’s half-back combo of Sam Tommy & Junior Toussaint  organized the defensive attack and kept the visitors from penetrating the gain line. Once again, the trio of loose forwards including Craig Janjigian, David Senatus, and Barrett Lyons were ferocious on defense in open play and kept the Eagles from spreading the ball wide.

Belmont’s aggression may have been their early undoing, however, as the home side was penalized often for infringements around the breakdown, offsides, and dangerous tackles. Cleverly taking their time, St. John’s Prep booted the ball down field and set up a lineout. Having learned many lessons from last year’s match, Belmont was prepared for defending the maul. The goal line stance was crucial in the match, as what appeared to be an Eagles score turned into a Belmont 22 drop out. Clearing the lines the home side attacked and tested the wide defense of Prep.

Once again, however, Belmont’s aggression may have been too intense, as Prep was able to methodically move the ball back into the home side’s half and induce penalty after penalty. The Eagles set up a lineout 10 meters from Belmont’s tryline and, using a clever set up, were able to punch in the night’s first score. The conversion was true and the homeside was down 0-7.

Captain Jon Comeau would not be deterred and he brought the home side back down quickly. Obtaining ball after some defensive phases, Belmont used their backs well, distributing ball from Toussaint, to centers Nick Pearson & Alec Lockett, and then finally to fullback Sal Pargoli who dotted down Belmont’s first score in the corner. The wind took the conversion, but the home side was on the board 5-7.

Prep was not looking to drop their unbeaten streak that easily, and they replied quickly with great ball handling and a 40 meter try on the fringe. Missing the conversion, the visitors took a 7 point lead, 5-12.

At half both teams licked their wounds. It was a brutally physical first half and many players on both ends had taken knocks.

With the wind to their back, Belmont looked to make history in the 2nd half.

Belmont’s forward pack put in extra work as prop Pat O’Connor was a rucking machine, hooker Jason Park looked to make every tackle possible, and debutante lock Devin Morris showed his speed and comfort on defense. With nifty hands, sophomore Nick Ryan cleaned up a loose ball and set up another Belmont scoring drive. As the team worked the ball into Prep’s half the structure was consistent and kept the visitors on their heels with strong attacking runs by Pearson and wing J.D. Niles.

Tommy dotted down the second try for Belmont as he nipped his way around the fringe. With the scoreline at 10-12 the crowd became a factor. Stomping the stands and screaming from the sidelines the home team believed a victory was within their grasp.

A yellow card against a St. John’s Prep player gave the home side even more confidence, and they attacked with zeal and panache, attacking the gaps in the Eagles defense.

The clock ticked slowly by as many players sought treatment for cramps, knocks and twists. Fresh legs and a deep bench helped Belmont as Lockett came off after another solid match and sophomore Matt Wilk moved to the wing. Wing Sam Pratt, having dealt with the swirling wind, put in a strong performance and came off to resounding applause as sophomore Darren Chan brought fresh legs on the end.

Defense continued to prove the difference for Belmont and once they counter attacked they were able to take the lead. The ball moved quickly from Tommy, to Toussaint, to Pearson, to Senatus who took the ball, fended a defender and scored the go ahead try with 15 minutes left in the match.

Up 15-12 it was all defense from then on for Belmont. Fresh legs brought in helped the home side protect the lead as Jack Toland & Myles Koskinen joined and relieved those that had played so strongly.

The last gasp for Prep was almost too much as the homeside committed multiple penalties in their own half. But a knock-on by the Eagles was the last measure, and when the final whistle blew the scoreboard still read HOME: 15 – VISITORS: 12

Belmont’s jubilation for arguably the program’s most significant win since their 2010 D2 state title was clear on the faces of players, coaches and supporters. And a credit to St. John’s Prep who showed their class in defeat.

The season is still young for Belmont, and by no means is it over. With tough divisional games still remaining the maroon & black look to use this momentum to carry them through the rest of their 2013 campaign.

Belmont RFC:
Tries: Pargoli, Tommy, Senatus
Conversions: Toussaint 0 for 3

Men of the Match: flanker Craig Janjigian, prop Jon Comeau, scrumhalf Sam Tommy

In the 2nd side match St. John’s Prep looked to avenge their earlier loss. Playing a very physical style they used their forwards very well and punched attack after attack. Belmont’s defense proved tough, but the visitors found gaps and scored a strong try, converted, going up 0-7.

Belmont’s offense looked to counter using the half back combo of Darren Chan & Paul Campbell. But the counterruck defense by Prep was strong and organized and they muscled the more nimble Belmont forwards, stealing ball and scoring again.

Belmont’s defense was strong and steady, however, with physical hits put in by Koskinen, Brendon Sullivan, and Christian Cahoon. The backs were forced to tackle larger player as Prep’s forwards found room in the open and sophomore fullback Luke Gallagher proved equal to the task.

In a shortened match, the heft of St. John’s Prep’s forward pack proved a bit too much. Belmont played well, however, and organized themselves when the opportunity was there.

Men of the Match: flanker Christian Cahoon & fullback Luke Gallagher

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