Belmont Girls Rugby Team Wins 2017 State Championship

 

 

Belmont Girls Rugby Team Win First Ever MIAA State Championship

Date of Contest: 6/10/2017

Sport & Level: Rugby-Varsity Belmont Girls  vs. Algonquin RHS

Varsity (1st XV) Score:   Belmont 17              Algonquin  14

 

It was a historic first as the Belmont Girls Rugby team faced Algonquin Regional High School in the first ever MIAA [Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Assocation] State Championship match hosted at Endicott College. From kickoff, Belmont appeared a little hesitant, a feeling unmatched by the Algonquin side who poured into rucks and challenged for possession. A contested breakdown at the 2 minute mark brought the ball into Algonquin hands and punishing punches off each breakdown flummoxed the Belmont defense, leading to an early opportunity for the speedy Algonquin fullback to run in the first try, and subsequent conversion, of the game at the 4th minute of the match bringing Algonquin the lead 7-0. The next 20 minutes saw a tight back and forth battle, with each side testing the other’s defensive structures. At the 23rd minute, a penalty by Belmont within 10m of their own try line, allowed the Algonquin T-Hawks to punch the ball up the center in multiple phases with the tight head prop finishing with the try. Another conversion brought Algonquin up 14-0 with fewer than 10 minutes to play in the first half. Belmont began refocusing and working together, spending the remainder of the half entirely in Algonquin’s territory. And just at the end of the half, Belmont strung together a series of phenomenal phases, which ended with a cut through the line by sophomore fullback, Gabriella Viale and Belmont’s first try to end the half, with a successful conversion by senior Georgia Parsons bringing the score 14-7 at halftime.

After the break, Belmont came out with renewed focus, especially in the defensive wall, maintaining structure while the punishing Algonquin side crashed the fringes time and again, with tremendous defensive work especially from the inside and outside center duo, juniors Kiera Booth and Rachel Iler-Keniston. After a serious of attacks at the line by Belmont resulted in a penalty to Algonquin, the resulting kick was received and returned by sophomore Hannah Hlotyak and then powered over the line on the weak side of a breakdown by senior Georgia Parsons. The unconverted try brought Belmont just shy of tying the T-Hawks with 20 minutes left in the game. Algonquin continued to play a fierce style with flexible offloads on offense and opportune poaches in Belmont rucks. But Belmont played much more structured and supported rugby, gaining confidence as time continued. In the 53rd minute a stolen scrum by Belmont resulted in a crash play by Parsons, and a ball out to the backs which pulled out wide by junior wing Ainslee McMullin. The breakdown was quickly covered by Bemont’s backline, and Iler-Keniston using quick thinking grabbed the ball off the back of the ruck and touched down the third try of the day for Belmont. Unconverted, Belmont took the lead for the first time in the match, leading Algonquin 17-14 with 15 minutes left to play.   Algonquin was not to be counted out, taking advantage of every opportunity to poach and strip the ball from Belmont, punching ferociously at the fringes of the breakdown and working with a rolling offense. In the 59th minute the Algonquin fullback took advantage of a unsupported Belmont crash by junior Erin Wholey, to poach the ball and streak up the sideline towards the Belmont try line. But Belmont’s fullback, Viale chased her down and tackled her into the sideline, her strategic play saving Belmont from a certain Algonquin score. In the last ten minutes both sides put together some beautiful phases but neither side was able to break the other’s defensive structure. As time ran out, Belmont emerged victorious over Algonquin, going unanswered in the 2nd half and sealing the first ever MIAA State Championship for Belmont High School Girls Rugby Team. This victory was a culmination of three years of work in building the program and a testament to the entire team of 35 girls who continued to push each other for the chance to take the top spot in the state. So much respect to Algonquin Regional High School for a phenomenal match and a fantastic season.

Congratulations to all the players on the 2017 Girls Rugby Team. You are all State Champions. And as our motto stands: Champions Do a Little Extra.

 

 

State Championship Trophy Hoisted in Team Huddle. *Credit: Franklin Tucker*

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