Volume 12 Week 5

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Bob Monette

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Tim Tierney

 

 

 


Senior Boys Rugby
Young Knights team off to 2-0 start as high school rugby season gets underway
By Fred Sherwin
Orleans Online

Phil Wakim tries to break a tackle during the St. Peter Knights' 17-7 win over the Hillcrest Hawks on Wednesday. Fred Sherwin/Photo


After winning four of the last five city championships and losing 22 of 25 players to graduation, the St. Peter Knights senior boys rugby team is supposed to be going through a rebuilding phase. As it turns out, so are the rest of the teams in Ottawa.

On Wednesday, a relatively inexperienced St. Pete's team beat the Hillcrest Hawks 17-7. Hillcrest has a rich and storied rugby tradition, but on Wednesday they had to give up a number of uncontested scrums because their front line doesn't have enough experience to do it properly.

The difference between the Knights and 95 per cent of the other high school rugby teams in the city is coaching. LeeAnn Napiorkowski is one of the best in the business. The former national develop.m.ent team member, took 11 of her charges to Scotland last month to immerse them in rugby culture.

The team lost two close matches before ending their tour with a 24-23 win over Thurrock RFC. Before returning home they watched the Royal Wedding on a giant screen at Windsor Castle and then joined in the celebrations in London.

Besides being a tremendous bonding exercise, the trip exposed the players to the sport at an extremely high level. As a result the team is of to a strong start with wins over Lisgar and Hillcrest.

The big test comes next Tuesday when they host the Bell Bruins who are also 2-0. A win would assure them a spot in the top two and a first round bye in the playoffs, assuming they beat Colonel By next Friday. A loss would put them in the middle of the pack.

One area the Knights need to improve on is their start. Overzealousness resulted in a number of mistakes against Hillcrest which allowed the Hawks to carry the play in the first half and resulted in the first try of the game.

Down 7-0 at halftime, Napiorkowski settled her troops down during the break and told them to focus on the fundamentals.

A more relaxed Knights side responded with an impressive drive to start the second half which resulted in a try by Phil Wakim, who is one of only three returning players from last year's city championship team.

Following the try, Corey Costantini missed the convert attempt from a sharp angle which left the Knights trailing 7-5.

Determined to take the lead, the Knights pressed their advantage in the second half and eventually scored the go ahead try on a series of passes ending with Brendan Sheahen crossing the touch line for the first time in his high school rugby career.

After missing his first convert attempt, Wakim split the uprights on his second attempt to extend the Knights lead to 12-7.

They would add to their lead late in the game on Sheahen's second try of the afternoon to make the final 17-7 for the home team.

After the game, Napiorkowski breathed a sigh of relief.

"That was stressful," said the Knights coach. "In the first half we were just overstimulated and all hyped up which led to a lot of silly mistakes. Thankfully, we were able to calm down in the second half and took care of things."

In other rugby action on Wednesday, the varsity girls squad lost 20-3 to Ashbury to even their record at 1-1. The junior boys team, meanwhile, will see action again on Thursday against the Colonel By Cougars after crushing Cairine Wilson 44-0 on Tuesday.

(Posted 8:30 a.m., May 5)

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