Volume 12 Week 5

Friday, Nov. 17


 

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(Posted 5:30 p.m., May 24)
St. Peter wins high school rugby championship
in dramatic fashion
By Mike Beasley
OrleansOnline.ca

Matt Therrien is lifted on to the shoulders of his St. Peter Knights temmates after making the winning kick to capture the city championship on Wednesday. Fred Sherwin/Photo

The St. Peter Knights senior boys rugby team ended a three year drought on Wednesday, downing their namesakes from Nepean High School to win the NCSSAA 'AAA' championship.

The Nepean Knights had beaten St Peter in the final in each of the last two years, including in 2015 when they scored a game-winning try on the last play of the game.

Wednesday's final surpassed that result in dramatics with the match coming down to extra kicks after neither team could decide the result in overtime.

The hero of the hour was Matt Therien who booted the game winning kick in the sixth round of extra kicks after Nepean's Aiden Harris sailed his attempt wide right.

It was Therrien's right foot that extended the match into extra kicks in the first place. After Zak Karim scored a try late try in extra time, Therrien had to make the convert from the left side which he did with a metre to spare.

In high school rugby the two teams play two five-minute halves of overtime. If the game is still decided then it goes to extra kicks with each team's kicker making three kicks from the middle, left and right positions on the 22-metre line. If the game is still tied after three attempt, the the result comes down to sudden death, or sudden victory, depending which side you are on.

For the St. Peter Knights it was sudden victory.

It was a tense moment for Therrien who had missed his earlier attempt from the right side the first time around.

"The first time I set it too low. So I really double checked to make sure I had it right and I just I thought of everyone behind me and I kicked it through for them," said an emotional Threrien, showing the strain of having to carry the weight of his entire team on his shoulders.

St. Peter flying out of the gate at the start of the game resulting in an early try by speedster Pierre Hardy-Goumbas.

The best Nepean could do in the first half was a penalty kick to narrow the score to 5-3.

Therrien split the uprights on a penalty kick early in the second half to reestablish Knights' five-point lead, which is how the score remained until the 24th minute of the second half when Nepean scored a game tying try after dominating possession for several minutes.

With time winding downin the game, a desparate St. Peter side responded five minutes later with Hardy-Goumbas second try of the game. Unfortunately, Therrien's second missed convert of the contest meant that Nepean still had a shot at stealing the title with a converted try of their own.

With under two minutes left, the Nepean Raiders mounted a counter-attack which resulted in a game-tying try in added time. All Harris had to do was to kick the convert from the left side of the 22-metre line. Unfortunately for Nepean, he pushed his attempt wide and the game headed into extra time.

Harris would redeem himself in the first half of the extra session by galloping through the St. Peter defence from about 25 metres and scoring a try between the goalposts to set up an easy conversion attempt which he didn't miss.

With Nepean on top the score remained unchanged until late in the second half of extra time. Just as Nepean had done at the end of regulation, St. Peter was able to move the ball inside their opponents' 22-metre line with time running out and eventually got the ball over the line on Karim's try. Therrien made the conversion and the rest is history.

The St. Peter Knights pose for a team picture after winning the NCSSAA 'AAA' high school rugby championship on Wednesday. Fred Sherwin/Photo

For Grade 12 seniors like Therrien, and co-captains Quinn Nadon-Stencill and Jake Lowe, Wednesday's win ended three years of frustration. To a man, they all dedicated their victory to their coach, Lee-Ann Napiorkowski, or just plan Nap for short.

"Nap is like a second mom to us. We're like a great big family. If it wasn't for her I don't think I would have been able to make thos last kicks," said Therrien, whose words were echoed by Nadon-Stencill.

"She's built me from the ground up. She brought me in when I was in Grade 9 and she taught me the fundamentals of rugby and what it means to be a rugby player, the traditions and the culture of it, before I even started to play," Nadon-Stencilll said.

For the long-time St. Pete's coach, the win over a traditional nemesis was especially sweet.

"We ended the Nepean curse," Napiorkowski said after the game. "Coming down to kicks is never a fun outcome. It's so stressful for anyone kicking. It could go either way, but Matt was able to pull it through for us. The pressure on the poor kid is too much."

This is the second time that St. Peter has won a city championship in extra kicks. The last time was in 2007.

"The kids pulled it together. The composure was there," said Napiorkowski referring to the 2016-2017 Knights. "This is a group of boys I love working with and they have nothing but heart and character."

Heart and character is something they are going to need in spades as they advance to the OFSAA provincial championships being held in Ottawa from June 1-3.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

 

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