St. Thomas Aquinas (KS) traveled to Texas this weekend for a pair of high-profile matches. The Saints, ranked #16 nationally, defeated 13th-ranked Dallas Jesuit 36-7 Saturday and unranked Plano 42-10 Sunday. In Aquinas’ five years of having a rugby program, the Saints have never reached nationals, usually falling to a Texas team at the West Championships, so defeating two of the Lone Star State’s best on the road should serve as a confidence boost for the up-and-coming program.
Leading the charge for Aquinas was All-American No. 8 Cody Powell, who along with a front row of Connor Casey, Mike Short and Ryan Feehan, made up a great forwards attack. The Saints, restricted to mostly indoor practices due to weather, wanted to focus on the fundamentals, and the play of Powell and the pack were boons to that game plan.
“We just played basic, straight up rugby,” said Aquinas coach and former Eagle prop Tim Kluempers. “We just told the kids to run straight, make their tackles, and let’s move the ball. And I think we had some forwards do well, winning a lot of good ball and getting it wide, and we had our speed outside that did our finishing.”
The Saints have a tournament in Tulsa next weekend and are heading to Ireland in March, so this trip to Texas needed to be as affordable as possible, so on Friday night the players were hosted by Jesuit players and their families, and Plano extended the same hospitality on Saturday, making the weekend a fun event for all.
Aquinas, though a young program, has lofty aspirations this season, and despite traveling to comfortably defeat two quality teams on their respective home turfs, Kluempers and his crew know there’s still plenty of ground to be gained between now and the league season and playoffs.
“I think the boys were pleased with the outcomes of the games, but to a man they all know we need to put in a lot of work fitness wise. We made a fair amount of mistakes, where we should have capitalized and done the little things to score, and guys doing a little too much or make a stupid early season play,” he said.
“They were happy with the wins, of course, happy to just get out and play again together, but the good thing is they realize that we do need to improve and we do need to continue to get better to achieve our goals of winning the West and making it out to Nationals.”