The Xavier varsity rugby team completed a highly successful and enjoyable tour of Ireland over Easter Break, touring the Emerald Isle thanks to RUGBYMag.com sponsor Irish Rugby Tours.
The team played matches against two of the top teams in Dublin and an all-star team made up of top players in County Derry. The team improved dramatically over the course of the tour and is playing the exciting and skillful brand of rugby that Xavier teams have been known for over the years.
On Easter Saturday, Xavier took on Blackrock College, one of the top high schools in Ireland, where rugby is so important that the school actually fields 26 rugby teams. The Xavier team battled Blackrock to a respectable 36-17 loss. In three meetings over the past twelve years, this was the closest Xavier had come to upending the vaunted Blackrock team (Xavier lost by 80 points the first time they played a Blackrock team in 2000).
Men of the match were junior prop Ricky Comis and junior flyhalf Jimmy Wolfer.
Xavier next played Clontarf RFC, a strong club who had already advanced to the Leinster Cup Semifinals. Paced by two long-range tries by senior wing Charles Guiraud, the Xavier squad battled to a 24-7 lead with only 15 minutes remaining in the match, but gave up three tries and allowed the home side to tie the match on the last play.
Though frustrating, the result showed that Xavier’s attack had already improved dramatically, and convinced the players that they needed to be ruthless with their opponents once they earned a lead.
The last match was against the NW Presidents XV, an all-star team made up of the top players from City of Derry RFC and the four top rugby schools in County Derry.
This was a physical and exciting match that saw the lead go back and forth throughout the first half. Nevertheless, Xavier entered the second half with a 17-10 lead. Derry scored first in the second half to tie the match, but Xavier buckled down and scored the last four tries of the match to end the tour with an impressive 39-17 win.
Junior No. 8 Luis Carpio and senior wing Charles Guiraud (two tries again) earned man of the match honors while senior flanker Mike Gorman added two more tries and the halfback pairing of juniors Ryan McDade and Jimmy Wolfer played exceptionally well.
In between matches, the Xavier boys got to see a great Heineken Cup Quarterfinal match between Leinster and Cardiff in the brand new Aviva Stadium.as well as a classic grudge match between Leinster A and Munster A.
The players and their coaches also were treated with an afternoon playing hurling and Gaelic football at the Na Fianna GAA club. The hotly-contested hurling was one of the true highlights of the tour.
After making the trip up to Derry in Northern Ireland, the team spent a morning exploring the Giant's Causeway (an igneous rock formation that slopes into the Irish Sea, and looks for all the world like a pathway built by a giant from Ireland to Scotland), enjoyed a formal reception by the Mayor of Derry and were given a guided tour of the walled city of Derry that included visiting the Bogside - the neighborhood where Bloody Sunday occurred over thirty years ago.
The City of Derry RFC and Lumen Christi College were most welcoming hosts who put on a formal banquet for both teams after the match. In fact, the whole city of Derry seemed enthused about the team’s arrival, as Xavier was the first American high school rugby team to play there, and seemed eager for more American teams to come to Derry to enjoy their outstanding hospitality.
The exceptional tour itinerary was organized and efficiently orchestrated by Irish Rugby Tours and led by an outstanding tour guide, Steven “Stewie” Delaney.