Mechanicsburg, Pa. - The West Shore United Boys Rugby Club (RugbyMag #14 High School Club) and the Cumberland Valley Boys Rugby Club (RugbyMag #15 Single School) met at Chapman Field on the Cumberland Valley High School Campus to decide the EPRU Susquehanna District Championship on Friday evening.
Both teams entered the match with identical 7-0 records with West Shore United in first place overall by one bonus point. The winner of the of match would clinch the District Championship and secure local bragging rights as the West Shore School District and Cumberland Valley School District border one another in Central Pennsylvania.
Match conditions at kickoff were ideal with temperatures in the mid 50’s and no precipitation in the forecast. West Shore kicked off and CV was penalized for not releasing, but West Shore was not able to take advantage of CV’s early miscue and were penalized themselves. It quickly became apparent that the referee would play a big part in the match and the team that adapted more efficiently would have the edge.
The referee’s whistle continued to dominate play for much of the opening quarter as West Shore struggled to adapt. CV was camped inside the West Shore 22, but couldn’t find it’s way through the tough West Shore defense. West Shore eventually caused a knock on, but were called for a barging penalty on the ensuing scrum and CV capitalized by converting a PK for a 3-0 lead.
West Shore United would answer back quickly as they regained possession after the restart. After several phases of crash balls, United’s dynamic fly half Aaron Skonecki chip kicked over the CV defense and won the race to the ball, touching down for his 22nd try of the season. Wing Leo VanBuskirk converted for a 7-3 West Shore lead.
CV replied when flanker Devon Blewett stripped the ball from a West Shore player and broke several tackles on his 40-meter scamper to the tryline. The conversion failed, but CV regained the lead 8-7 at the midway point of the first half. Blewett continued to be a handful for the West Shore defense after the restart, but suffered a serious wrist injury after another strong run and had to leave the match.
The seesaw battle continued as West Shore inside center Joel Chapman dotted down a converted try to put West Shore back on top 14-8. CV had one more chance to score before halftime as West Shore was penalized inside their own 22 at the end of the first half. The CV kick at goal hit the upright and went into touch and the half ended with West Shore up 14-8.
West Shore came out firing in the second half. Scrumhalf Austin Hoover scored the first try by spinning off the weak side of a ruck three meters out from goal for an unconverted try and a 19-8 lead.
Joel Chapman would score again with VanBuskirk converting to extend the lead to 26-8, and it looked like West Shore was going to run away with the match. CV had other plans, however, and scored minutes after Chapman’s try.
CV moved the ball quickly to outside center Brandon Stine who fended off the West Shore defense and won the race to the corner flag for an unconverted try to cut the deficit to 26-13.
West Shore fullback Collin ‘Jerry’ Bower exploited a gap to get that try back - 33-13. But unfortunately for West Shore, flyhalf Aaron Skonecki appeared to suffer a serious knee injury on the play. Skonecki is West Shore’s captain and all-time leading scorer. His injury seemed to take the wind out of the sails of the West Shore players.
Cumberland Valley certainly took advantage, scoring through Stine. The conversion failed and West Shore held a 33-18 lead with ten minutes to play in the match. VanBuskirk moved to flyhalf from wing and his tactical kicking kept Cumberland Valley pinned in their own end. West Shore would take advantage of the field position when CV was penalized for not releasing. VanBuskirk calmly converted the PK and West Shore held on for the 36-18 victory.
West Shore’s B side would complete the sweep with a 20-17 defeat of Cumberland Valley’s B side.
The players and coaches of both teams shared in a post-match meal provided by the Cumberland Valley Rugby Boosters. West Shore United (8-0 league, 13-0 overall) will play Carlisle (5-2 league) next Friday for the top seed from the Susquehanna District for the Pennsylvania State playoffs. Cumberland Valley (7-1 league) will play State College (6-2 league) for the top seed for Single Schools.
West Shore 36:
Tries: Chapman 2, Skonecki, Hoover, Bower
Convs: VanBuskirk 4
Cumberland Valley 18:
Tries: Stine 2, Blewett