No one likes penalty kicks to decide a rugby game, but it does show one thing - how close the teams involved are.
In the 2012 National High School invitational (Single School), one finalist was decided on kicks.
Penn and Gonzaga battled in a close match all day. Gonzaga went up early but had to deal with a stern Penn comeback. Penn led 3-0 early, but a try and a penalty put Gonzaga up 8-3 with time frittering away. Then, with no time left, Penn scored to tie the game 8-8. No overtime is allowed as U19 players are limited in the amount of time they can play rugby in a day.
The teams chose the end to kick at (and, oddly, chose the end with slanted goalposts). After five kicks each, Gonzaga and Penn remained tied. At least one Gonzaga miss was very, very close. But then the teams had to take turns, one at time. Whichever team led after each pair of kicks, would win. Eventually, Penn hit and Gonzaga missed, after 11 rounds.
"We were talking, the Gonzaga guys and us," said Penn captain Dylan Hayvaert, who scored the key try for Penn. "None of us were for it. We both played a heck of a game, physical, tough. Either team could have won the game, but this didn't feel like an honorable way to win the game."
Still, Hayvaert was proud of how his team came back.
"The first half we were getting beat," said Hayvaert. "At halftime we decided enough's enough, we have to get after it. Once we got started we knew we could win it."
Penn has been a national contender for years, but never made the final. There has always been something to trip them up. Always a big, physical team, they have not always handled faster teams well.
This time, they did just enough.
"This year we've always been about play to have fun," said Hayvaert. "Play to win but also play to have fun. Last year we never did that; we were always griping at each other. This year we've always had fun when we've played."
Leading the way has been No. 8 Hayvaert, who plans to play football in college. But Hayvaert also mentioned backs Alex Dorrier and Emerson Marenyi.
"They play really hard and play strong defense," said Hayvaert.
Halfback combo Troy Tirotta and Jake Garwood, two of the smaller guys on the team, were also outstanding.
Looking ahead, Penn now gets a shot at a national title, and Penn has to balance size and base.
"When we've lost it's because we've not been able to handle a team's speed," said the captain. "We concentrate on defending that, and doing what we know how to do, we'll be OK."
Tries: Marenyi, Dorrier
Charlotte Catholic 3
Penn wins on kicks.