Pride Rugby from Washington, DC traveled north to meet Xavier High School in New York City for the second time this season. Xavier bested the Pride 31-19 in a spirited match in Philadelphia, Pa. earlier this spring and 32-30 Saturday.
The Pride scored first with a quick-tap penalty that saw outside center Adrian Ray dive over in the corner. Despite the difficult angle, scrumhalf Justin Owens nailed the conversion from the sideline.
The next score came off a Xavier clearance kick that failed to find touch. The Pride quickly countered and inside center Christian Adams raced 30 meters, powering through several tacklers before offloading to flyhalf, Jihad Khabir. Khabir scampered the remaining 30 meters to score under the post. Despite the easy kicking angle, the conversion was missed by Owens, leaving the Pride up 12-0. Several minutes later, Xavier got onto the scoreboard with a penalty kick from 25 meters out.
Trying to regain momentum, the Pride struck again following a quick tap penalty from 60 meters out. Khabir chipped over the defensive line, and in the chaos scrumhalf Owens scooped the ball up, offloaded to No. 8 Marcus Mcintyre who shook off several defenders before dotting down. Conversion missed, Pride led 17-3.
Xavier regrouped and refocused its game. After several successive phases, the Xavier No. 4 romped through a tattered Pride backline and offloaded to his No. 8, who bulled his way to the try line. Conversion made, Xavier cut the lead to 17-10. The Pride stuck again with Mcintyre nailing a penalty kick from the center, making it 20-10.
Xavier answered back with a final score of the first half after a poorly placed chip kick bounced its way into the hands of the Xavier scrumhalf who juked and eluded defenders over a 50-meter break to dive in under the post. Conversion good, 20-17 lead to Pride. With minutes remaining in the half, the Pride were whistled for offside, and Xavier’s kicker calmly slotted the penalty to tie the game at intermission.
The Pride opened up second-half scoring when Xavier was penalized for not releasing. The Pride quickly spun the ball wide to Adams, who overpowered the Xavier defenders and notched his second try of the day. Another conversion was missed, making it 25-20 Pride.
Xavier quickly answered back after a Pride clearance kick went straight to an eagerly awaiting opposing player. Several phases later, Xavier busted through a crumbling Pride defense and offloaded to an onrushing support runner who touched down. With the conversion, Xavier led 27-25.
With 10 minutes left in the game, Xavier scored again after a Pride loose forward scooped up a ball and tried to power through three waiting Xavier forwards. With the speed and ease, a Xavier defender quickly stripped his opposition of possession and raced the 20 meters to pay dirt. Conversion missed, Xavier led 32-25.
With seven minutes left in the game, the Pride ramped up their efforts and were rewarded when Adams crashed through the backline and dotted down under the post for his second try of the day. Unfortunately, the conversion attempt was shanked wide right, leaving the score at 32-30.
With only two points separating the winners from losers, the intensity and desperation increased as neither team was backing down or giving up. The Pride rumbled down inside the Xavier 22 but the Xavier defense stiffened and errant Pride passes turned into lost opportunities.
In reflecting after the game, Pride Coach Tal Bayer said, “While obviously disappointed in the outcome, I am extremely proud of our effort and intensity on the day.
“We struggled with our set pieces and kicking but these problems are all fixable. Our bigger challenge is keeping our patience and self composure when things are heated and the game is hanging in the balance.”
This week both teams will face local rivals as Xavier takes on Greenwich and the Pride will play Gonzaga. Xavier hopes to avenge last year’s loss to Greenwich, and the Pride hope to surprise the nation’s top-ranked Eagles.
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