Pride of Washington, DC won the High School Rugby Challenge final 19-5 over South Mecklenburg (N.C.) in front of thousands of fans at PPL Park in Chester, Pa., capping off a six-game, three-day unbeaten streak.
Pride started the final receiving the restart, and save a few seconds following a knock-on, they maintained possession for the much of the game’s first quarter.
Showing they’re more than just a few breakaway runners, Pride methodically switched fields while moving toward South Meck’s try line. Helped by a couple of penalties, Pride scored in the 4th minute to take a 7-0 lead.
South Meck rebutted with the same kind of possession, and Pride reciprocated with some penalties, too, leading to a Tigers try. The conversion was missed, leaving South Meck down two, which is how the half would end.
Pride extended their lead at the outset of the second half, when sophomore flyhalf Jihad Khabir broke for a long-range centered score. The conversion put the DC school up by two scores at 14-5.
South Meck didn’t have the horses to keep up with Pride, and Khabir delivered the death knell with another scoring scamper.
Pride has had a very successful season, narrowly losing to highly ranked Gonzaga in the regular season and now winning the country’s premier high school 7s tournament. After graduating 14 of 15 starters last spring, it’s taken some great play from youngsters like Khabir to make it happen.
The little brother of former Pride standout Sami Khabir, Jihad started playing for Pride as an 8th grader and is the starting quarterback for Pride’s football team.
“He’s always been, even as a sophomore, incredibly confident, poised,” said Pride coach Tal Bayer. “A lot of times you get panicked, and then you realize he just sees everything. I’m always amazed with him.”
Pride has played 7s for years. They take pride in the game, and they know their typical skill set (they adorned warm-up shirts all weekend with “speed kills” embroidered on them) lends itself to 7s success. Last summer, Pride beat South Meck in the final of the famed Cape Fear 7s.
“A lot of those guys played on a team we met in the finals of Cape Fear last year. It was huge, because a lot of these guys remember that match from the sidelines last year,” said Bayer.
“We’ve been very focused on 7s for the last 12 years. Essentialy, we realized we were always going to struggle with size and getting kids up to speed, so we’ve always done summer 7s, always done summer camps to decrease the learning curve.
“Our kids love 7s. They love the open style of it. It’s more akin to like three-on-three basketball. They get to show their moves and their style and I think they really enjoy that.”