Wilbraham Monson Academy (Mass.) 44 Kimball Union 15
16 members of the KUA Rugby Side took to Kilton Pitch for the annual match versus Wilbraham Monson Academy on Wednesday. Though smaller and outnumbered by their opponent from Massachusetts, the entire side played an intense and physical style that belied their rugby experience. Practice can never truly equal the speed of an actual match, and that showed at the start of the match. KUA struggled with options and decision-making, and the WMA scrum and fly half’s took advantage. KUA, though, bent but did not break.
Eventually, however, WMA found the try area and took a 12- 0 lead going into the half. KUA got into a rhythm in the second half. Rucks were being won and the ball was moving down the pitch. Too many odd man rushes, however, soon saw WMA take a commanding 32- 0 lead. Instead of getting down, KUA fought back. Xavier Manning was the first to find the try area, and taking it in from 50 meters out. He matched that run a while later leading to KUA’s second score. Cody Nguyen came up just shy of the try area, but after some very successful phases, Reese Stevenson scored a great try from 5 meters out. An additional 10 minutes were put on the clock and WMA managed to put over two more try’s and a conversion to end the match.
Man of the match went to leading scorer Xavier Manning (10 points). He led the attack all day and nearly had a steal for a try. He was the leading rusher and was often one loose shirt away from a try. Reese Stevenson was exceptional at both second row and prop. He was also in charge of the kicking game all day. He brought order and control to rucks. Andrew Jones had an outstanding afternoon at hooker. He won scrums all day despite the size difference of their front row. He had a lot of big tackles against much larger forwards. Cody Nguyen played the physically demanding fly half position. At the first off-load position facing an aggressive defense, Cody faced tackle after tackle on the day, and kept coming. He had a beautiful stop on a long run by the WMA fly half. Perhaps only Thomas Le saw more punishing tackles than Cody. Thomas had to fight through each ruck to win ball back for KUA. He helped win ball a number of times, and was able to get the next phase started. Hamson Shen was moved to second row due to the ten a side configuration. While new to being a jumper, Hamson worked to win each line out. An aggressive tackler, Hamson was everywhere on the pitch all afternoon, and took on some very big players on the WMA side.
There are a number of newcomers to the KUA side this year, and all were truly tested today. Prop forward Ken Ge did not come out of the game. He tackled like a pro, rushed to secure rucks, carried the ball well, and lifted with great effort during lineouts. Jesang Yim was the other prop, and he too played a vital role in the match. A painful wrist made for difficult lifts during lineouts, but Jesang powered through. He had a number of runs on the afternoon, and helped KUA dominate rucks. Niccolo Lazzari had an excellent match at wing. He Covered huge swaths of pitch and made a number of solo tackles on the afternoon. He made two brilliant try saving tackles late in the match, and bounced back up each time. Roger Liu also served as wing and as center. Whether playing on the outside or in close, Roger took advantage of every opportunity with the ball. He had some great outside runs. Hank Withington bided his time on the bench at the beginning of the match, but was ready when called on at the ten-minute mark. He had a number of great tackles on the afternoon, mostly against players twice his size. Hank was ready at the crash position of many rucks and carried the ball beautifully.
The ‘Fab Four Freshman’ did themselves proud on the day. All played important roles throughout the day. Winger Khoki Shinohara secured a number of counter kicks while defenders were closing in on him. He had a number of great runs on the day, including one that looked like a sure try. Seamus McGee was called on to play second row in order to help us secure lineouts. His sure hands helped us win lineouts against an aggressive defense. Seamus made an unbelievable tackle against a 250-pound forward. Though bruised and battered by the contact, Seamus kept on working to return to the match. Charlie Creelman was also called on to play wing, and he too had to make many one on one tackles throughout the afternoon. Charlie’s aggressive style of play also led to many turnovers, one that he almost converted into a try. David Cutler had his first taste of rugby as well, and played a huge role at prop forward. The apposing loose head prop outweighed David, but he dug in his heels and fought through each scrum and ruck. He also had his first carry of his KUA career. David also found the strength to life high during each line out.
Of the 18 players on the KUA side this year, 11 are new to the school and most are new to rugby. While the final score on the day may be disappointing to some, to this narrator it was a tremendous day for KUA rugby.
Thanks to all who came out to support the rugby side.