Photo: The Belmont High School Boys’ Rugby squad celebrate its 2022 MIAA Division 1 State Championship with the tournament trophy.
Boston College High School rugby squad is known as the Eagles, but at MIAA Division 1 state title match, it was the Belmont High ruggers who flew to victory.
In a match where Belmont’s embrace of an all-encompassing kicking game proved decisive against the traditional muscle and brawn style employed by BC High, the Marauders dominated the Eagles, 20-7, on Saturday, June 17, capturing its second MIAA Division 1 state championship and the fourth title in the program’s 15-year history before a boisterous near capacity crowd at Curry College in Milton.
“We had a saying all year: ‘Don’t go through the wall, go over it.’” said senior fly-half and co-captain Erik Rosenmeier who scored twice from penalty kicks and on a pair of conversions resulting in half of Belmont’s points. “And that’s what we did today. Our kicking was amazing.”
Belmont’s kicking strategy which has become an important part of the program’s overall tactics mimics a trend in the professional game where world-class teams and national squads punt to challenge opponents, all a defense to reset and to “flip the field” with deep strikes placing the competitor on the back foot.
While kicking was an effective weapon against BC and St. John’s Prep in the semi-finals, Greg Bruce, Belmont’s head coach since he brought rugby to the school in 2007, pointed to the hard work the Marauders have placed in defense and tackling during the season.
“For the past two weeks we coaches built our defensive structure and put it into practice in training,” said Bruce. “The forwards played great, the backs, the defense. It was a team performance to be honest.”
“BC is an amazing team but they rely on their athleticism more than they rely on their skill. They really just want to get the ball and run it hard up the gut and hope we can’t tackle them. And, you know, that’s what we did, stop them,” said Rosenmeier.
Belmont came out of the gate fast and used their inside running to great effect to set up Loose Head Prop Asa Rosenmeier – Erik’s younger brother – to barrel into try from six meters out just four minutes in the match to give Belmont the early 7-0 lead. But 10 minutes later, a series of quick hitting runs by BC allowed senior Jack McNicholl to slalom 30 meters to tie the game at 7-7.
Belmont spent the first half placing the Eagles under pressure with sustained tackling against the BC frontline and a number of clearing punts that kept putting the Eagles behind the midfield line. On the offensive side, the Marauders’ were able to string together drives that got them within kicking range when penalties were called against BC. Bruce didn’t hesitate to put the ball on Rosenmeier’s toe as the senior scored twice at the 23 minute and 32 minute marks as the lead climb to 13-7.
The ability to keep momentum on its side turned out to be critical in Belmont’s final score, a gutsy drive after time expired in the half in which the Marauders’ protected each ruck and finally opened a small gap in the BC line allowing Lock Viktor Insanic to run straight into try to give Belmont a two score lead, 20-7.
The final 35 minutes was a near masterclass by the Belmont XV in denying BC the momentum or big plays needed to get back into the match. When the Eagles threatened 10 minutes into the half, Belmont backs came up with a great stand inside its 22 meter preventing runners from turning the corner, stalling BC’s drive eventually resulting in a Rosenmeier kick that was “knocked on” by an Eagles back giving possession to the Marauders in the BC half.
While BC kept to its strategy of quick, hard hits into the body of Belmont’s line, the tactics proved exhausting to the Eagles which was only compounded by a series of deep kicks that allowed Belmont to reset its defense and force BC to travel ever further to attempt to cut the margin of Belmont’s lead.
“The second half was a little boring; a lot of whistles, we got a yellow card and then it got really, really choppy after that. But they did what mattered most when it mattered most and that’s why we’re here,” said Bruce.
In its final venture close to the try line, Marauders’ Number Eight Max Cornelius made a critical steal ending all of BC’s hopes. Soon after the starters started coming out and the reserves got a chance to be on the pitch for the final whistle.
The 2022 crown joins Belmont’s MIAA Div. 1 state championship won in 2019 and MYRO titles in Division 1 in 2013 and Division 2 in 2011.
“Coming into the season, there’s this kind of pressure. I really wanted to win a state championship to finish my high school career,” said Rosenmeier. “When we lost our very first game to Milton [17-12 on April 8],it was kind of like a wake up call for us that we needed to get our act together. And we just worked our [posterior] off for the rest of the season and now we’re here with this,” said Rosenmeier hold the state trophy.
“Amazing!” he said as the celebration continued on the pitch.