Photo: Senior Scrumhalf Joe Viale racing down the pitch vs. St. John’s Prep
With a pair of dominating performances in the state championship semifinals last week, Belmont High School’s boys’ and girls’ Rugby squads now prepare to meet familiar foes in the state finals in a rare doubleheader where girls and boys high school teams will be seeking championships on the same day this Saturday, June 23.
The number one-ranked boys’ (6-0) in Division 1 will meet defending championships and second seed Boston College High School (5-1) in the late match of the three championship finals taking place at Newton South High School at 4 p.m.
In the middle match at 2 p.m., the first seed and defending champs Belmont (7-0) is match up against second-ranked Lincoln Sudbury Regional High School (5-2) in the Division 1 Girls’ finals.
The Belmont teams earned their place in the championship match with convincing victories in the semifinals that took place at Harris Field. On Tuesday, June 12, Belmont’s girls’ defeated the Needham High squad, 54-7, in a game that was more competitive than the earlier encounter between the teams.
Saturday’s opponent Lincoln Sudbury has been the one team which has placed the most pressure on the Marauders. It took Gabby Viale‘s ten-meter “tap and go” dash up the middle for a try on the last play of the game to give Belmont a 17-12 away victory on April 25. In the reverse fixture on June 12, Belmont’s defense and tackling kept a surging Warriors’ at bay for the 14-12 win, the margin of victory provided by junior Johanna Matulonis‘ converting both two-point conversion kicks after trys.
Belmont will be relying on Senior Scrumhalf Jessica Rosenstein – who will be playing collegiately at national champs Lindenwood next year – to deliver the ball to the backline and direct the offense. Expect the team to rely on Number 8 Grace Christensen to take inside runs while Viale will be relied on to continue her season-long game-breaking runs while the back row wingers – highlighting juniors Hannah Hlotyak, Clare Martin, and Kiera Booth – will play a central role advancing the ball.
The Marauders will need to protect the ruck – when a runner is stopped, their teammates attempt to push back the opponents so the scrumhalf can release the ball to the back row – and win the scrum when Belmont’s front eight players battle Lincoln-Sudbury’s front eight for the ball.
On defense, watch for Belmont tackling attempt to counter the speed and physical nature of the Warriors.
If there is one advantage Belmont will carry into the game will be its experience – Saturday will be consecutive championship matches for nearly all the players on the field – and knowledge of the game which will
Belmont Boys’ completed the season undefeated and rarely challenged in the late going of matches. And they showed its superiority in the semifinals as they dispatched St. John’s Prep High, 33-3, on Wednesday.
Boston College High squeaked into the championship game with a 12-10 semifinal victory over Lincoln Sudbury. Belmont defeated the Eagles on a rainy April 25, 26-14, with BC High scoring a late try.
The Marauders will look to its senior front-runners, captain and flanker Will Lozano and scrumhalf Joe Viale, who will provide leadership by example on both sides of the ball, leading the attack into the heart of the BC High squad while being the first line of defense with an emphasis on stealing the ball from the ruck or during the run of play.
And it will be in the ruck, side out and especially the scrum where Belmont will attempt to continue its season-long dominance. Despite being outweighed by BC High and St. John’s Prep by a significant amount, the forwards – front row Jake Parsons, Ryuichi Ohhata, and Mark Morash; locks Andra Duda and Maxwell Baskerville; flankers Connor Shea and Lozano; and 8-man Sam Sagherian – have controlled the majority of scrum restarts by working in concert as a single unit, resulting in the Marauders dictating how the game is played.
Look for Belmont to control the line-outs with Baskerville as the jumper who is lifted to capture the ball. Center back Sam Harris and wings Joe Altomare will give Belmont a great amount of pace in the open field.
And the Marauders is expected to have an advantage in the kicking game as senior flyhalf Laurent Brabo has been hitting conversions and penalty kicks from well past 30 meters.