Greenwich rugby team continues reign of supremacy

Greenwich High School rugby coach Joe Kelly, center, holds the trophy after the Cardinals won their fifth straight state title with a 31-10 win over Fairfield Prep on Sunday. Pictured with coach Kelly are team captains, Doug Brown, Matt Diddel and Tomas Gowland

Another appearance in the state finals, another championship for the Greenwich High School rugby team.

The Cardinals captured their fifth consecutive state title, defeating rival Fairfield Prep in Sunday’s championship game, 31-10, at the Madison Surf Club in Madison. The victory put the finishing touch on the nationally-ranked Cardinals first ever undefeated season. Greenwich finished a perfect 12-0, dominating most of their opponents along the way.

Greenwich entered halftime a determined team Sunday, as it faced a rare deficit. Fairfield Prep held a 7-3 advantage, but the Cardinals scored four trys in the second half, two of which were tallied by wing Nic Richards. The speedy Richards amassed five trys during the state tournament. Senior tri-captain Tomas Gowland and his brother Mateo, a sophomore, each had one try and Tomas made all of his conversion kicks for the Cardinals. Ranked third in the nation entering the championship matchup, Greenwich resembled the team that easily had its way with the opposition during the second half. It took a little while for the Cardinals to adjust to playing on Madison’s narrow field.

“The field was okay length wise, but the width of is was down,” GHS coach Joe Kelly. “It was 10 yards shorter on each side. Those extra 10 yards is where we usually take advantage. Our team knew they had to pick it up to the next level and they did.”

“The second half it hit us that we were down and we realized we had to play harder,” said junior inside center Joe Kelly, the coach’s son. “It came to this moment and we just started putting it together, attacking their weaknesses and scoring.”

Going into the game the pressure was on the Cards, who were determined to successfully defend their title and keep their undefeated record intact.

“It was a little nerve wracking,” said Matt Diddel, also one of the captains. “At halftime was a little bit of a wakeup call and we came out strong in the second half. We had great team chemistry all season. I couldn’t have asked for a better team to play on.”

Said captain Tomas Gowland: “We couldn’t do this, especially after the season we were having so far. Once it was close we realized we had to pick it up.”

The Cardinals are graduating some talent, but will also bring back plenty of players next season. Don’t be surprised to see them soar to a sixth state title next spring.

Dave Fierro