Greenwich routs Fairfield to win 7th straight state rugby championship
The Greenwich rugby team is in the business of winning state championships. And since Connecticut's inception of a state playoff tournament, business has been good.
The Cardinals defeated the Fairfield co-op 34-5 Wednesday to win their seventh consecutive title, which is all of them since the tournament has been established.
"We had to do it; it's something we're required to do," Greenwich coach Joe Kelly said of the victory.
While it may not exactly be mandatory, Greenwich has certainly made it seem as such, dominating the Connecticut rugby landscape, something Kelly said starts with the school's support.
"What goes into it is the dedication that the school supports the program," Kelly said. "It's known throughout the school to be a great program, and they perform and we get some great athletes because of that."
Two of the athletes were captains Mateo Gowland and Gar,dy Lebon who both tallied trys in the contest. Lebon's came in extra time and was the exclamation point to a successful season.
"That was a great way for him to conclude his career here, he was iffy to play after a concussion, and he just got cleared to play," Kelly said of Lebon. "Overall, it was a great performance by all the seniors."
Between the seniors and underclassman Kelly found himself with 21 starters to fill 15 positions. The coach described his dilemma as "a good problem to have" and resulted in his ability to put fresh legs on the field later in the game.
"Its extremely effective because we know we can put them all out on the field and we have a sub who can play better once we're tired," Gowland said of the Cardinals' depth. "We don't have to hold anything back, and we can gun it the whole time and we have players to back us up."
As is the case with the majority of successful teams, Greenwich took advantage of the camaraderie that grew from spending a great amount of time together.
"I've played on varsity all four years and I've never had as good a time as with this team," Gowland said. "They're absolutely my brothers; I love hanging out with them and when we're out there we play as one team -- I'll never forget this."
For the Fairfield team, which combines Warde and Ludlowe, the town's two high schools, getting to the finals was an accomplishment in itself.
It was able to defeat in-town rival Fairfield Prep to clinch a spot in the championship match, and although it couldn't beat powerhouse Greenwich, the team took a huge step in the right direction.
The Cardinals return many key players next season as they look to contend for another title, but Kelly wants to just enjoy the moment for him and his team.
"One of the most enjoyable seasons I've had," said a Gatorade soaked Kelly. "No question about that."
Anthony Parelli is a freelance reporter