Saturday, May 27, 2017

Bishop Hendricken (RI) Shuts Down Essex County To Win Mass Youth Rugby Championship

By Jason Siegel (@jasiegel1821)

WORCESTER, Mass. - Bishop Hendricken High School’s rugby team earned its third Massachusetts Youth Rugby Organization (MYRO) championship since 2011 with a 43-8 victory over Essex County on Saturday afternoon at Foley Stadium in Worcester.

Despite tallying 43 points, both Essex and Bishop Hendricken struggled to score for long stretches at the start of each 35-minute half. The two teams fought tooth and nail and, at times on Saturday afternoon, could not move the ball very far from midfield.

Bishop Hendricken broke through first, as Michael Rodrigues fought through bodies and ran up the middle to snap the scoreless tie. That try was just the beginning for the sophomore Rodrigues, who scored three tries for Bishop Hendricken on Saturday.

Bishop Hendricken head coach Phil Humphrey was very complimentary of Rodrigues as his team celebrated with the MYRO championship trophy.

“(Rodrigues) is very tenacious.” Coach Humphrey said, adding that Rodrigues is “a tough, old-school rugby player.”

The two-point conversion kick gave Bishop Hendricken a 7-0 lead.

Essex County responded with a scrappy drive, as they fought for every inch and were rewarded with a try by Jared Munoz. The missed two-point conversion allowed Bishop Hendricken to maintain a 7-5 lead, but Essex made a three-point kick later in the half, giving Essex County an advantage of 8-7.

Rodrigues made his team’s response quickly, as he scored a try on a 15-yard run. The two-point conversion kick gave Bishop Hendricken a 14-8 lead that it would not relinquish.

Zachary Knight added a try of his own on the ensuing kickoff. The two-point conversion kick gave Bishop Hendricken a 21-8 lead at halftime.

Bishop Hendricken had a lot of success with picking up yardage on kickoffs and utilizing all parts of the field to find open space. Essex spent a good portion of the day backed up in their own territory, and they did not have enough offense to keep up with Bishop Hendricken.

After a slow start to the second half for both teams, Luke Warneke got Bishop Hendricken going again after scooping a loose ball off the ground and running it in for a try.

Samuel Laurie scored a try of his own on a long run, which opened up a 31-8 lead for Bishop Hendricken.

Coach Humphrey said that his team’s patience on offense was key to his team finding ways to score after slow starts to both halves.

Rodrigues scored his third try of the day on a 30-yard run. The two-point conversion kick gave Bishop Hendricken a 38-8 lead.

Daniel Thomas finished off the scoring with a run down the right sideline, making the final score 43-8.

Bishop Hendricken has seen sustained success in rugby, as they have won three MYRO state championships in the last seven years. Coach Humphrey said that the key to his program’s success is “having buy-in from the players… If the players support the coaching staff and get behind it, then they’ll have success.”

The increase in popularity is bittersweet for Coach Humphrey and his program. Bishop Hendricken is located in Warwick, Rhode Island. As some of the top high school rugby programs in Massachusetts move from the Massachusetts Youth Rugby Organization (MYRO) to the MIAA, Bishop Hendricken is now having trouble finding teams to play.

“We’ve kind of taken a hit because of (teams moving to the MIAA), because we don’t have any teams to play in Rhode Island,” Coach Humphrey said. “We’re kind of scrapping for games. It’s been successful for (Massachusetts rugby teams), but it’s hurt us.”

There is no denying the sustained success of Bishop Hendricken’s rugby program, and the MIAA adding rugby as a varsity sport, will likely bring more attention to the sport in Massachusetts. But, Bishop Hendricken’s rugby program could ultimately be hurt by the recent uptick in popularity of rugby in Massachusetts that it helped to create.

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