And that stop came in the final seconds.
Holding Staples away from the try zone, Greenwich held on for an exciting 33-27 win in the Division I state championship game at Wilton High School. The victory gave the Cardinals their 11th consecutive state rugby title.
“The feeling is really surreal because so many people before us won it,” said Finbar Doyle, one of the Cardinals’ five captains. “As coach (Joe) Kelly said, he doesn’t want the championship trophy to leave the mantle at his home.”
Added GHS senior captain Sebastiano Villani: “I am very proud of this competition we had today. It was a close game but the boys were always very focused and we got the ‘W’.”
Staples, which dropped a 62-28 regular-season decision to Greenwich on May 11, gave the Cardinals a much sterner test in Sunday’s title game.”
“Our guys really brought it today,” Wreckers coach David Lyme said. “Greenwich is the team that you measure your team against and we went out there and played so well against them. Time just ran out on us at the end. I am so proud of our team’s effort and overall performance.”
Trailing 17-12 late in the first half, Greenwich took the lead for good when senior D.J. Brown pounded his way into the try zone. Villani made the conversion kick and the Cards went ahead, 19-17. Senior captain Eddie Schmidt helped set Brown’s try up, getting the ball to him after making a strong push toward the try zone.
Villani then broke away from Staples’ defenders and sprinted 40 yards to the try zone. He again was perfect on his conversion kick and Greenwich entered halftime with a 28-17 lead. Villani added a second-half try and Ben Van Der Merwe reached the try zone in the second half for Staples. The Wreckers pulled to within 33-27 with a try late in the second half.
“I give credit to Staples, they are an awesome team and they were so ready for this game,” Schmidt said. “They gave us an awesome run for this trophy. On offense, we got better as the game went on by staying aggressive and getting all the gaps we could. We made sure we were working toward the try zone.”
C.J. Coyle scored the game’s first try for Greenwich and Villani was true on the conversion attempt, making it 7-0 early in the opening half. Staples, however, scored 17 unanswered points and had the momentum midway through the first half, as it held a 17-7 advantage.
“It was right down to the wire, everything during the game was going their way we got no breaks or bounces, but our guys fought hard without having the opportunities and did what they had to do,” GHS coach Joe Kelly said. “They were threatening for a try at the end, but we stood up to it and made it happen.”
Greenwich received a boost from its captains, Nick McIntosh, Bennett Tiedy, Villani, Schmidt and Doyle, throughout.
“We will certainly miss our senior captains and all of our seniors from the great leadership they showed every game,” Kelly said.