Friday, November 20, 2015

Fall Fun Sevens Season Wraps in Cleveland

The Fall Fun League of Rookie Rugby Cleveland wrapped up last weekend and there was top-tier, entertaining action throughout the divisions. In the Fifth and Sixth Grade division, Rocky River peaked at the right time and took first place; Highland took the Girls’ Tackle League Division and the Highland and Rocky River boys made a tight contest of the A League of the Seventh and Eighth Grade Tackle Division.

Perhaps the most surprising result was in the youngest division. Rocky River, who had come into the weekend of competition towards the bottom of the table with eight points. Fortunately for Rocky River, the players came together and put together their two best matches of the session to leap-fogged Brunswick, Strongsville and Arrupe.

The Highland ladies had made short work of the rest of the competition after the first week of matches and continued that pattern in the final weekend of the competition. Throughout the day, the ladies overcame the Junior Jaguars and Brunswick. The previous weeks of competition showed that Highland’s speed was going to be the primary threat throughout the day. What put the ladies in green well above the competition was the players’ proficiency in the set pieces and on the restart. In both matches Highland proved to be proficient on the kickoff, by sending up kicks that proved difficult for opponents to field successfully at times. Shortly after those scrums, Highland often went on the attack and either scored out wide or made massive inroads before an eventual try. Another facet to Highland’s play that ensured the team’s success was the way the ladies moved the ball. Often in the division, players would move the ball once or twice for one or two phases before resorting to a pick-and-jam offense. While Highland did a fair amount of picking from breakdowns, when the girls let the ball do the work the offense usually beat the defense and resulted in a try.

The A Division of the Seventh and Eighth Grade Boys League was a tightly contested affair between Rocky River and Highland. During the day, Highland eked out a three-point win over Rocky River, only to have the results reversed later on. Both teams were tenacious throughout the day’s competitions and achieved success in different ways. Where the Highland ladies used speed as a primary weapon, the boys concentrated on utilizing the size advantage on the field. There were two players, especially, for Highland that broke the line with every touch of the ball. If there was ever a penalty or free pass, it was a safe bet that one of those two players was going to get the ball, especially within five meters of the line. No matter who the player was, runners for the Highland boys came with pace and it often took a number of tacklers to bring that person down. This made beating the scrambling defense easier since most of the opposition players were stuck in by the tackle. Rocky River made a mess of the breakdowns. Despite giving up size to the opposition, there was always someone in a maroon jersey barreling through a ruck. This caused the team to commit a number of penalties but it also stopped teams from building momentum on offense and allowed Rocky River to oppose its will on offense. After securing possession of the ball, Rocky River’s speed merchants went heavy on the gas and escaped any would-be tacklers.

While all the teams played well and gave immense effort throughout the season, honorable mentions definitely go out to Brunswick’s girls. Despite losing to the Junior Jaguars early on, Brunswick held on and beat Highland by five later on in the day. Much of the ladies’ success was due to the outstanding defense. Brunswick’s players weren’t afraid to mix it up on the front end of the defense; and when runners got free there was always a blue and white blur coming from the opposite side of the field to make a try-saving tackle – or at least a tackle in the try zone to keep the runner from centering the ball. This hard-nose attitude was evident on offense as well when the ladies pushed through defenses and worked through phases to earn points and make a contest of every match.

While the fall season has come to a close, the spring season is just around the corner. Sign-ups can be found through the Rookie RugbyCleveland Web site, as well as coach contact information.

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