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Illinois Youth Rugby Hosts Windsor School

Friday Jul 10, 2009 in Grassroots Rugby High School

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This past weekend the Windsor Boys School from England took on two Chicago-area U19 teams at the Chicago Blaze Rugby Club grounds in Lamont, Ill.

Windsor provided stiff opposition for a Chicago Select team and an Illinois Tornados Select side. Chicago won 23-22 and Windsor downed the Tornadoes 18-13 in the second game.

“We didn’t know what was going to happen with the rain and everything for those of us in the back line," Chicago Select player Matt Lancor said. “It’s nice to win, definitely.”

The all-afternoon rain got steadier as the first half progressed. Both teams had to deal with deteriorating conditions.

Windsor led 5-0 at halftime on Matt Tassell’s try. The pace of game increased as the game went on, and Chicago managed to capitalize on some Windsor errors.

Jack Brennan scored five minutes into the second half for the hosts, and Pat Sullivan’s conversion gave his side a 7-5 lead. The visitors came back repeatedly, but never regained the lead. Ryan McGlynn and Brett Thomas scored tries and Sullivan added two penalties to just stay ahead of Windsor.

“It was good defense from [Chicago],” Windsor’s Tom Heeks said. “They were very physical. And they picked up on our mistakes well.”

Punishing the tourists’ mistakes was crucial in a contest where the teams were evenly matched.

“We knew when they made a mistake, we knew we had to take advantage of it,” Chicago Select player Connor Day said. “It’s good to know we can compete against people who have been playing rugby quite a bit longer than us.” 

Those final moments bode well for the Windsor team as it moves to Cleveland before matches in Niagara, Ont., New York City and Washington, D.C.

“Our body positions were too high in contact to start with and we were a bit rusty,” Paul said. "I was really proud of the way we finished. We finished strong."

Windsor then faced the Tornados and won 18-13.

“It’s fantastic,” Tornados coach Lou Raymond said, “I love the higher competition level. I love the exposure of those guys to not just the level of play, but also the social element as well.”

“I thought it was a fantastic game of rugby,” Windsor captain Sam Thorpe said. “It’s a credit to rugby here. (It) is as good as we hoped it would be. There was a period in the second half where the weather got a bit bad and the hands started to go wrong. But everybody pulled together and made it a good game in the end.”

The Tornados fell behind 10-0 within 15 minutes and then rallied when Jeff Smith finished a counter attack and Kevin Kanzler hit the converson to close the gap to 10-7.

Six minutes into the second half, the Tornados drew level on a Kanzler penalty kick.

In the 17th minute of the second half Fergus McCallister scored a try to put Windsor ahead 15-10, and then Luke Van Spall hit a penalty with ten minutes to go to seal the game at 18-10. Kanzler’s penalty was scant consolation in a close match.

The Windsor team is in the U.S. and Canada for a two-week, five-stop tour. They now move on to Cleveland, Niagara, Ont., New York City and finally Washington DC.

- ERN Staff and Darryl Mellema

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