The Plano Predators 7/8 Grade Rugby Team kicked off its season at the Austin Huns Youth Rugby Tournament held at Town & Country Optimist Park in Round Rock, TX. T&C Optimist Park is an athletic facility with over 30 fields and was a great setting for the tournament. Weather was atypically warm in the mid-80s. Competition included the Huns (Austin), Katy, Woodlands, San Marcos and North Texas Barbarians (Celina). As this was the PRFC 7/8’s first competition for the 2017 in an expanded competitive field; the players, coaches and parents were anxious to knock the dust off and get the season rolling – and the team did not disappoint!
PRFC vs. Huns
In the first match, the Predators faced the year-old Austin club, the Huns, in a 7’s flag format. The Predators scored early and often, overmatching the young club 11 tries to 1. Veterans Bryce Chatfield (4 tries) and Liam Carroll (2 tries) led the team but it was contributions from newcomers that impressed. Tries were tallied by Joe Hoodenpyle, Aiden Walls and Gavin Moncure. Josh “Frenchie” Goff added a try and two nice assists while Harrison Hecker also scored while newcomer Mia Balderas added a try-saving tackle.
PRFC vs. Katy
In the first full-contact match of 2017, as well as the most anticipated game of the tournament, the Predators put the pedal to the metal from the get-go. Merrick Moncure scored a “highlight reel” try right off the opening kick-off by blasting through the entire Katy defense unassisted. From that point, the staunch Predator defense, let by stalwarts James Knight, Bryce Chatfield, James Laprocido, Josh Seligsohn, Arris Robinson, and Rita Habib stymied the larger Katy team – keeping them on their heels the entire game. Two impressive tries were added by 2016 MVP Ty Nevse while newcomers Jamerion Sanford, Aiden Walls and Joe Hoodenpyle had as good a full contact rookie premier as you possibly could. Jamerion and Aiden both recorded impressive tries while all three played strong swarming defense. Josh Seligsohn added two conversions in what ended as a 29-0 statement win over last year’s State Champions - truly an impressive team victory!
PRFC vs. Woodlands
Never to be taken lightly, the Woodlands team fielded a balanced 15s team that challenged the PRFC club from the get-go in a back and forth match. The Predators put the first score on the board with a great run in the corner by team captain James Knight running through and around the Woodlands defense. The Woodlands came right back with a long try to tie it at 5. In the second half, with the ball deep in Woodlands’ territory, Taylor “Bacon” Bailey barreled in for the go-ahead score off of a play called off the lineout. Again, the Woodlands came right back notching the score even at 10-10. As the second half wound down, Jamerion Sanford showed his athleticism by breaking two tackles and pulling away for a try from mid-field to ice the game for the Predators at 15-10. Both teams, coaches and fans commented on how well played the game was from almost every standpoint.
PRFC vs. North Texas Barbarians
In the final match of the tournament, the Predators faced North Texas rival Celina Barbarians. Perhaps the biggest team in the tournament in terms of size, the game had all the feeling of a heavyweight bout. The Barbarians, using their size to their advantage, rucked well all day long - many times counter-rucking to great effect. The Predators however continued to show their grit and notched the first try of the game when Josh Seligsohn burst through their line to steal their ball and put it down under the posts. Aenghus Denvir converted. The Predators pressured but couldn’t overcome the fierce Barbarian rucking although the mostly inexperienced Predator pack showed a lot of heart in standing up against a much physically larger opponents in the Barbarians. The second half started an all-Predators roll as Ty Nevse took a pass off of the kick-off for a quick try in the corner. Half time adjustments for quicker rucks paid off as Jamerion Sanford took a pass off of the base of a ruck to blow through several tackles on his way to his second try of the day. The PRFC prevailed 17-0 as the final whistle blew.
Notes and Observations
Overall, it was a great day for the Plano Predator 7th/8th Grade Rugby Team! Not only did we go 5-0 (including a forfeit against a newly formed San Marcos team), it was a well-balanced effort as every single player contributed immensely. What especially bodes well for the future of the Plano Predator Rugby Club was the performance of many players new to the sport. As stated previously, Jamerion Sanford, Aiden Walls, and Joe Hoodenpyle put in what would have been considered top-level veteran efforts. Others, like Victoria Balderas, Mia Balderas, Saul Gerstenfeld, Ty Girouard, Gavin Moncure, Jacob Turner and Connor Woodrick all showed very well in their rugby debuts. In fact, in addition to getting playing time with the PRFC, Victoria and Mia had standout performances playing for Katy’s middle school girl’s team in the ladies division with Victoria making several long runs and Mia making several strong tackles. Although we have a long way to go, the team certainly came out of the blocks very well and appear to be on track to challenge for the Texas Rugby Youth Middle School championship in 2017.