Noel Chenier photo/Telegraph-Journal

Greyhounds grind out win

by TJ Staff - Saturday, May 30, 2009

This article is courtesy of Telegraph-Journal

SAINT JOHN - The Saint John High School Greyhounds got the top seed, but they may not have seen the last of the crosstown rival St. Malachy's Saints.

The Greyhounds held on for a 17-10 victory in Friday's AAA boys rugby seeding game, earning the No. 1 spot in the South-West and the right to host a provincial semifinal Tuesday against the Belleisle Bears. The Saints had to settle for second, but have a chance to advance to the final if they can prevail on the road against the Miramichi Valley Pulamoo Tuesday.

Matt Doucette, Jordan Lawrence and Alex Tees had tries and Christian Beckett added a conversion for the Greyhounds, who did all their scoring in the first half. Ben Connolly had a try, a penalty kick and a convert for St. Malachy's.

Saint John jumped out to the early lead on an overcast evening at Millidgeville Field, getting a try from Doucette just five minutes in. Beckett's conversion made it 7-0, and Lawrence and Tees added tries at 12 and 19 minutes to stretch the margin to 17-0.

Connolly got St. Malachy's on the board with a penalty kick 22 minutes in, but the Saints trailed 17-3 at halftime.

Connolly set the tone for a physical second half when he crunched Paulino Barahona in the air at midfield, eliciting a loud crack that drew groans from the crowd of more than 100 who stood along the sidelines or leaned on the hilltop fence overlooking the field.

The Greyhounds made a strong rush up the right side in the first five minutes of the second half. Saint John's Dom Beaulieu had a chance to get loose on the right side around 12 minutes in, but John Burnham stepped up to take him down and prevent him from breaking into the backfield. After that, SJHS barely made it to the other side of the field.

About 15 minutes into the second half, St. Malachy's started to take over, threatening for about five minutes before Connolly went around the left side and touched down for a try. Connolly added his own conversion to bring the Saints back within seven, but St. Malachy's couldn't find another score despite spending most of the rest of the game fighting tenaciously for the last few metres.

Burnham came agonizingly close with less than 10 minutes to go, but the referee ruled he was stopped just short of the line, despite protests from the St. Malachy's side. Paul Carson led a last desperate effort in injury time, but SJHS was just able to hang on until the final whistle.

"We had the first half, they had the second half. I'll take a win, but certainly we've got a lot of work to do before Tuesday," SJHS coach Dave McPherson said. "Full credit to St. Mac's. They played extremely well and hopefully we'll bring both teams home for a Saint John final."

St. Malachy's coach Troy Dixon, who rested starters Carson, Burnham, Walker Blizzard and Chris Reid in the first half, is also hoping for an all-Saint John provincial final, which would be next Friday if both teams advance.

"Hopefully, fingers crossed, we can both get through but both of us have a tough job on Tuesday," Dixon said. "I just hope the guys don't start thinking about Friday before they think about Tuesday."