This article is courtesy of The Daily Gleaner
The Saint John High School Greyhounds' combination of size and athleticism proved too much for the Leo Hayes High School Lions to handle in the provincial AAA boys' rugby final.
The Greyhounds struck four tries three minutes apart early in the first half en route to a 50-0 victory over the Lions in front of 250 fans at LHHS field.
Both teams advanced to the NBIAA championship game with dominant semifinal wins: Saint John shut out Moncton's Bernice Highlanders 31-0 while Leo Hayes routed the Riverview High School Royals 48-17.
But after a back-and-forth opening 10 minutes, the Greyhounds took control of the 70-minute final.
Brayden Robinson collected two tries and five converts while Matthew Watson and Chad Alexander also had two tries apiece. Reid Calder and Connor McNamee had the other five-pointers. Nate Jensen earned player of the match honours for the Hounds while David Saunders received that distinction for the Lions, who tried hard but were stung by quick strikes.
"We worked really hard this week in practice, and we showed up, which I'm glad to see, " Watson said. "We were expecting a fight, and I think they gave it to us, but we were able to get a foot up and never let up."
After Robinson's penalty kick was short, Alexander punched in the opening try in the 11th minute. McNamee returned the ensuing kickoff 75 metres to the shadow of the Lions' goal-line, and Watson dragged three defenders across for a 12-0 lead.
Watson, a Grade 12 flanker who also helped the Greyhounds win the provincial football title in the fall, scooped up a loose ball and barrelled in for his second try, which Robinson converted for a 19-0 lead 31 minutes in.
"This is my first year playing rugby, but I really took to it, " Watson said. "Playing football, as a running back and li b k d f linebacker, prepared me for the physicality.
" Alexander's 40-metre sprint and Robinson's kick made it 26-0 in the 38th minute, then the Greyhounds struck for three tries in a seven-minute span for a commanding 45-0 lead 53 minutes in.
"Both teams have big teams and some athletic players, but they put up a couple early tries and it was uphill from there, " Lions head coach Jon Wilson said. "I'm pretty proud of the way the guys scratched and hung in right through to the end, though.
" Not only were the Lions playing in the provincial final for the first time, only three of their 30-plus players had ever played before this season. So Wilson felt that was a win in itself.
"With sports being shut down due to COVID, and rugby being a late-joiner sport as is, we missed a few years of recruiting and building and t hi th t l " teaching the guys to play, " Wilson said. "We didn't know what to expect at the start of the year, but the guys pulled together and worked hard and learned a lot."
"We put up a lot of [offensive] numbers this year, " said Greyhounds head coach Jeff Warr, whose Grade 12 son, Iain, was a standout at No. 8. "With all the schools having to deal with COVID, we almost had to start from scratch this season. But we were really fortunate to get a lot of the school's top athletes to come out.
"We had kids who love to tackle and kids who love to run and jump, " Warr said. "These guys are buddies and we've had an incredible year at Saint John High, winning baseball, football and rugby banners."
Despite the lopsided score, Warr complimented the Lions for their resolve.
"When we got off the bus and When we got off the bus and saw such a large group of Leo Hayes players, we said that bodes well for their future. A lot of programs struggle to get 10-20 players out, let alone more than 30. It says a lot about the coaches, getting so many guys to come out and try a new game."