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Edina topped Southside 17-10 in the Boy’s High School State Championship to earn its second consecutive state title.
Losing 13 starters to graduation, the Edina coaching staff did not expect to win back-to-back state titles. Coach Chris Babiash described this year’s squad as an “odd group of guys.” The 2012 squad featured a talented, experienced group of rugby players that was expected to win the State Title. However, in 2013 it took a lot of juggling and lineup alterations to figure out the best combination.
After a 3 and 1 conference finish, Edina edged out both Hopkins and Southside for the conference title by amassing more bonus points.
Minnesota High School Rugby is divided into four conferences, with the top two teams earning a birth in the state tournament. However, both finalists came out of the Boys Varsity Central Conference. Both Edina and Southside easily handled their Eastern conference opponents in the quarterfinals and defeated their semi-final opponents to set up an all Central Conference final.
In their first matchup, Edina edged Southside 29-26. The final proved to be a much different contest because of a new look Edina Squad. Coach Babiash indicated that the second contest displayed a “revamped squad from their first matchup.” Edina lost their starting flyhalf early in the season and saw two first year players make a strong impact by the end of the season. Babiash praised Gabe Johnson and Kevin Coats for their quick adaptation to Edina Rugby and mid-season rise from the JV level to become impact Varsity players.
Edina learned from its first meeting with Southside by altering its game plan and making some key adjustments. Babiash stated that “Southside is a well coached team and has one of the best group of high school forwards I have ever seen.” In the first matchup, Edina struggled to identify numbers in the maul and were pushed sixty or seven meters. In attempt to neutralize Southside’s forwards, “we knew we could kick on them. I was happy to play the field position game and tire out their strong pack.”
Edina saved its best performance for the Championship. “The boys really started to trust the coaching staff and understand the game plan.” Other than a few well-placed kicks, Edina dominated the game and “starved Southside of possession.”
2013 marks, the two time-defending champs, 16th anniversary of the clubs foundation. The Edina Boys Rugby Club has taken the rugby community by storm as 5 players have been invited to the USA Eagles National team camp since 2011.
Coach Babiash believes that the programs success is a byproduct of the relationship between the program and the athletic department. Babaish indicated his dismay for the word club and believes that many programs are stuck in the 1980’s rugby mentality. “The program dedicated over 47 hours of outreach to promote the team and is more than just a social option for the athletes.” Clearly, Edina’s commitment to serious rugby has resulted in its recent success.
With a talented squad of over sixty athletes that are committed to improving their skills, it is not surprising that the Edina Boys Rugby Club has won two consecutive Minnesota State titles.
See full video of the final here: