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If not for a try-saving tackle from Xavier's Rob Irimescu, Gonzaga would have defeated Xavier in a matchup between premium high school squads. An intense, even contest, the game ended in a 10-10 tie.
Xavier Coach Greg Norris indicated that despite some missed kicks, he was relatively pleased with his teams performance.
"We have not had much of a preseason with the weather. I would say coming into the game we definitely had underdog status." Norris knew coming into the game that it would be a tough contest. "Gonzaga's program is strength all around. They have a great coach, great facilities and tremendous depth."
Although no coach is satisfied with a tie, Norris was pleased with his team’s performance and excited about the teams prospects.
"There is something different about this team from past teams. They believe in themselves and really played a great game of rugby. The team is not a one dimensional team anymore and it is good to know we have undergone a good test."
Xavier needed a strong test before hosting a traveling Australian side this weekend and heading abroad to Scotland for its own tour. The team then will return home to battle Greenwich.
"We have a string of tough games ahead of us. The tour will get us ready
for when we return take on an always-tough Greenwich side," Norris told
Gonzaga won the toss and chose to put the wind at their backs in the first half. The choice paid off as they played a good kicking game and kept the ball in Xavier's end for most of the first half. Field position resulted in a converted try and a penalty for Gonzaga, but that was all the aggressive Xavier defense would yield. Down by ten points late in the half, Xavier wing Rourke Struthers snatched the kickoff just past the Gonzaga 10-meter-line and sidestepped tacklers to the Gonzaga 22. A dozen phases later, fullback Liam Gresser found room on the outside and went over for Xavier's first try.
Despite grounding the ball in front of the posts, Gresser's conversion into the wind was short by about a foot and the half ended with a 10-5 Gonzaga lead.
Like Gonzaga, Xavier attempted to use the wind to their advantage in the second half and force Gonzaga to play out of their own end.
But Gonzaga's defense was well organized and strong and, despite some promising line breaks, Xavier was only able to manufacture one unconverted try, by wing Rourke Struthers, in the second period.
Both teams played enterprising rugby in the second half and were able to make line breaks against tiring defenders, but handling miscues in the gusting wind and good cover defense by both sides prevented any further scoring and the match ended in a 10-10 tie.
Both teams would rue mistakes that left 7 points on the field for each team - Xavier missed three makeable kicks and Gonzaga wing dropped the ball while attempting to ground it in Xavier's in-goal on the final play of the match. Gonzaga were without star flyhalf Ben Cima, with the USA U20s in Hong Kong.
It is possible Xavier and Gonzaga meet again at nationals later this spring. It will certainly be an exciting rematch.