Boys’ rugby enters MIAA tournament as first seed

Katherine Wu, Editor-in-Chief

The boys’ rugby team ended their regular season with a 5-2 record and players are looking forward to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) state tournament, where they are the number one seed. 

The team is optimistic as they enter the playoffs, as their two losses were to Division I schools, and they compete in Division II.

“We play up because there’s a limited number of rugby teams,” junior captain Nick Southey said. “We have beaten all of the opponents in our division by a pretty high margin, and so that definitely boosts morale a lot.”

Southey believes the team’s success is due to players’ strong work ethic.

“The willingness to work hard has been pretty high on the team,” Southey said. “We have a wheel of extra conditioning that we spin at the end of practices and do extra workouts.  Everybody’s very committed to doing that, so that’s been impressive this season.”

According to Southey, the team’s perseverance has led to unexpected comebacks.

“We’ve had a few games where we were pretty far behind,” Southey said. “At a certain point, we were down about 17-10 and we came back 29-17 to beat Chelmsford. We had another game where we were down basically the whole game and stayed in it to the end.”

According to Southey, there were many standout players this season, including new players and those who improved significantly.

“My first go-to is [junior] David Downey,” Southey said. “He’s played soccer, but this is his first time playing rugby. He really fit into his position very well and it’s been very, very impressive. [Junior] Liam Cunniffe has been very strong. He’s a ball carrier, a very solid player and he’s grown a lot on the technical side of the game; he was always really fast and strong, but now he’s getting smarter about how he plays, too. It’s hard to name names because a lot of people have been playing through a lot of bumps and bruises and different situations and have been really shining this season.”

As the team enters playoffs, they are looking out for Hanover and Weymouth, teams which both have stronger records, but are ranked lower due to the MIAA power ranking system and the division of teams they played during the regular season. The ARHS team’s first game is on June 8 against Catholic Memorial, who they have beaten before. 

“It’s always hard to beat a team twice,” Southey said. “It’s probably the hardest thing in rugby to beat a team a second time. So we’re preparing heavily for that game, and we know that afterwards we’re going to have to play either Hanover or Weymouth, and they’re both forces to be reckoned with.”

As Southey looks towards next year’s season, he is hopeful the team can rebuild from the loss of strong senior players including captains Jonathan Valentine, Cullen Doherty and Jace Golden.

“Losing [the seniors] is going to be tough,” Southey said. “There’s certainly a lot of rebuilding that we’re going to have to do, but at the same time, our younger classes are really promising in both the growth they’ve shown this year and, for some of them who are returning players, the consistency. I think that next season, if we carry through a lot of the momentum, recruit a little bit more now that we have some of those pathways open with some soccer players joining, we could see a very, very strong team next season.”