Three matches in eight days take toll on side; league title in focus
By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
PENNSBURY — With two matches in less than 48 hours — and three in last eight days — it was no surprise that the Unionville varsity rugby team was a bit frayed at the edges, but it still managed to hold off a stubborn Salesianum team, 24-10, Sunday.
The nationally ranked Indians ran up their record to 8-1 and 2-0 in league play and while the win might not have been as dominating as some recent performances, it was a gritty win against a determined opponent.
“The bottom line is that Sallies is a really good side, we’re a really good side and we’re really tired side right now having played three matches in eight days,” Unionville head coach Curt Baker said after the game. “It was a nice win for us, it was an ugly win, but it was a nice win — we’ll take ‘em.”
The Sallies came out early and dominated the early play, scoring a try — a five-point play — just six minutes into the match.
“We had a couple of folks who were dinged up that didn’t play today, so it wasn’t our normal line up out there, so some of the guys hadn’t played together,” Baker said. “So the chemistry disappears when you start changing players.”
Finding themselves trailing — not an entirely familiar feeling for a team ranked in the top 10 of single-school rugby squads in the U.S. — seemed to awaken something in the Indians.
The Indians were able to gain control of the match and methodically moved the ball downfield, grabbing the lead for good on a Tim Christopher try, followed by Chris Baker’s conversion kick, to give them a 7-5 lead with 13 minutes left in the first half.
Just before the half, Zach Barnes added another try to put Unionville up 12-5 at intermission.
Although another Christopher try — and Baker conversion — opened a bit a of breathing room in the opening seconds of the second half, running the score to 19-5, the game remained tense and close.
After the Sallies closed to within 19-10, Brad Pechin’s try with just three minutes left in the match sealed the deal, 24-10.
At the end of the day, guys who have been key all year stepped up and well as one of two guys who helped fill the breech.
“Chris (Baker) played a really good game,” the elder Baker said. “Tim Christopher did a really nice job for us in terms of getting us around the corners. Pechin scored a try. Robbie Wheatcraft probably played the best game he’s played all season.”
With two wins — including a big win over Bishop Shanahan — in the league, just three more matches stand between Unionville and the league championship, with St. Joseph’s up next, there’s not a lot of looking ahead.
“We we’ve got to get everyone rested and beat St. Joe’s in a week,” Baker said, with matches the following weeks against Mosigner Bonner and — potentially the toughest — Malvern Prep.
And while the Baker and the Indians are honored to be ranked nationally, the goals for 2013 are clear: win the league and then win the state title.
“It’s exciting to have the national ranking, but that’s not what we’re playing for, we’re playing for a state championship,” Baker said. “It sure is nice to get recognition on the national level, though.”