OHIO CITY, Oh - The Rugby Cats are beginning to hit their stride as they head into the last couple of matches of the regular season. Before their game against the St. Edward Eagles, the Cats played two matches after returning home from their France trip. In those two matches against Archbishop Moeller and Grandville (MI), the Wildcats combined to score 197, leaving their opponent scoreless. On Saturday, Saint Ignatius came to Wasmer Field, hungry for a victory against their rival, the St. Edward Eagles.
The Wildcat student section came in full strength on Saturday as they would form a tunnel leading from Carroll Gym to the field for the Rugby Cats. As the Cats took the pitch, the anticipation rose for one of the best high school rivalries in the country. Senior Bobby Voth led the chant for the Cats and when they broke their huddle, it was time for rugby at Wasmer Field.
It was a hard-hitting opening to the contest, with solid tackling coming from Sean Ward, Marty Lenehan and Voth, delivering monstrous hits that made the Saint Ignatius student section loud in the early stages of the contest. The Cats used their fundamentals to work their way past the Eagles' defense. Saint Ignatius would be awarded a scrum near the 10-yard line; with excellent ball movement from Sean Lipaj, Voth and Lenehan, junior Ryan Putka got in for the first try with 24:50 remaining in the opening half.
With the successful conversion from Voth, the Cats now lead 7-0. However, the Eagles would counter on their next possession; with a Wildcat penalty at the 22-minute mark, St. Edward attempted a penalty kick at the 19-yard line. With the successful penalty kick, the Saint Ignatius lead was cut to 7-3.
After the kick-off, the Cats regained possession, continuing to chip away at the Eagles' defense. A penalty would be called against St. Edward, which would call on the reliable Voth for a penalty kick. Voth, with ease, knocked in the penalty kick to make the score 10-3 with under 18 minutes to play in the first half.
With 10:40 remaining in the first half, St. Edward would win a line-out against the Cats; that is when Ward came flying in to intercept an Eagle pass to give the advantage back to the Wildcats. Voth used his shiftiness to work inside the 15-yard line and Pat Lavelle used his size to work even closer to the try-line. The Cats would finally punch it in as Patrick Clink put the ball down inside the try-zone for five more Wildcat points. The conversion from Voth was good and the Cats extended their lead to 17-3 with six minutes left to play in the first half.
The momentum would stay with the Wildcats; after a line-out won by Ed Soeder, a maul would ensue between the Cats and Eagles. Sprinting out of that maul with the ball was Timmy Putka for a try as time expired in the first half. The conversion by Voth was successful, giving Saint Ignatius a 24-3 lead at the break.
Within minutes in the second half, the Cats would score again, this time, Nate Polinko would get in for a try and with the conversion, the score was now 31-3 Wildcats. At the 24-minute mark, the Eagles would get their first try of the contest and, with the conversion, made the score 31-10.
Nearing the 15-minute mark of the second half, John Reddy would get into the scoring action as he would give the Wildcats a 36-10 lead. The final try of the match for the Wildcats came from Lenehan. The play was gorgeous as Lipaj tossed a no-look pass to Lenehan, who curled behind Lipaj to take the possession. The Eagles' defense became stunned and Lenehan dove into the try zone with not one Eagle making contact with him. The Cats would finish with 43 points.
"It always feels great to beat your rivals, but we are not done," says Timmy Putka. "We are building towards Nationals; we will continue to get better until we can get to that upper level."
St. Edward would get one final try as time expired in the second half and the score would become final at 43-17, a Blue and Gold Winner on Wasmer Field. Next for the Cats is a road trip to Hollidaysburg, PA, where they will take on Aspetuck (CT) at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 30.
"We're hungry," says Ryan Putka.