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Despite shortcomings at the SLUH Catholic Invitational Tournament, rugby looks to prepare for the state tournament

St. Louis U. High’s rugby team has faced a tumultuous schedule over the last two weeks, and look forward towards a positive conclusion in the coming week with the state championship ahead. In that two week stretch, the Jr. Bills played a single division game against Eureka and competed in the SLUH Catholic Invitational Rugby Tournament.


Senior Matthew Kluba manuevers around a Eureka player. Photo: Kathy Chott

The week started with a 34-17 victory on April 7 against Eureka, a team known for their hard-nosed style of rugby. SLUH came into the game looking to bounce back after a tough loss to Lindbergh the week prior and they certainly delivered with a decisive victory over a divisional rival.

“Tonight was a nice step in the right direction and a great way to start this weekend. There was a lot to like, but the easiest thing to critique was the high tackles,” said head coach Brian Corrigan through a team email following SLUH’s win against Eureka. “Let's commit to getting lower in the tackles (hate to be a broken record), but it's time for you guys to fix it. If you find yourself too high coming into contact, don't make contact. Trust that your teammates will pick you up and commit to doing better the next go around.”

Later that week, SLUH hosted the annual SLUH Catholic Invitational Rugby Tournament, in which six teams competed in a weekend full of rugby and community. After the first game Saturday, Chaminade did not have enough players to play their game so SLUH graciously lended them a few players for their match.

“At one point on Saturday afternoon, I was sitting in the bleachers watching some of our boys exemplify the spirit and culture of rugby helping Chaminade fill out their roster in their game against St. Martin’s,” said Corrigan. “I watched them smiling and having fun playing Rugby rather than worrying about playing for our rival. It was awesome, and by all accounts from those I spoke to, including both Sirs, our guests felt the same way.”

The Jr. Bills’  first match of the weekend took place against St. Thomas Aquinas, a top ranked side out of Overland Park, Kan. who is consistently ranked top 10 in the nation. SLUH played a very close and competitive game with great showings from team captain Max Sextro and junior Pau Thang but would eventually fall

“After we played a pretty solid first half, Aquinas scored two late tries—one on the last play of the half with roughly a 70-meter run through 10 defenders,” said Corrigan. “Halftime score was 22-6 but could have been much closer.”

SLUH’s second match came against Father Ryan out of Nashville, Tenn., which saw the Bills lose 17-14 in a disappointing loss against a very beatable adversary. After a tough match against Aquinas, SLUH struggled to regain their form in the first half and fell behind before scoring two unanswered tries.

“Late in the first half, we received a yellow card,” said Corrigan. “We fought and finished the half down 7-0. Father Ryan comes out and scores 2 twice in the first three minutes of the half. We lost by three.”

“Coming off a physical first match, we held our own against Father Ryan and barely let the match slip through our fingers,” said senior Caleb Forthaus. “Our team responded extremely well to adversity and powered through to the final whistle both matches”

For the final game of the tournament, the Jr. Bills looked to face up against Chaminade on Sunday in a much more winnable match. Unfortunately, Chaminade once again could not roster a full team and forfeited the game. The Jr. Bills looked to face up against Chaminade once again last Thursday but due to the extreme weather conditions, the game was unable to be played on the grass field at Lou Fusz.

After the tournament, SLUH was scheduled to travel to Indianapolis on Easter Monday to take on the top ranked club team of the Midwest, the Royal Irish. Due to a few tough losses and the unfortunate circumstances of this season, the coaches decided to cancel the trip to better focus on the upcoming state tournament.

“I have decided for various reasons to cancel our match next Monday. We have played several challenging matches over the last few weeks and are dinged up,” said Corrigan. “Our First Fifteen is still struggling to find its groove, so rather than push ourselves too hard, I think it's best that we work on our game with the goal of being in top form against our remaining opponents detailed below. We still have a lot to play for this year including the possibility of competing for a State Championship.”

The Jr. Bills played against North County/Howell last night in a crucial showdown to determine seating in the upcoming state championship. This game was also SLUH’s Senior Night.

“We need to focus on winning the first and last five minutes of both halves in these matches. No excuses for starting slow or finishing soft,” said Corrigan before the game.

Additionally, SLUH will travel to Cincinnati tomorrow to play Jesuit rival St. Xavier Academy in an all day affair. The trip should serve well to bond the team as they approach the state tournament in the coming weeks.

“Rugby trips or tours as is often referred to in the Rugby world are a big part of the game and great for team bonding,” said Corrigan.“Although Saturday will be a long day, I expect everyone to thoroughly enjoy it!”

With a few weeks left in the season, the Bills look to finish off with a bang in a season full of disappointments and a lot of very close rugby matches. 

“For the last few weeks of the season, we are preparing to make a run at the state championship and finishing our season strong,” said Forthaus. “We need to take pride in our last performances and leave it all on the field.”

“I'm looking forward to finishing the season strong,” said Corrigan. “We have a lot to play for, and we have the team to play at a high level. We just need to commit to putting it all together this week.”






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