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Grand Haven boys rugby surges past West Ottawa

Josh VanDyke • Apr 21, 2018 at 12:40 AM

HOLLAND — After a week of being cooped up indoors, the Grand Haven boys rugby team was ready to break out of their isolation and run wild on the competition.

The Buccaneers did just that Friday evening with a 40-0 win over West Ottawa at the Macatawa Bay Middle School field.

Grand Haven led 22-0 at halftime and added three tries in the second half to expand their lead.

Despite the positive result, Grand Haven head coach Dave McDonough saw plenty of things to work on.

“We came away with the win, so we are excited about that,” he said after the game. “But, we also got a little sloppy at times, too. We’ve worked on a ton of stuff at practice this past week, but the weather has been horrible. So, we’ve been practicing in the gym because we couldn’t get outside. We focused a lot on the little things during those indoor practices, and today, I felt like our big things got a little sloppy because of that.

“I’m not worried about it. With the weather breaking and us getting more time outside, I’m sure we’ll be fine by next week. Overall, I’m happy with the result, but we still have plenty of stuff to work on before then.”

Tristan Robbins of Mona Shores scored two tries to led the Bucs (2-0), while Collin Monsma, Logan Naperella, Joey King and Charles Allen each added one try.

The Bucs’ high-energy approach resulted in some big plays on offense, but also cost the team valuable field position due to penalties.

“Part of the problem was that we haven’t been able to do much tackling lately, so when we got out there today, we were going too high a few times,” added McDonough. “We were making unforced errors and that really hurt us a few times. It could have been a lot cleaner game for us, but I thought we did perform pretty well under these circumstances.”

The match was just one of many in which Grand Haven will be playing up to a higher level of competition than previous seasons due to a change in conference format that focuses on geographic location rather than club size.

“West Ottawa has been a varsity program for 15 years, and they have always been Division 1, while we’ve been Division 2,” added McDonough. “With the new conference realignment, we are in the same league as them now, so this was a pretty good measurement game for us to see where we are.

“We tied them during a scrimmage earlier this year, so to come out and win like this was a nice sign. They run a very organized system, and we were hoping that our style would counteract their system, and it did today.

“It was a lot closer than the score shows, so we’re just happy to get the win.”

After the game, McDonough talked to his team about keeping their eyes on the long-term goals, while making immediate adjustments to improve.

“We just talked about the big picture stuff,” he said. “We always talk about the expansive game like the forwards playing more with the backs and not giving away unforced errors. We are playing a little too individual at times, so we aren’t fully in the team concept yet.

“We aren’t where we need to be yet, but that’s OK. We have a lot of new guys trying to get integrated into the flow of things. We have a lot of talent to work with, so it’s our job as coaches to put them in the best position to be successful.

“You love to see the kids excel, and we had a lot of different guys make plays tonight, which is exciting for everybody.”

After a 32-0 win over Grand Rapids Catholic Central last week, the Bucs are riding a wave of positive momentum into Wednesday’s showdown with Portage.

“Portage will be our biggest test of the regular season,” said McDonough of the upcoming match. “They combined Kalamazoo and Portage into one team, and they each had about 25 kids. Now, they have one huge club, and they are really good. That’s going to be a big, big test for us.”

The match will be held at Lakeshore Middle School with kickoff set for 6 p.m.

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