Staples wins first boys rugby championship

Since the program was founded in 2004, the Staples boys rugby team has been slowly building and improving with the hope of someday reaching the heights of perennial powerhouse and rival Greenwich.

Last week, the Wreckers finally reached its goal, beating Greenwich 35-7 to win the school’s first state title.

Staples was playing in the state championship game for the third time, with both previous trips ending in losses to the Cardinals.

When the final whistle blew, the Wreckers were finally holding the cup as winners of Connecticut State Boys Rugby Tournament.

“It was a lot of relief finally winning it all,” Staples coach Neal Seideman said. “We knew we had a good squad and thought this was a really great opportunity for us to win one.”

Last year was the first time Staples defeated Greenwich in boys rugby.

Greenwich has won the state championship 11 times with the last one coming in 2018.

The teams split two games this year, but the loss Greenwich handed Staples in the National Championship Tournament in Indiana prior to states, served as nothing but motivation for the Wreckers.

In that loss at nationals, Greenwich pounded the Wreckers, winning 30-12 but also planting a seed in the Staples players.

“We won our league game against them (28-16) this year but they kicked our butts in nationals,” Seideman said. “That loss was on the minds of our players and that loss certainly motivated them. We look to Greenwich and try to model our program on them. They have been the best program in Connecticut for a long time. For us to have such a convincing win in the finals after how they beat us up in nationals was great for the team.”

Staples finished the season 13-2-2, advancing to the championship game with a win over Trumbull.

“The second half against Trumbull was our best half of the season,” Seideman said. “We carried that over and played a full 60 against Greenwich and were locked in the whole time.”

Staples started their rugby program in 2004, but began a PAL youth league when the current seniors were in 7th grade.

Seideman said the addition of the youth teams in town is the biggest factor in the success of the current team.

“The senior class won this and it is not a coincidence that they were the first team to go through our PAL program. We had a great senor class with amazing leadership,” Seideman said. “Not only the seniors but each class below them has also gone through the PAL league. That makes a huge difference having kids coming to the high school team already knowing the sport. It’s a huge feeder system, our current players help coach the PAL teams and it is the reason why the program keeps getting consistently better.”

The Wreckers started nine seniors in the state championship game.

Seideman pointed to the play and leadership of seniors Brandon Saunders (prop), Devon Saunders (scrum-half), George Engels (8-man, who will attend West Point) and Noah Fraas, who Seideman called a “tackling machine.”

Juniors Eoin Cuddy (fly-half) and David Sedrak (wing) also played well for the Wreckers this season and in the final.

Staples went into halftime with a 16-0 lead on Greenwich, taking the lead with three penalty goals by Sedrak and one try with the Saunders brothers hooking up for the score as Brandon passed to Devon, who ran 40 yards to the try zone.

Staples would go up 35-0 with three more tries in the second half before Greenwich finally got on the board.; @EricsonSports

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