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Season Review: Royal Irish Rugby

This wasn’t the easiest season for the Royal Irish Rugby Society.

A perennial state, Midwest and national power, the Royal Irish – a rugby team made up of players from Cathedral and Bishop Chatard – were still powerful and still ranked among the nation’s top programs in 2019.

And while the Royal Irish placed just short of a couple of their seasonal goals, the season by any measure was a successful one – and the Royal Irish capped the season with a victory over a state rival for yet another Indiana State Championship.

“This year’s team did pretty well for itself,” Royal Irish coach Scott Peterson said.

The Royal Irish – national champions in 2012, 2014-2015 and 2017 – finished second in the Midwest tournament in 2019, and also finished second in the national tournament. They played well in preliminary and semifinal rounds in each tournament before losing in the championship game.

The Irish lost to Penn in the Midwest tournament final by a score of 21-17 in Elkhart, Ind., and lost to Newport Beach (Cal.) Back Bay 51-12 in the final of the Boys High School Nationals in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“We played well for two games, then kind of laid an egg in the finals,” Peterson said of the national tournament. “Combined with playing an extremely good team and none of the bounces going our way, it was pretty bad beatdown we took in the final game. But overall it was a pretty good weekend.”

The Royal Irish closed the season on Memorial Day weekend in the Rugby Indiana state tournament. They beat Fishers in the semifinal on May 25, 36-12, then beat Penn by a score of 20-12 in the title game on May 27 in Elkhart, Ind.

It was the fourth consecutive state “A” title for the Royal Irish. The Royal Irish “B” team also won the state title in the “B” division in 2019.

“Before nationals, we had two losses – both to Penn,” Peterson said. “It shows how strong Indiana rugby is. We’ve beaten a lot of teams at nationals and in the Midwest and our only losses were to Penn.

“If you look at the season as a whole, you’d like to have the losses to Penn back, but it’s hard to win every year. We’ve been pretty successful overall with the youth of the team and a number of things that went on throughout the season.

“Other than those two losses overall, you want to win every year, but you can’t. We’ve been to the final game eight consecutive years at national. We were right there again, so overall we were fairly happy.”

Cathedral players contributing for the Royal Irish in 2019 were:

*David Guhl, sophomore.

*Kiernan McCormick, a captain, a senior four-year player and one of the team’s standout players.

*Grant Monesmith, senior.

*Barrett Browne, sophomore.

*Johnny Leffel, a senior who returned from knee surgery to play well and contribute late in the season.

*Quinton Cannon, a junior and a top football prospect who had a strong junior rugby season.

*Luke Adams, a senior who started the majority of season after not playing since his freshman year.

“We had a good senior class and a strong freshman class,” Peterson said. “We had some good talent sprinkled in between. We’re heavy seniors and freshman for some reasons. After last year, we lost a big group of seniors. The expectations from me … I don’t know if they were quite as high as we actually achieved.

:We had good leadership and a good group of seniors this year – a really good group of leaders and seniors, actually.”

And for a program that has been one of the elite programs in Indiana, the Midwest and the national for more than a decade, Peterson said the future could remain as bright as its recent past.

“If we get another freshman class like that and the guys we still have – the juniors and sophomores – play like they’re capable, I think we’ve got a strong future ahead of us,” Peterson said.