Hughes connects on four conversion kicks and scores a try to lead the Gaels

Mount St. Joseph captured the 2019 MIAA varsity rugby championship, Wednesday, with an exciting 28-17 victory over Archbishop Spalding in the title match at Calvert Hall’s Paul Angelo Russo Stadium.

Senior captain Jack Hughes led the way with four conversion kicks and a try.

St. Joe took the opening kick and got on the board quickly behind a relentless attack with center Matt Harris taking a well-placed kick from flyhalf Zach Uhler into the tryzone at the 2-minute mark. MSJ’s Hughes, a scrumhalf, successfully converted the kick and the Gaels led 7-0.

Spalding took advantage of a St. Joe penalty and split the uprights on a penalty kick, chipping away at the lead, which then stood at 7-3. As the half ground on both teams battled for field position. MSJ lock Liam Flynn scored another for the Gaels at the 20-minute mark followed by another successful conversion kick from Hughes, extending the lead to 14-3. Spalding answered with a try of their own making it 14-10 going into halftime.

The second half opened with a punishing defensive onslaught led by Gaels’ lock Colton Berger, resulting in a change of possession deep in Spalding territory. St. Joe capitalized on the takeaway with prop Matt Wynn rumbling into the tryzone for the score, followed by yet another successful kick from Hughes, putting the Gaels up 21-10 four minutes into the second half (34-minute mark).

Spalding rallied and answered with a scoring drive of its own, narrowing the gap to 21-17.

With 10 minutes to go in the match Hughes did it all by taking a quick tap-and-go off a Spalding penalty, weaving his way through the defenders to put another one in for the Gaels. Hughes then split the uprights for the fourth time putting the team up 28-17 late in the match, putting the game out of reach for the Cavaliers.

“I’m over the moon for these guys,” said St. Joe coach Marc Hoffman, a 1997 graduated of the Irvington school. “Winning the MIAA championship was something the team, seniors especially, talked about ever since last year’s loss to Loyola… wanting to get back to the finals and bring it home, adding another year to our championship banner in the Smith Center.

“The boys worked hard all season and really embraced the notion of team play equals team success. They pushed each other during practices day after day and bought into the system, doing what they needed to do and trusting their teammates to do the same culminating in an outstanding team victory.”