Dexter Devils 30 Birmingham Area Youth Rugby Club 7
(Dexter Scorers: Tries – Camp (2), McCurren, Burton, Kaufman; Pen – Makin; Con – Makin)
Thursday, 27 April
The Dexter Devils came good on Thursday night with a convincing victory over Birmingham at Manly Bennett Field, Hamburg. After defeats away to Brighton and at home to Troy, Dexter Rugby Football Club did the school district proud in their third match, although the victory would not have come without the significant assistance of Genesee Elite RFC, with whom the Dexter Devils have again joined forces this season. Genesee provided four of the starting fifteen on Thursday, and prop Jake Camp, Linden High School senior, scored two of the Devils’ five tries, to reinforce his position as this season’s leading points scorer.
Thursday’s victory came after the Dexter coaches, Paul Burke and Doug Karaska, made a number of positional changes in the back line. Behind the halfback combination of DHS seniors Neil Makin (scrum-half, captain) and Seamus McCurren (fly-half), Adam Burton (DHS, Sr) went to inside centre, Aaron Steedman (LHS, Sr) to outside centre, Truman Stovall (DHS, Sr) to the right wing, and Patrick Kerr (Byron High School, Fr) to fullback; Chris Kaufman (DHS, Sr) remained at left wing. The transformation of the back division produced much better movement and ball-handling, and resulted in two splendid fifteen-man tries in the second half. Meanwhile, other areas of concern also showed improvement. Despite the loss of prop Skyler Stites (LHS, Sr) to injury, the pack managed set pieces — especially line-outs — much better. The front row of Camp, Mason Monroe (DHS, Jr) and Kyle Rooke (DHS, Jr) looked solid, and Drew Biggert (DHS, Fr) gave a good account of himself at lock, alongside the athletic Robert Guenther (DHS, Jr). Loose forwards Parker Goetz (DHS, Sr), Matthew Gaetcher (DHS, Fr), and no eight Jaylin Steedman (LHS, Sr) were mobile and effective. (In the second half Goetz came off injured, Stovall went to flanker, and Spencer Travis (DHS, So) came on at wing, where he played with distinction). Last, but not least, the kicking game, which had been lethargic, also showed improvements, especially at fly-half, where McCurren had his best match of the season so far.
The Devils were dominant in the first half, but the 10-0 half-time score line reflected the fact that, not for the first time this season, errors with the ball meant that scoring opportunities went begging. All the same, Dexter fans must have breathed just a little easier when, in the eighth minute, Camp powered in from the five-metre line after Makin took a quick tap from a penalty for obstruction. The loquacious Camp has requested that his “searing pace” be acknowledged in print, but most observers would credit other qualities for his scoring success: power and strength; good ball handling; and no small measure of agility for such a big man. Camp’s try was the Devils’ sixth of the season – and the sixth to be scored by a forward. Finally, in the twenty-fifth minute of the half, a Dexter back scored and it was a splendid solo effort: fly-half Seamus McCurren picked up a loose ball inside the Devils’ twenty-two-metre line and evaded every tackle on his way to the in-goal area, delighting the home fans. Place-kicker Makin failed with both conversion attempts, the gusting wind driving both attempts wide left (Makin himself, free in the in-goal area, had looked set to record his second career try for the Devils early in the match, but the referee blew for a forward pass – the first of a number of try-scoring opportunities that the Devils should have converted).
Early in the second half Makin, although now struggling with a leg injury, slotted home a penalty goal to give Dexter a 13-0 lead, but within a minute Birmingham had put themselves back in the contest, scoring, under the posts, a pick-and-go try that better tackling might have prevented. With that try converted, Birmingham was within five points, but five minutes later Burton scored his first try for Dexter after an excellent McCurren kick, followed by good ball movement, and, with Makin converting, Dexter led 20-7. Camp made it 25-7 from well-worked lineout ball on the Birmingham five-metre line (Jaylin Steedman providing the service), and winger Kaufman finished off the match with a fine try in the corner just before no-side.
It was not perfect, but it was much better, and the Dexter head coaches (assisted by Steve Turosky and Jason Lomax) seemed reasonably pleased with their charges. Perhaps Thursday’s success inspired them at Saturday’s “Eighties Night” fundraiser (Dexter American Legion Hall), where the coaches performed collectively a spirited karaoke number, much to the delight of the large group of parents of current and former Devils players in attendance…
With no fixture this week, the Devils have been able to concentrate on preparations for this weekend’s Midwest High-school Boys Rugby Championship in Elkhart, Indiana. In previous years the Devils have played in one of the two elite brackets and have usually been given a rugby education by nationally-ranked high-school programs (most from elite private schools). This year, the Devils play in the “Festival Bracket”, but will still face very solid opposition: the second XV from St Edward’s School, Ohio (a perennial rugby power house), and two Indiana Division One opponents – Leo H.S. and Warsaw.Area High School Boys.
Dexter’s squad list, with further details of the Dexter Rugby program, may be accessed here. For further information on Dexter Rugby, go to the Facebook page for “Dexter Rugby” or http://www.rugbymichigan.org/page/show/2367446-dexter. Follow DRFC on Twitter @DexterRugby.
Remaining league fixture, at home (at Manly Bennett Field, Hamburg; kick-off 6 pm):
10 May Dexter vs Dearborn
Midwest Rugby Tournament, Elkhart, Indiana, 6-7 May: