Playing in its only home tournament of the season Tuesday, the Newton rugby team wanted to give its fans plenty to watch, and that’s exactly what it did.
After earning a 49-7 blowout of Waterloo East in their first game, the Cardinals (5-5) edged out Van Meter 28-14 in the second in front of a solid crowd representing all of the teams present for the tournament.
The day didn’t start out perfectly for Newton, as Waterloo East drew first blood with a try about 1:30 into the game. Both teams then took a while to get settled again, but Cardinal senior Josh Smith broke the spell with about 3:17 to go in the half to tie the game at 7-7.
“We played an excellent game, and it might have been the best one we’ve played all year,” Newton co-coach Justin Liston said. “After the first try they got on us, we kind of woke up I think.”
The Cardinals were wide awake after that, as senior Austin Van Balen scored the Cards’ next try right around the 2:00 mark of the seven-minute half. Junior Ray Schroder got in on the scoring next, recording a try with 1:09 to go, and Van Balen added one last try with just four seconds left on the clock to give the Cards a 28-7 lead at the break.
“It’s all about spacing on the offensive end, and we were getting great spacing and staggering and making great passes,” Liston said. “That really opened things up for us for some long scores, so they did an excellent job in the whole second half.”
Offense was almost automatic for Newton in the second half, as Jake Smith found a streaking Cole Doerring, who went up the right sideline for a long try at the 4:53 mark. Schroder put his second try of the game in about two minutes later, and the Cardinals wrapped up their first-game victory with perhaps their most fundamental try of the day.
Coming off his impressive varsity soccer debut Monday, sophomore rugby newcomer Tristan Peters took a pass from Josh Smith up the right side and battled past a couple defenders for the game’s final try with around one minute left to play.
“That last score was picture-perfect in terms of Josh getting the defenders on him and creating a two-on-one situation,” Liston said. “The defense latched onto him, and he made a perfect pass to Tristan on the sideline. That was indicative of our second half in terms of precision.”
Things were a bit closer in Newton’s second game, which ended with a 28-14 Cardinal victory. Junior Jake Huizenga played the hero’s role, however, scoring three tries. Josh Smith had Newton’s fourth try as the Cardinals evened their record back to 5-5 with the season quickly winding down.
“Our play wasn’t as consistent as the first game, but we did a good job of tackling on the outside when it mattered most,” co-coach Bill Reed said. “Van Meter’s defense seemed to be keying on some of our main runners from the first game, which opened up opportunities for guys like Jacob Huizenga to step up.”
The Cardinals will take on Des Moines East and Des Moines Roosevelt at a tournament hosted by Southeast Polk on Friday. After that, the stakes become much higher as the Cards will play in substate next Tuesday.