Princeton Men Excel in Barbados
On Saturday, March 20, a day that 10th-year head coach Rich Lopacki said “[would] go down as one of the great days in Princeton Rugby history,” the men’s rugby team defeated the Barbados national team 32-15 to finish its spring break tour at 3-0.
The Tigers rode the wave of confidence from their spring break success to a second-place finish in the Four Leaf Tournament, hosted this Saturday on Randall’s Island in New York City. Before they “beat an entire country at rugby,” as one player put it, the Princeton ruggers defeated the top two Barbadian club teams, the Scorpions and the Renegades, to open the tour.
On March 16, the Tigers notched a 20-12 victory over the Scorpions, only allowing the opposition to get on the scoreboard at the end of the match. “The Scorpions had some real speed in the centers,” junior wing Adam Nassr said. “If we missed a tackle in the back line, they were gone.” Two days later, Princeton cruised to a 35-5 win over the Renegades, a physically talented team that lacked the discipline required to organize 15 rugby players into a cohesive unit. Junior wing Mitch Adwon, who plays on the right opposite Nassr, led Princeton with two tries. The Tigers knew their match against the national team, whose roster includes a few of the best players from the Scorpions and Renegades, would be their biggest challenge of the trip.
Out of 95 countries with active national teams, Barbados is ranked No. 75 by the International Rugby Board. Though Barbados is far from an international rugby powerhouse, the fact that Princeton’s lineup includes players who began playing rugby in college made the Tigers the underdog.
But Princeton did not play like an underdog, jumping out to a 15-3 lead by halftime. Barbados regrouped during the break and scored two quick tries to open the second half, drawing even with Princeton at 15-15. When the Tigers earned a lineout on the right sideline, they knew it was their chance to strike back. Lopacki-coached teams are known for their prowess on set pieces, and Princeton had dominated all the Barbadian teams in lineouts. Barbados didn’t even contest this lineout, allowing Princeton to get the ball in the hands of freshman fly-half Jean-Philippe Jabre. Jabre threw a pass that skipped freshman inside center Phil Halsey and reached sophomore outside center Pete Davison. Halsey then looped around Davison to get the ball back before sending an offload pass to Nassr. Nassr used his speed to beat Barbados to the corner and raced down the left sideline for a try. He added another try down the left sideline shortly after, extending Princeton’s lead to 25-15. Junior hooker Zac Flowerman, who led Princeton in tries during the fall season, added another try to make the final score 32-15.
After the Tigers just missed the four-team Ivy League playoff by finishing in fifth place this fall, Princeton’s success in Barbados gives the squad great hope for the future. “This is the most dynamic and aggressive group of backs that I’ve seen in my time at Princeton,” junior lock and captain Zak Deschaine said.
Lopacki named senior scrum-half Josh Grehan the player of the tour. As the scrum-half, Grehan is responsible for getting the ball to the other backs after the forwards secure possession. He was able to make these linking passes quickly and cleanly but was perhaps most valuable for the way he frustrated opposing scrum-halfs.
Contact: Youngin Lim, Press Manager, Princeton Rugby
Email: ymlimprinceton [dot] edu