Photo: John English
The Midwest High School Thunderbirds are currently touring Ireland, and head coach Garrett Fisher has already dubbed the trip a “tremendous experience,” courtesy of Irish Rugby Tours. The Baby Birds are also getting the competition for which they’ve been looking after several domestic tours.
Last Saturday, the Midwest dropped a 17-13 decision to Ulster and look to implement those lessons gained against Connacht U18 on Wednesday afternoon.
“We didn’t know what to expect going in and wanted to focus on our own game plan of reading and recognizing their defense, determining our attack, and quick pressure defense,” Fisher summarized the mindset into the Ulster match.
“But we started very slowly, playing the entire first half in our own end,” the coach contrasted. “We were happy to only be down 12-0 at half.”
The Thunderbirds held up a try midway through the first half but the resultant scrum allowed Lucy Thompson to score in the corner. Ulster captain Ava Fannin followed with a long-range score and Amanda McQuade added the extras for the two-score lead at the break.
“We started much faster in the second half and were determined to show Ulster how we can perform,” Fisher continued. “Impact subs Emily Rahija, Kinzie Youngblood and Jenna Klenz really set the tone early in the second half with hard go-forward attack to get the team moving forward. Aly Cunningham did well using her foot to apply pressure and read the defense for her own attack at number 10 in the second half.”
Haley Crow put in a memorable performance throughout the contest and the Thunderbird coaches unanimously named the Catholic Memorial high schooler as Player of the Match. Scrumhalf Alle English was also influential in pushing the tempo and scored the team’s first try. She paired nicely with flyhalf Cunningham, who added a penalty to trail 12-8.
Ulster then extended its lead through a Zara Flack try, 17-8, but there were still 10 minutes to play. The Thunderbirds pushed themselves to the final whistle and were rewarded through a Libby Moser try, 17-13 the final.
“The players were happy with their second-half performance but disappointed as they felt a different result could have been possible if they played with the same energy the entire game,” Fisher summarized.
The games themselves are just one of the many benefits of international touring, and the team was treated to the hosting norms of a rugby nation.
“Bainbridge RFC were a tremendous host of the match, rolling out the red carpet for us in their home pitch and clubhouse,” Fisher added. “They hosted a fantastic meal for both teams and their tour guests.”
Stay tuned for a match report against Connacht.