Louisiana Exiles Win the Plate Championship at South Regionals in Atlanta

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The Louisiana Exiles began their 2013 South Regional Tournament, a two day tournament that was held at Life University in Marietta, Ga on June 15-16, 2013. The tournament, consisting of 9 teams from around the South, including teams from Tennessee, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina and North Carolina, began play with three divisional pools that held three teams apiece.

The tournament serves as an opportunity for high school players to be observed by national selectors for a chance to try out for the USA High School All-American team, a squad of U-20 players comprised of the best players in the country.

Day One

Exiles v. Tristar Red

The Exiles began against Tennessee’s Tristar Red in a physically tolling match from the onslaught. The match had an instant scent of resentment as only five minutes in Scrumhalf Brennan Falcon was yellow carded for a high tackle. Just moments later, Flanker Keith Jones joined Falcon in the sin bin for another high tackle call that had fans from both teams displeased.

With only 13 men on the pitch, the Exiles retained possession and pushed down field off of some flawless set pieces. The ball was pushed into the try zone that convinced the touch judge it was a legitimate try but was quickly disregarded by the referee, Nigel Platt, and was ruled held up.

Tristar cleared the lines on a not-binding penalty off the scrum and pushed the Exile back into their half. With the two man advantage, Tristar crept inside the Exile 22 off of take and go’s from their forwards. A much controversial call ensued when the Tristar #9 knocked on into the try zone then touched down by a Tristar player and to everyone’s surprises was awarded the try.

The Exiles had to play the rest of their match conservatively due to the numerous penalty calls and it allowed Tristar to push forward and retain possession although the Exiles showed superiority throughout the match. Tristar knocked over two penalties to lead 13-0 late in the match.

On a quick tap deep in Tristar’s 22, Falcon bullied over two would-be tacklers and dotted down in the corner for the try. Cameron Troxler converted from the sideline to make it 13-7 with only seconds remaining. Troxler was terrific with the boot controlling territory for the Exiles all weekend.

With time dwindling down, Louisiana was 10 meters from the Tristar try line until another penalty was awarded against the Exiles. The ball was cleared into touch and a bitter Exile team held their heads high through all the adversity they faced. Final score 13-7 Tristar.

Exiles v. South Carolina Palmetto

Brushing off the earlier defeat, the Exiles were eager to get another match before the day was over. This time against one of the two South Carolina squads. The match, as was the first, was played on Life University’s upper field, which was slippery and caked with mud throughout much of the midfield making running a bit of a challenge. Regardless, the Exiles made opportunities out of nothing in this heavily weighed match.

Exchanging kicks downfield consumed a majority of the first 5 minutes for both teams. The breakthrough came when a clearance kick attempt by Palmetto’s fullback was blocked by multiple Exile forwards then pounced on by Troxler to take a 5-0 lead.

Only ten minutes later Palmetto answered back through tight forwards play that eventually broke through the Exile defensive line tying the contest 5-5.

After the halftime break, the Exiles again were quick to make amends for a slow first half. The overload was evident and sent wide through the hands all the way to the corner to Wing Joey Morris who grounded it one meter from touch. An unsuccessful conversion saw it a close contest 10-5 in the Exiles’ favor.

The remainder of the half saw attack after attack thwarted by minuscule penalties and free kicks. This allowed Palmetto to secure a place inside the Exiles’ half for a majority of the second half. With two minutes remaining on the clock, a crooked feed free kick was awarded to Palmetto at their own five meter line. The tap was taken quickly and swung wide into the corner for the try. A very close conversion attempt was just wide but time still remained for a restart.

The kickoff was weighted beautifully 10 meters by Center Ryan Marciante and taken in the air by Second Row, converted from flyhalf, Alex Shultz. With no time remaining, Falcon launched the ball wide to Marciante who broke the line into the Palmetto five meter line before offloading to a speedy support runner in Wing Kaine Martin who scored under the post for a shocking last second victory. The conversion was drop kicked and missed to bring the final score to 15-10 Exiles.

The championship bracket was divided into the best teams from each pool and the best runner-up in a four team playoff. The final four remaining teams were set in the plate bracket. The Exiles, having been the number five seed, were seeded as the number one seed in the plate bracket to face South Carolina Crescent in the morning.

Day Two

Plate Semifinal: Exiles v. South Carolina Crescent

Wearing a badge of vengeance on their sleeves with everything to prove, the Exiles squared off in the plate semifinal against South Carolina Crescent. This match was played on Life University’s beautiful lower level field with just a little morning dew ,soon to be evaporated, remaining on the pitch.

Not to be under looked, the Exiles were relentless in defense and caused numerous problems at the lineouts and scrums for Crescent. Eightman Todd Dupre was superb on the day stealing every opposing lineout in midflight as well as causing havoc at the rucks for the Crescent offense. An excellently diverse front row, comprised of Vincent Duhe’, Ottis ‘Cheese’ Laige and Jay Driggers, laid bone crunching engagements on opposing teams the whole tournament to make restarts hectic for the opposition.

In stereotypical fashion, the forwards hammered away punch after punch all the way into the Crescent half setting up the backs for overloads all match. The first try was only two minutes in when a nice break from Center Ben Gambino led to a tight offload to Falcon who pushed away a defender for the try under the sticks. Troxler converted for the 7-0 lead.

Without any hesitation on the ensuing kickoff, Keith Jones continued to do what he did all weekend and demolished the receiving player from Crescent. Jones was a riot in the midfield, delivering punishing shoulder charges on offense and bone trembling hits on defense. While nursing a hamstring injury throughout the entire tournament he played amazingly for the Exile pack.

Aiding the destruction path was the stellar second row, converted from center, Alex Johnson who laid the wood like it was his day job. Not worrying about his own physical being, he terrorized defenses with bruising runs that usually ended up flat-backing opponents. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette Football newcomer proved why he was highly recruited by the Ragin’ Cajuns.

Crescent retained possession well for five minutes, which was short-lived when Joe Caravella poached a clean ball before offloading to Falcon who spun it wide. Troxler saw Gambino who shoved it off to Marciante on a break before dishing it to the sideline for Martin who scored in the corner. Troxler was unsuccessful leaving it 12-0 in favor of the Exiles. An Exile penalty was awarded at the Crescent 22, which Troxler held true to take the halftime lead to 15-0 in favor of Louisiana.

The second half was the same story. Falcon broke free for another one, scoring his second try on the day. Marciante also added a try after turning the corner in the try zone and scoring in the middle. The Exiles couldn’t keep the shutout however, when Crescent quick tapped a penalty on the Exile 5 meter line. A brave tackle was made by 13-year old and soon-to-be Jesuit Blue Jay Gabriel Massey that held the Crescent winger short of the line but on a second attempt for the line saw him score the try.

Louisiana prevailed the victors 27-5 in a dominate showcase of hard knocks rugby and punched their ticket into the Plate Championship match against South Carolina Palmetto in rematch of the first day’s close encounter.

Plate Final: Exiles v. South Carolina Palmetto

Relishing in their victory and eager to take home some hardware the Exiles kept a straight head and composed themselves well. Speaking amongst one another prior to the match about the specifics of the game plan exemplified the camaraderie and chemistry this team had formed after only a few short weeks together.

Troxler played the territory well to force the Palmetto back three into a flurry as the Exile kick chase was dazzling in pursuit. The early pressure paid off when Dupre stole a lineout inside the Palmetto 22. Falcon pushed it to Gambino who eluded two defenders creating an overload on the weak side. Marciante skipped wide to Fullback Lester Duhe’ who drew in a defender to allow Morris to score on the outside. Duhe’ was barely wide right on the corner conversion making it a 5-0 Exile lead.

Along with the inimitable play by Johnson and Jones, Flanker Jon Turner, converted from scrumhalf, turned lineouts and scrums into a nightmare for the Palmetto flyhalf. Laying stinging hits to anyone and everyone in the first receiver slot, Turner spared no prisoners on the weekend.

It was a deep Palmetto attack that got the Exiles on the back foot with well-timed runs penetrating the gain line on numerous occasions. Palmetto was only a meter away from the try when a combining hit by Alex Johnson and Joe Caravella caused a relieving knock on.

The ball was cleared by Troxler but then quickly advanced back into the Exile 22 before a jaw dropping hit by Vincent Duhe’ and Keith Jones drew a penalty and a yellow card for Jones. Down to 14 men, the Exiles played conventional defense to avoid the Palmetto forwards to break the line. Louisiana counter rucked and booted down field to finally remove Palmetto from their own half.

Later in the half, a kick pressured the Palmetto wing to clear the ball out the back of the try zone, prior to it advancing in, giving the Exiles a 5 meter scrum. Dupre picked and tossed to Falcon who hit Troxler. Troxler skipped Gambino to Marciante who pinned his ears back and slipped under the post. Troxler was successful and the Exiles led 12-0 at the half.

Being restored to full strength by the return of Jones, Palmetto couldn’t contain the attacks. Driggers had a bursting run taking down two defenders in the midfield setting up an attack by Wing Toney Hughes to Hooker Ottis ‘Cheese’ Laige. Laige was taken down from behind but not before he offloaded to a rapid Brennan Falcon who reached the try line with a defender on his back scoring his third try on the day. Troxler pulled the conversion right as the Exiles held the 17-0 lead.

Hughes was a menace for the Exiles defense. He hit rucks with pace and made ground level tackles stopping any attack from advancing out wide. Morris also tracked down a Palmetto wing on a clear break down the sideline catching him from behind, and with the help of Falcon, they forced him into touch.

The Exile fans began to slowly raise the noise level as they knew the match was moments from being over and the anticipation perspired from them. The last play of the match saw the Palmetto team awarded a penalty try after a high tackle call within the Exile 5 meter line. With that penalty came the final whistle and yet another championship victory to the already impressive track record of the Louisiana Exile All Star team.

(NOTE: The Palmetto player was seriously injured on the final play causing an abrupt stop to the victory celebration. Our thoughts and prayers go out to this young man.)

The tournament exposed some promising young ruggers to top-level competition and exposure. USA High School All-Americans selectors were present and spoke to the coaches about several players on the team leading into the camps later in the summer.

Louisiana Exiles:

Alex Schultz, Mississippi

Alex Johnson, Audubon

Ben Gambino, Brother Martin

Brennan Falcon, Archbishop Shaw

Cameron Troxler, Archbishop Shaw

Gabriel Massey, Audubon

Jay Driggers, Archbishop Shaw

Joe Caravella, Brother Martin

Joey Morris, Brother Martin

Jon Turner, Lake Area

Keith Jones, Audubon

Lester Duhe’, Brother Martin

Ottis ‘Cheese’ Leige, Lake Area

Ryan Marciante, Archbishop Shaw

Todd Dupre, Archbishop Shaw

Toney Hughes, Lake Area

Vincent Duhe’, Brother Martin

Kaine Martin, Archbishop Shaw

Head Coach: Adam Massey, NORFC

Assistant Head Coach: David Buckingham, NORFC

Forwards Coach: Nick Conte, NORFC

Backs Coach: Allen Alongi, LSU

Story is written by Allen Alongi
Follow at: @allenalongi

He is a former LSU and Archbishop Rummel Rugby player. He currently resides in New Orleans, LA

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