Liberty varsity moved to 3-0 in Rugby Washington boys D-I action, and in doing so, defeated the defending state champs.
Liberty edged the Rainier Highlanders 22-19 Saturday, after having defeated Eastside 42-12 and Seattle 68-5. Head Coach Jeff Candler said he was expecting the Highlanders game to be a difficult one.
“They are the defending state champs, and we know they are good this year,” said Candler. “But we’ve got some good kids. I like this team, but we also will have to get through some injuries, and we’re going to be missing some High School All Americans when they go to Europe.”
Along with the likes of David Ainuu (HSAA prop), Liberty has seen some good play from flyhalf Will Dodds (who transferred from Eastside), and No. 8 Inoke Vaea. But the good start prompts some caution from Candler.
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“This is a really, really competitive league. I think Chuckanut’s going to be really good, Rainier is really good, and as we’ve seen in previous years, you really never know, you never know!.”
Liberty seemed in control much of this past weekend’s game despite the close score. Liberty led by three scores late, and had knocked on in-goal a couple of times when Rainier scored two late tries. Flanker Caleb Wood put the Highlanders under pressure all afternoon, and Ainuu was again a force, especially in the scrums.
Lock Keegan Stuver held down the lineouts nicely, while scrumhalf Jonny Agabo and Dodds at flyhalf worked nicely together.
“They controlled the tempo and executed effective patterns, with a layered, multi-phase attack that Rainier was unable to stop,” said Candler.
Flanker OB Muao was solid for Rainier, while their fullback Falani Jennings also impressed.
Next up for Liberty is a tough Budd Bay team and a four-game stretch during which Ainuu will be in Europe.
“Budd Bay always plays us tough,” said Candler. “I’m excited about the challenges ahead.”