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West Hartford Boys Rugby Wins State Title in Dramatic Fashion – We-Ha | West Hartford News



The West Hartford Black Hearts Rugby Club won the Division 2 State Championship on June 8, 2024.

West Hartford Black Hearts Rugby won the Division 2 State Championship on June 8, 2024. Courtesy photo


The West Hartford Black Hearts pulled out a heart-stopping 38-36 win against Fairfield Prep on the final play of the state championship match.

The Division 2 state final took place on Saturday, June 8, under perfect weather conditions before a raucous crowd at Jess Down Field on the campus of Southern Connecticut State University. The contest was an exciting back-and-forth affair that pitted one of the most well-established varsity programs in the state against a scrappy club side from West Hartford.

Although West Hartford spent most of the first 10 minutes on their opponent’s side of the field, it was Prep that would open the scoring, taking advantage of an overload to dot down an unconverted try. They followed with another score eight minutes later on a slicing run through the Black Hearts’ center field. The conversion kick this time was good, giving Prep a 12-0 lead. 

West Hartford battled back, with center Colin McGann taking over on back-to-back scores which leveled the match 12-12. A high tackle penalty would then leave West Hartford a man down for the last eight minutes of the half. With the advantage, Fairfield upped the offensive pressure and appeared poised to take the lead before the break. Flanker Ife Oluborde had other thoughts as he made a crucial steal followed by a bruising run for the short-handed score and a seven-point West Hartford advantage at the whistle.

The second half got off to a shaky start, with another high tackle infringement against West Hartford resulting in a penalty try for Prep and putting the Black Hearts two men down. They managed to survive the penalties with only one additional score against them when Fairfield took the lead on a well moved ball through their backline. But again, West Hartford had a response, with Ben McIlhoney scoring off an opportunity created by fellow captain Henry Nace’s charging run through the defense.

Momentum then shifted back to Prep as their disciplined approach and good ball control created defensive mismatches which they exploited for two scores and a daunting 36-26 lead with less than 10 minutes to play.

The fight was not yet out of the Black Hearts, however, with a probing kick finding space behind the Prep defense. West Hartford recovered and strong hit up runs by their forwards created a try for substitute Ryan Cicchetti and pulled them to within three points at 33-36.

As the clock ticked into injury time, it seemed like the warriors from WeHa would ultimately come up short. Any turnover or stoppage in play would end the match and West Hartford needed to be flawless for a chance to score.

Their pressure was rewarded with penalty against Prep. Once again, captain McIlhoney led the charge, opting to run the ball rather than take the penalty kick attempt that would send the match into overtime.

After an intense and frantic multiphase attack, it was finally super sub flanker Ryan Cicchetti scoring his second try off a ruck and sending the Black Heart bench storming onto the field in celebration of the improbable victory.

The win marks the first state title in program history.

Additional information about West Hartford Rugby can be found at

The final try secured a win for the West Hartford Black Hearts Rugby Club in the 2024 Division 2 State Championship. Courtesy photo

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