Carmel Valley brothers earning national recognition in rugby

The Raby brothers, Johnathan (left) and Torran (right), from Carmel Valley, celebrate with father Dean moments after leading a Southern California High School All-Star team to a championship at the international Las Vegas Invitational Rugby 7’s tournament, held Feb. 7-8. Photo/Wendy Heynen.
The Raby brothers, Johnathan (left) and Torran (right), from Carmel Valley, celebrate with father Dean moments after leading a Southern California High School All-Star team to a championship at the international Las Vegas Invitational Rugby 7’s tournament, held Feb. 7-8. Photo/Wendy Heynen.

By Tim Pickwell

With an Irish mother and English father, rugby might be in the DNA of Johnathan and Torran Raby.  The brothers have enjoyed tremendous success in the sport over the past few years, and they captained the Torrey Pines Varsity and Junior Varsity rugby squads, respectively, to a combined 17-1 record in the 2012-13 season, and into the Southern California High School Rugby Finals Feb. 16 in Palos Verdes.  Sophomore Torran helped the JV defeat Palos Verde, 51-24.  Senior Johnathan had a creative, behind-the-back assist and scored a try, but a depleted Torrey Pines squad (five starters injured or MIA) lost to a powerful Long Beach Wilson HS Varsity, 50-19, in the title match.

Johnathan, 18, has been playing the sport for only five years.  In that short span the 6’ 2” 180 lb. senior has won Southern California U14, U16, and U19 club championships, won the So Cal JV High School championships in 2010 and 2011, the Rocky Mountain Challenge National Championship in 2012 as captain of the So Cal U17 Griffins All-Star team, and the Las Vegas Invitational High School Rugby 7’s tournament as captain of the So Cal Select Side that beat a 22-team field from Canada, Mexico and the United States.

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Torran Raby, far right, pitches the ball to brother Johnathan (cap). Drew Gaffney (left) is coming up to support. Photo/Wendy Heynen.

Torran, 15, surprised some by leaping past junior and senior talent from some of the top Rugby programs in the state to start alongside brother Johnathan on the winning So. Cal Select Side in last week’s Las Vegas 7’s tournament.   His play in Las Vegas got some notice.  Legendary USA coach Salty Thompson was in attendance, and after watching Torran, selected him to the High School All-American U17/Junior Varsity team, which will represent the USA next month in the prestigious Wellington International Tournament outside of London.

Allen Andrews, a former professional rugby player, coaches the Torrey Pines backs, and is a coach with the So Cal Griffins.  He picked Johnathan and Torran to represent Southern California in the LVI Rugby 7’s Tournament last week.  But, he has had his eye on the brothers for over a year.

“I first discovered Johnathan and Torran at the 2012 Griffin tryouts,” recalls Andrews.  “I was immediately impressed with their work rate and ability to listen and follow directions.   Although Torran did not make the final squad last year, I knew deep down that Torran had the makings to really be something special and that I would have a few more years to work with him.  I told him to be patient and his time will come.  Johnathan made the 2012 squad and was our captain.  He had an outstanding tournament for us and earned a call up to the High School All-American Winter camp.”

Torrey Pines Varsity Head Coach Matty Sandoval, a former USD All-American, has been coaching Johnathan for several years.  “Johnathan plays a position that requires exceptional speed and toughness,” says Sandoval.  “He is responsible for being the first point of defense, and for disrupting the opponent’s attack.  Johnathan is perfectly suited for the position, possessing a wide receiver’s speed, and a linebacker’s size and toughness.”

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