2016-17 Season in Review

The 2016-17 season started off strong for the Pittsburgh Harlequins. The first three matches were all victories. First the Harlequins made the trip to Wilmington, DE to play a growing side freshly removed from their success at the Division II level. The Quins march to a large victory 71 to 14. Then the Quins came back to Western PA for their next two matches against the Baltimore-Chesapeake Brumbies and the Norfolk Blues respectively. Against the Brumbies the Quins would go ahead and stay ahead after the match was tied at 5 all. The Quins hold on despite late charges from the Brumbies. Prop, Zack Jessell led the day with two tries. Final score 32 – 21. Against the Blues the Quins would go down 10 to 5 in the first half, but a good day of kicking from flyhalf Luke Titus and a strong defensive second half would allow the Quins to take the day. Final score 32 – 10.

Next the Harlequins would host a national contender in Rocky Gorge. The Harlequins would be outclassed by a strong Gorge side. The Quins only try came in the 22nd minute. Final score 69 – 7. The sting of defeat would prove difficult to wash off as the Quins failed to win two weeks later against the Potomac Exiles. Final score 31 – 0.

The next two weeks the Harlequins hosted the Schuylkill River Exiles and the Wilmington Rugby Club. The Quins did well to bounce back after a rough month. Against the Exiles the Quins would go down 14 to 7 before rallying to tie the match at 17 points just before half time. A strong defensive second half combined with patience and good execution would bring the Quins to victory. Final score 40 – 17. Once again the side from Wilmington would struggle to match up with the Harlequins. Another victory for the Quins scoring over 70 points would allow substitutes to come on for their share of minutes. Final score 77 – 19.

The last match of the first half of the season saw the Harlequins go on the road to Baltimore to face the BC Brumbies. The Quins struggled to travel in full numbers and took another loss despite being up 8 to 5 in the first half. Final score 17 – 8. At the halfway point of the season the Harlequins took the opportunity to get healthy and maintain fitness in order to come out firing when Spring arrived.

Starting the Spring with a challenge the Harlequins would meet the Norfolk Blues for an exciting match. The Blues came out hot scoring three tries in the first 15 minutes before Captain Luke Titus could respond with his own in the 18th minute. The Quins continued to play on their back foot against the strong, imposing forward pack of the Blues. Pittsburgh managed to get another try from Mitch DePellegrini before the half cutting the score to 25 – 12. But the Blues were not done yet. Only six minutes into the second half they scored another try now up 30 – 12. At this point something changed for the Harlequins. First there was 8-man Villiami Siale’s try in the 50th minute and then two more unanswered tries accompanied by spot on kick conversions from fullback Ted Sheedy. Suddenly, with 10 minutes left in the match the Harlequins were up 33 – 30. The Blues responded well by capitalizing off a Harlequins penalty to tie the match at 33 all. Then #10 Luke Titus took control of the match with his ankle-breaking steps and good speed. The large Baltimore side could not quite keep up with Titus as he marched into the try zone in the 78th minute securing another victory for the Harlequins.

Another week and another road trip. Next the Quins would go back to Maryland this time to meet again the fierce Rocky Gorge side. But this time Pittsburgh would play with more patience and better execution. Responding well to an early try by Gorge the Harlequins would tie the game at 7 in the 16th minute. The two sides would trade tries again this time the score 14 – 12 Gorge in the 45th minute. Once again the two teams trade tries now 21 – 19 in the 64th minute. Well matched all day long the Harlequins had been reacting, but finally in the 74th minute behind the foot of Ted Sheedy Pittsburgh would take the lead by slotting a penalty kick. Their first lead of the day 22 – 21. Then Gorge responds with a penalty kick of their own; 24 – 22. Next the Harlequins put together an impressive sequence of play capped off by a perfectly executed pick by substitute scrum half Dominic Piazza. The Quins second lead of the day at 29 – 24 with only two minutes before full time. Credit to Rocky Gorge for responding how they did. With no time left they put together their own drive to take the lead with a walk-off try. Final score 31-29. But this time the Harlequins have a lot more positives to take away from the match.

Next the Harlequins would host the Potomac Exiles at Founders Field. This time with the home field advantage the Quins would go ahead 17 to 7 early in the second half. But the Exiles were not going to roll right over. They respond with their own try cutting down the lead; 17 – 14. Pittsburgh would score again and the Exiles would respond again. With 10 minutes left in the match the score was now 24 to 21. After a hard fought match from the Potomac Exiles the Pittsburgh Harlequins are able to hold off the come back.

The last week of the regular season would see Pittsburgh travel across Pennsylvania to meet the Schuylkill River Exile side from Philadelphia. A rainy day made for tough conditions. The Harlequins, plagued by unforced errors, failed to capitalize on opportunities while the Exiles were able to touch the ball down in the try zone three times to Pittsburgh’s one. Final score 22 – 5.

A loss the previous week meant that Round One of the Playoffs would bring Pittsburgh to Philadelphia once again. This time, however, their fortunes would largely reverse. The execution and communication problems of the previous week became a thing of the past as the Harlequins manage to score three first half tries and take a 19 to 5 lead heading into the half time break. The two teams would go on to trade tries making it 26 to 10. The Exiles from Philadelphia fought well in the closing minutes to cut the lead to 26 – 17, but one last try from Pittsburgh with two minutes left in the match sealed the deal. The Harlequins were on to the National Round of 16. Final score 31 -17.

After Rocky Gorge beat the Norfolk Blues 52 – 31 it would mean the third meeting of Pittsburgh and Gorge. This time in Richmond, VA with National attention. The two sides were evenly matched through the first 40 minutes. The score at half time 7 – 3 Rocky Gorge. From the moment of the second half restart though Rocky Gorge established itself as the better, more experienced team. The Harlequins would only score two tries in the second half to Gorge’s four. Final score 38 – 15.

And with that the Pittsburgh Harlequins season came to an end with a final record of 8 wins and 6 losses. The Quins learned and grew as a side finishing as a top 16 team nationally. There is plenty to be proud of and plenty more to improve upon. The Harlequins are eager to continue fostering a winning culture.

We invite you to join us for the upcoming season.