Harlequins vs Highlanders

As rugby grows in the US we must familiarize ourselves with the traditions that belong to it. Traditionally, Saturday is a Rugby day. The Harlequins, and furthermore the Mid-Atlantic Conference, do a fine job of maintaining this tradition, but for two Pittsburgh based clubs looking to get a good run in before the competitive season begins, Friday night was A-OK.

In the US, Friday nights (and the accompanying artificial lights) are reserved for High School football. There’s a whole book about it that became a movie that became a TV show. But the lights at Founders Field this past Friday cast down on a different sport that is becoming more and more familiar with this Western Pennsylvania audience. The simple fact that three rugby clubs call Pittsburgh home should indicate to you that the sporting landscape is evolving.

Friday was a salute to rugby. It was a salute to Pittsburgh.

The Highlanders are a big team that thrives on making their opponents pay at the point of contact. Tight off the rucks, forward after forward takes the ball directly into the defensive line just waiting for a sign of hesitation from the Harlequins. The Highlander’s back line is no exception to this, just as eagerly looking to make you regret any attempt at bringing them to ground.

Now the Harlequins have their share of big fellas too. But ask Head Coach Eric Jerpe and he can paint a different picture about rugby and brutality. Rugby might have its brutal moments, but quality teams understand about the importance of patience and elegance too. When things were working for the Harlequins it came from discipline in executing the game plan. There were plenty of sloppy moments when the Quins tried to do too much as individuals or force passes that were not there. But there were also moments when forwards and backs alike communicated in order to properly insert themselves in an offensive shape that gave each player options as the ball went down the line.

Most of the Harlequins’ points came from tries on the edge of the field near the touch line. Another often heard Jerpe quote comes to mind, “Let the ball do the work.” If the Quins had relied more on physicality to match a big Highlanders side, the result would likely be different.

Final score Harlequins 45 – 5 Highlanders.

Thanks to the Highlanders for coming to Founders Field for a great night of rugby and camaraderie. Best of luck with your season.

Thanks to all the spectators who came to support either side.