Harlequins vs Rocky Gorge in Season Opener

These two teams are well acquainted with one another. The scene before the game was of hand shakes and subdued laughter as old friends say hello again. But there was something else in the air; a tension. Pittsburgh has not been the victor in this matchup in recent memory. Both teams are acutely aware of this fact.

The Quins received the opening kickoff. They quickly aligned into their offensive pattern with punishing carries from forwards Viliami Siale and Mitch DePellegrini. With Rocky Gorge’s defense sliding in to defend against the Pittsburgh interior attack, fly-half Ted Sheedy saw an opportunity to spread the ball wide. Two passes and the ball gets to Brandon Stine, he saw a gap in the defensive line and pushed a grubber kick through. The chase was good, the bounce was better and just like that the Harlequins struck first.

Pittsburgh fielded the kickoff and was in control once again. The patience from the offense was there after multiple phases are played without gaining much ground, but a messy breakdown allows Rocky Gorge to turn the ball over. They responded quickly with an offense that is well-versed in using the width of the field. The primary receivers outside of the fly-half lined up several meters wider and the ball got to the edge of the field quickly. Too many Quins got sucked into a ruck leaving a mismatch on the exterior and Rocky Gorge took advantage. Tie game.

The first half continued in this way, evenly matched. Pittsburgh responded next with another try from Brandon Stine. Rocky Gorge answered with two more of their own. Before half-time Pittsburgh put together another promising attack that utilized the line speed and power of the forward pack while center Eddie Varea bumped off defenders left and right. Mitch DePellegrini grounded the ball in goal. At half-time the match was near even in all respects.

The second half began and Rocky Gorge showed why they are the defending conference champions. They did not let off the gas and did well to exploit Pittsburgh’s handling errors both while playing penalty advantage and more so off of set pieces. The Quins’ defensive line out had its shining moments stealing a few balls, but the Rocky Gorge back line moved quickly and with discipline after each successful scrum and line out. They were able to score four times in the second half.

A good heads up play from forward Ryan O’Kane after a Rocky Gorge knock on gave Pittsburgh their sole try of the second half. But as Pittsburgh cooled down, Rocky Gorge stayed hot. Final score Rocky Gorge 49 – 28 Harlequins.

Positive take aways from this match include a disciplined first half attack and defense, brilliant converting kicks from Ted Sheedy who went 4 for 4, fewer penalties conceded, and consistent attacking set piece play.

The scene after the game once again saw smiles and laughter, but both teams know that in a few short weeks Rocky Gorge will make the trip to Pittsburgh and all of this will begin again.

The Pittsburgh Harlequins will play the Washington Irish at Founders Field next week, Saturday, September 16.