Washington Irish vs. Pittsburgh Harlequins

“A win is a win,” says Head Coach Eric Jerpe as the Quins gather around him after their 30-17 victory. Pittsburgh did get a bonus point win against the newly DI promoted Irish side, but many expected a wider margin of victory after a good deal of the match was played inside the Irish twenty-two.

The match began with the Quins kicking off to Washington. Well-placed restart kicking from scrum half Evan McNenly put the pressure on the Irish early. Pinned inside their own half the Irish struggled to move the ball against the Quins’ defensive line. Defensive pressure forced an Irish knock-on and suddenly Pittsburgh had the ball in great scoring position. Dominant scrumming put the Irish on their back heels and put winger Brandon Stine into the in-goal with fly-half Ted Sheedy to convert.

Patient play from the Harlequins would quickly put them back into scoring position, but a combination of handling errors and penalties kept them out of the try-zone. Then, a quick succession of break down penalties gave the Irish the ball with good field position and a man advantage with flanker Robbie Roche receiving the game’s only yellow card after an off-sides tackle made shortly after lock Jeff Stratford committed the same infraction. The ensuing line-out inside the Quins’ twenty-two worked well for the Irish. The ball went wide quickly and a defensive breakdown for Pittsburgh left a an exploitable gap for Washington. An unconverted try made the score 7 to 5 after thirty minutes.

In the closing minutes of the first half the Quins were once again attacking inside the opposition twenty-two. A pair of hard-fought line breaks from the Pittsburgh forward pack created an overload along the edge of the field. Recognizing this the Quins got the ball out wide quickly. After three passes the ball got to the hands of prop Zachary Jessell and he got over the line. Score at halftime 12 to 5.

The second half saw a quick offensive surge from the Harlequins that pushed them once again inside the Irish twenty-two. After a few phases an Irish defender bridged himself over the ruck conceding a penalty. Fly-half Ted Sheedy extended the lead 15 to 5 with a penalty goal.

The Irish refused to go away, however, responding with a try of their own shortly thereafter.

With the score 15 to 10 the Quins were in a dangerous position. More pressure from Pittsburgh on defense continued to force handling errors for the Irish. Consistent scrumming pushed the Irish back and #9 McNenly spotted a gap in the defense along the primary channel from the ruck. A few offloads later and McNenly himself would touch the ball down in goal.

More consistent offensive play kept the Quins in good position. Another penalty from the Irish put the ball on #10 Sheedy’s foot for another penalty goal.

Once again the Irish knew they needed to respond. They did respond with another try, but it was too late. The Quins got the ball back and winger Jason Krut found some space on the edge of the field for a thirty meter scoring run. Final score Pittsburgh 30 – 17 Washington.

The Harlequins remain home next weekend to face the Baltimore-Chesapeake Brumbies.

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.

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Saturday was a beautiful day for rugby. The sun was shining, the stands were full of eager faces, and both teams came ready for action. The match was split into three, thirty minute periods with rolling substitutes in order to spread experience across the entire depths of both teams. Pitt City came out firing, catching […]

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Pre-season Quins in Mid-season Form

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Consistency is a common thread among the challenges of club rugby. Players sacrifice time and energy from their personal and professional lives to commit to the game they love. Sometimes the commitment feels too great and other priorities take precedence over the rugby pitch. This is understandable and predictable. We can expect then, that progress […]

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2016-17 Season in Review

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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 […]

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Pay Dues

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USA Rugby Club Playoff Schedule and Results

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Troy Polamalu talks about sports and Rugby

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The Jet Newspaper, an online newsletter, posted this story: 7th May 2014 – Two time NFL Super Bowl Champion Troy Polamalu from the Pittsburgh Steelers has imparted his knowledge to Pacific Island Rugby Players in the latest Pacific Island Players Association (PIPA) magazine‘UnderKava.’ Polamalu who has had a glittering American Football career over the last decade passes on […]

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Quins Travel to Maryland this Weekend

The Pittsburgh Harlequins will travel to suburban Washington DC this weekend for a make up game with the Maryland Exiles Rugby Club.  The game was postponed in the fall when the Harlequins encountered two flat tires on Pennsylvania turnpike, and again this spring when most of the east coast was frozen or under water.

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