Out of Touch: Norfolk ver. 2

Regular season MAC play came to a close for Pittsburgh when the Norfolk Blues traveled to play the Harlequins.

The match opened up to promising attacking opportunities from both sides. Quins’ front rower Max Lum broke through the defense early after a maul, but an ensuing pass went errant leading to a turnover. Norfolk would kick and chase to get into good attacking position. A breakdown penalty gave the Blues a penalty goal opportunity, but they would miss on the attempt.

The opening minutes proceeded back and forth evenly matched. Each side would trade promising attacking sequences. For the Quins, flanker Zack Cochin intercepted a pass and went forward within the Pittsburgh attacking twenty-two. But handling errors would cut the opportunity short.

Shortly thereafter the Quins would win a defensive scrum before eight man Vili Siale picked the ball from the back of the scrum for another line break. But once again handling errors turned the ball over.

Meanwhile Norfolk had their share of promising opportunities on offense. The Blues were exceptional at spreading the ball to the edge of the field. Their large back line proved difficult for the Quins defense to match. They would advance the ball all the way within ten meters of the try line. A breakdown penalty against Pittsburgh scrambled the defense for the split second it would take for the Blues to tap and go into the in-goal. After missing the conversion the score was 5 to 0 Norfolk.

Norfolk did not skip a beat after receiving the ensuing kickoff. Once more they spread the ball to the edge and evaded Quins defenders. This time, however, fullback Ted Sheedy was in position for the try saving tackle. Center Greg Genovese followed immediately in support and secured the ball for the Quins at the breakdown after being awarded a penalty for not releasing the ball.

Sheedy would kick to touch, but the Blues stole the ensuing line out. Winger Eddie Varea was not dismayed at the turnover. Instead he took it as an opportunity for a strong defensive play. He delivered a punishing hit on the Blues’ ball carrier and in the process stole back the ball. Churning his feet ever forward Varea moved the gain line before offloading to front rower Ryan O’Kane. The Quins kept the ball alive through several offloads before finding space on the edge. Strong support rucking maintained possession before the ball came to center Lamont Gadson in the middle of the field. Diagnosing space further to his left he delivered a long skip pass to Sheedy who had a clear line to the in-goal. Suddenly the match was tied at 5 points all.

Maintaining possession and good attacking form the Quins continued their offensive advance to just outside the Blues’ twenty-two. A breakdown penalty would go the way of Pittsburgh and Sheedy would shout out for his kicking tee. A long penalty goal went straight down the middle from Sheedy. Into the half the Quins held the lead at 8 to 5.

Upon receiving the second half restart kick, Pittsburgh picked up right where they had left off. Strong support running and the ability to maintain attacking shape through multiple phases brought the ball to within the Blues twenty-two. Another breakdown penalty would place the ball on the kicking tee of Sheedy. Slotting the penalty goal the Quins expanded their lead 11 to 5.

Norfolk was not discouraged, however. They regained possession shortly after the kickoff and once more played to their strength. Moving the ball wide into the hands of their hard to hit backs they quickly went the distance for a try of their own. The Quins’ lead was cut to one; 11 to 10.

More back and forth kept the match even as the second half progressed. But as the minutes continued ticking off the clock the Blues started to take over. Their defensive pace and discipline kept the Quins from advancing the ball. When they got their opportunities to play with ball in hand they took full advantage. With twenty minutes left they dotted down another try making the score 20 to 11.

In the final fifteen minutes of the match the Blues asserted themselves in all facets of the game. They went on to score three more tries as the Harlequins ran out of steam. Pittsburgh would score one final try as front rower Jake Smith overwhelmed the Blues goal line defense on a five meter run.

Now the Norfolk Blues have an opportunity against Rocky Gorge for the MAC title. The Pittsburgh Harlequins will finish third in the conference with a record of six wins to six losses.

Final score Norfolk 39 – 16 Pittsburgh.

Join the Harlequins next week as Stoney Creek RFC travels down from Canada for an exhibition friendly at Founders Field.

Out of Touch: Crusaders in Pittsburgh

Cleveland travelled to Pittsburgh yesterday. They brought more cold weather with them. Both teams are more than familiar with cold temperatures so it was only fitting that the the beginning of the day saw snow fall.

At kick-off, however, things started to heat up. Cleveland began strong after receiving the opening kick-off. They would run several phases back-to-back; little by little moving the gain line forward. Then an off-side penalty went in favor of the Crusaders. A quick kick to find touch and suddenly Cleveland was in good attacking position. From there a solid combination of strong runs from forwards and agility from the backs and the Crusaders went up 7 to 0.

Then it was the Harlequins turn. In similar fashion the Quins moved the gain line forward led by fly-half Brandon Stine and center Simione Nacaucauceva. In the end it was Simi who put Pittsburgh on the scoreboard after a huge line break took him all the way to the in-goal. Hooker Frank LeDonne tacked on the conversion kick to tie the game at 7 all.

An even first half continued to see back and forth play for multiple possessions. Both sides saw good attacking opportunities before handling errors cut them short. At one point the Crusaders were awarded a breakdown penalty just outside their attacking twenty-two. They opted for a penalty goal, but it went wide left by a slim margin.

A few minutes later and the Quins were put in the same position. For his part, LeDonne slotted the penalty goal right down the middle to give Pittsburgh the lead 10 to 7.

As the first half drew to a close, Cleveland saw one final attacking opportunity. Strong runs from the forward pack did well to draw in Harlequins defenders. Diagnosing space on the wings, the Crusaders spun the ball out wide where it was too little too late for Pittsburgh to put the ball carrier to the deck. Cleveland held the lead at half time 14 to 10.

More even play throughout the second half. Despite Pittsburgh receiving the opening kick-off, the Crusaders regained possession shortly thereafter. Another promising attack put them inside their attacking twenty-two once more. Then a Quins defender was called for a breakdown penalty while contesting a ruck. Cleveland once again opted to kick for points. This time there was no stopping them as they took the lead 17 to 10.

Then Pittsburgh caught their stride for a promising attacking sequence. Near mid-field the ball went from the previous ruck to #10 Stine and then immediately to flanker Zack Cochin who found the perfect seam within the Crusaders defensive line. Capitalizing on the line break Pittsburgh’s center and 8-man, Lamont Gadson and Elijah Byrd respectively pushed the gain line all the way within the five meter line. From there the ball came to second row Zack Jessell who would not be stopped as he dotted the ball down. Another excellent spot of kicking from LeDonne tied the match at 17 all.

The Quins retained possession following the ensuing kick-off. Doing well to play balanced rugby between forwards and backs, the Quins’ forwards were never over-worked between a few phases of straight-up running complemented with solid ball movement along the exterior lanes of the field. In the end another big line break from Simi plus LeDonne’s conversion made the score 24 to 17.

As the match drew to a close, the Crusaders would not simply roll over. They put together one final attacking possession as time waned. They showed the importance of fitness in the forward pack and strength on the wings. As they pushed the gain line forward they kept the Quins playing on their back foot. Cleveland’s final attack was too much for Pittsburgh as they tied the game just before the last whistle blew. Final score Pittsburgh 24 – 24 Cleveland.

The Harlequins are back in action next week (4/14) for their final regular season conference match against the Norfolk Blues here in Pittsburgh. We hope to see you then.

Out of Touch: Harlequins in Norfolk

From Western Pennsylvania to the Atlantic Ocean. It is quite the trip to make. In fact it is the longest road trip that the Quins make for conference play. This weekend has also been the first time that Pittsburgh has taken the pitch against an opponent in several months. Perhaps this accounts for the slow […]

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Additional Non-Conference Matches

Rugby image of the scrum half pitching the ball out to the backs on his team

The Harlequins are set to play two MAC matches in the Spring, both against the Norfolk Blues, on 3/17 in Virginia and on 4/14 here in Pittsburgh. Additionally the Quins are scheduled to play in Cincinnati on 3/24 and against Cleveland in Pittsburgh on 4/7.  

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Winter Training

Beginning Tuesday, January 09, 2018 the Pittsburgh Harlequins will conduct training at GreenTree Sportsplex. Training will be held on Tuesdays from 8:30-10 PM. On Thursday nights from 7-9 PM the Harlequins will conduct fitness training at Crossfit Pittsburgh

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Out of Touch: Pittsburgh Harlequins vs. Baltimore-Chesapeake Brumbies in final Fall action

The Harlequins traveled to Baltimore for the final match of the Fall half. The Baltimore trip has been an annual occurrence for the Quins for over a decade now. And for nearly as long Pittsburgh has not left Baltimore with a victory. During practice this past week the Quins discussed the significance of this match […]

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Out of Touch: East Meets West in Pennsylvania Showdown

Rugby image of the scrum half pitching the ball out to the backs on his team

The Pennsylvania Turnpike is a path well travelled for both the Schuylkill River Exiles and the Pittsburgh Harlequins. It was only a few weeks ago that the Quins left Philly after a tight margined defeat. But on Veteran’s Day, Pittsburgh would even the 2017 series. The Quins controlled the opening kickoff and played well for […]

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Out of Touch: Potomac-Pittsburgh Showdown in Coraopolis

Rugby image of the scrum half pitching the ball out to the backs on his team

A week of heavy rain forced the Harlequins’ match against the Potomac Exiles to be relocated from Founders Field to Coraopolis. A few makeshift adjustments to a standard soccer pitch were no trouble for a Pittsburgh side eager to get back on the right track in MAC competition. Coming off of three straight losses, the […]

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Rugby image of the scrum half pitching the ball out to the backs on his team

Attention Harlequins fans. An important announcement to follow: Due to the high level of precipitation this past week Founders Field is water-logged and unplayable. Tomorrow’s (11/4) match against Potomac will be held at Montour Junction Sports Complex: 2419 State Avenue Coraopolis, PA 15108. The match will begin at 1 PM. We encourage you to come […]

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Out of Touch: Tough Road Loss in Nation’s Capital

The challenge of traveling well at the Club level once more rears its ugly head. The Harlequins were up early Saturday morning in order to make the trip to D.C. for a rematch against the Washington Irish. The previous meeting saw Pittsburgh the victor by a considerable margin, but on the Potomac with the Washington […]

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