Pittsburgh Harlequins vs. Schuylkill River Exiles

The Harlequins’ four plus hour road trip to Philadelphia took its toll on their ability to start strong. Kicking off to the Exiles, Pittsburgh’s chase was unevenly timed and coverage poorly communicated among Quins defenders. Schuylkill would take advantage of open field play all day and that trend started from the opening kickoff. The Quins were down 5 to 0 in the opening minutes.

The next kickoff would be covered more effectively by the Harlequins, but their defensive identity would take longer to emerge at its full strength. The Exiles were keen to find gaps out wide in the defensive line. Spreading the width of the field, the Schuylkill eight-man would cut his run up the field. The Exiles’ support lines were run well. Once through the Pittsburgh line Schuylkill attackers put themselves in good position to keep the ball moving. In the first twenty minutes Pittsburgh would go be down 12 to 0.

The next restart represented an important point in the match. Pittsburgh could not afford to continue letting the Exiles have their way with each possession. Fly-half Ted Sheedy put the restart kick right to one of the Schuylkill River props. It would bounce off of his chest and into touch, putting Pittsburgh in promising attacking position.

The ball came cleanly off the line-out and Pittsburgh’s offensive pattern began to take shape. Well supported one-off runs brought defenders inward before the ball went wide. Pittsburgh would maintain this strategy back and forth across the field all the while gaining vertical momentum. The Quins would reach the opposing five meter line before being awarded a breakdown penalty for an Exiles defender not releasing the tackled player. Sheedy would take and make the penalty goal giving Pittsburgh their first points of the day. Score: 12 to 3.

The remainder of the first half would be evenly matched between the two sides. Both teams would score a try each. The Exiles’ score would come off a kick from the wing. The ball took a Schuylkill bounce and the Pittsburgh deep defense was out of position to defend. Pittsburgh’s score would come in the last five minutes. Another breakdown penalty at the Exiles’ five meter line would allow Sheedy to deliver a skip pass to lock Mitch DePellegrini. In his typical fashion, DePellegrini would carry multiple defenders into the try zone. Halftime score: 19 to 10.

Pittsburgh would claw their way back into the match in the second half with promising sequences of attack built on dominant scrummaging, but defensively the Quins would have a difficult time slowing down the Exiles’ offense in the open field.

The opening of the second half would see three tries in quick sequence. Schuylkill River would score first, Pittsburgh was able to answer with a try from Villiami Siale, and the Exiles would find the try line again. On the next Pittsburgh possession Sheedy would slot another penalty goal.

Scrum-half Timothy Sowa was asked to do a lot this week during his first start at nine, but his ability to manage the game, together with his pace and strength on defense carried his performance. When he came out with an ankle injury the Quins were forced to move winger Brandon Stine to nine. Stine made his presence known early on with a quick take off the back of the ruck. Just inside the attacking twenty-two, a dummy pass would open up his line all the way to the try line.

With the momentum now leaning the way of Pittsburgh, the Harlequins continued to drive down the field on the strength of hard attacking lines from the forwards and good open play as the ball was spread wide. Inside the attacking twenty-two, the Quins exploited space around the ruck with multiple straight forward picks. This moved them all the way into scoring position and lock Steve Novacic took the final pick and go over the line. For the first time in the match the Harlequins were in the lead 34 to 31.

Playing inside their own half, the Harlequins looked to keep possession of the ball for the final ten minutes. A sequence of multiple phases without gaining much ground put the pressure on Pittsburgh to advance the ball off the foot. The Quins’ chase was in good position, but a well-timed step by the Exiles’ fullback gave Schuylkill a lot of space to return the ball. Good support lines kept the ball moving. Just as Schuylkill had done all day they continued to make Pittsburgh pay during sequences of open play. Just like that the Exiles had the lead back.

In the closing minutes of the match the Harlequins would get the ball back and put together an impressive attack. Pittsburgh would get within meters of the try line before three consecutive penalty scrums were awarded. Each one was dominant and capable of driving over the try line. The second of the three was on its way over the try line before an Exile back row forward grabbed the ball. This solicited the final penalty scrum instead of a penalty try. Eight man Siale would pick the ball from the back of the final scrum and take off for the short side in-goal corner. The side judge raised his flag indicating Siale had been taken into touch and the final whistle blew on a devastating loss for the Harlequins. Final score Schuylkill River Exiles 38 – 34 Pittsburgh Harlequins.

Man of the match, Ryan O’Kane would be rewarded for his part in the dominant scrum play as well as a noteworthy forty meter line break.

Your Pittsburgh Harlequins return to Founders Field next week, October 14th for Homecoming and Family Day.