Pittsburgh Has Reasons to be Thankful

By Alex Goff, www.Rugbymag.com

The Pittsburgh Harlequins can feel thankful this Thanksgiving Weekend after emerging from the fall Mid-Atlantic club season 6-3 and with a guaranteed spot in the Competitive Region 1 playoffs.

This was a big improvement over the last two season, where the Harlequins finished 3-5 in 2009 and 4-5 in 2010 and out of the running.

But, thankful as they are, Pittsburgh thinks a little about what could have been.

“We’ve had a great season which should have been better,” said Pittsburgh Coach Steve Walsh. “We lost a game we really had against PAC – a couple of kickable goals and two disallowed tries.”

That game ended 3-0 for PAC, but it wasn’t the only misstep for Pittsburgh. Walsh remembers a one-point loss to Schuylkill River, where “we made a mess of the game. We feel that Norfolk was the only team that really beat us this season. They turned it on against us down there, however we did win the 2nd half 33-20. It was just too little, too late.”

So with a few mistakes set aside, Pittsburgh could conceivably have been 8-1, and possibly in first place.

All this despite losing two of their best attacking players.

“So the squad’s performance in this light is even more successful than it first appears,” Walsh said, adding that the entire team stepped up to fill the voids. “Each week someone different would be a game-breaker. This, I think, is why the season was what it was.”

Teamwork and defense. Pittsburgh allowed only 14 points a game, shutting out three and holding four teams to no tries.

“Defense has always been pretty strong at this club but this season there was a certain hardness to it,” explained Walsh. “[We had a] determination to take it to the opposition. This has allowed our attack to be far more adventurous and our backs have been a much bigger part of the point scoring.

With some lessons learned from their close losses, injured players coming back for the spring, and young college additions from Carnegie-Mellon, Robert Morris, California (Pa.), Indiana (Pa.) and Pitt all raising the level of athleticism, Pittsburgh looks set to do well in the playoffs.

“This type of season has been threatening for the last couple of years but we just weren’t able to put whole games together consistently,” said Walsh. “The players are looking forward to the next step to see how we compare to the strong clubs on the East Coast. If we can get everyone back fit and healthy the Pittsburgh Harlequins might surprise a few teams.”