Out of Touch: Conference Championship Rematch Sees No Change in Result.

With fans, friends, family, and former players present; Harlequins Homecoming and Family Day was all set to be a fine success. Even the weather was willing to cooperate. The sky was blue and the sun shined bright, but Rocky Gorge came to play. That should come as no surprise. The reigning conference champs have a strong identity and an uncanny ability to execute. If you bring anything less than your best against them, they make you pay.

The match began with Pittsburgh kicking off to Gorge. Scrum half Evan McNenly did a good job of allowing Pittsburgh to compete for restart kicks all day. The first kick, although competed for by both sides, was fielded by Rocky Gorge and they went to work quickly. They did well to combine a powerful forward pack with a disciplined back line. Methodically, they worked their way down the field, drawing Pittsburgh defenders into the interior of the field before spreading the ball to the edge. They would advance the ball inside of the Harlequins’ five meter line. A strongly contested goal line sequence would follow. Forwards on forwards. Picks from the back of the ruck strung together one after the other with mere inches at stake. Pittsburgh’s defense would persist as the number of phases inside five meters passed the double digit mark. As the phase count grew, the goal line defending took its toll. Gorge capitalized on a gap in the defensive line just wide enough to put them on the scoreboard first.

The next kickoff by McNenly would be tapped backwards by Quins’ hooker Frank LeDonne right into the hands of flanker Timothy Sowa. Now it was Pittsburgh’s turn to play with ball in hand. There were plenty of promising moments for the Harlequins’ attack early on, but the story of the day for Pittsburgh was handling errors committed while in good attacking position. The Harlequin’s lost the ball forward early and often.

Scrummaging remained evenly matched between the two sides with neither Pittsburgh nor Rocky Gorge losing possession of the ball through the scrum. As the day progressed, however, this would give Rocky Gorge the advantage, considering the wide disparity of knock on penalties.

The first half saw three more tries total. Rocky Gorge would score next off of a promising line break kept alive by well-timed offloads.

The Quins’ only score of the first half would come from lock Steve Novacic who put himself in good position all day long. Between his clutch performance in the line outs and his strong support running he would earn the title of Man of the Match.

While the Harlequins’ attack would struggle to put anything more together, Rocky Gorge would not let up. Pittsburgh struggled to compete for field position in the kicking game and Gorge capitalized once more before the end of the half. Halftime score: 21 – 7.

The second half would continue in the same way. Pittsburgh had multiple sequences of play that put them in good scoring position before handling errors stopped them cold. The Rocky Gorge defensive line had good, disruptive pace all day long. Even so the Quins’ back line was able to manufacture space when playing near mid field. But Pittsburgh would continue to be unable to capitalize in their attacking half.

Rocky Gorge scored twenty-two more points in the second half compared to Pittsburgh’s seven. The lone Harlequins’ try of the second half came in the closing minutes when flanker Zack Kochin intercepted the Rocky Gorge #9 to #10 pass for an easy stroll over the try line.

But it was too little too late.

The Harlequins’ have next weekend off before returning to Founders Field on the fourth of November against the Schuylkill River Exiles.

Thank you to all who came to Founders in support. Apart from the actual rugby, Harlequins Homecoming and Family Day was a huge success.

Special Thanks to Harlequins sponsors: Friendly Islander Landscaping, Camp Deer Creek, Hollywood Cafe Sports Bar & Grill, CMX Athletics, Quick Lane at Kenny Ross Ford, and Bonnie Hoolahan for the Howard Hanna Hampton Office.

Thank you as well to Rivertowne Brewing, Black Box Bistro, WISH 99.7, and Emmerling Ice Cream for their gracious support.