Out of Touch: East Meets West in Pennsylvania Showdown

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 a number of phases before forcing a bad offload. In good attacking position, the Exiles ran a few phases of their own before being awarded a penalty for a high tackle. Schuylkill would strike first with a penalty goal.

Pittsburgh chased down the ensuing kickoff to put pressure on the Exiles in their own end. A quick clearance kick by the Schuylkill flyhalf gave the ball back to the Quins in good position. Quins forwards dominated the contact zone around the rucks, making gain line after gain line. Taking defenders with him, lock Mitch DePellegrini went over the try-line for the first Pittsburgh score of the day.

For the remainder of the first half, the Harlequins dominated forward play. Maintaining possession of the ball in the Exiles half. More strong running from the forwards put prop Zack Jessell over the line. After the next restart kick the Quins were soon back in attacking position. This time it was fly-half Ted Sheedy who spotted a gap in the Schuylkill defensive line. There would be no stopping him as Pittsburgh extended the lead.

The Exiles managed to get the ball back next, but a strong defensive presence from center Wardell Lamont Ham Gadson drove the Exiles ball carrier backwards putting Gadson in great counter-rucking position. With the ball turned over, lock Steve Novacic advanced the ball forty meters to the try line. Four unanswered tries had Pittsburgh up 28-3 at halftime.

Pittsburgh kicked off to the Exiles to open the second half, but pressure on defense turned the ball over quickly. Diagnosing another gap in the Schuylkill defense, Sheedy met the line with pace and never looked back. Another try for the fly-half.

Schuylkill caught a break after a high tackle, among a longer list of offenses, was enough to draw the attention of the referee. The yellow card was presented and Pittsburgh was forced to play a man down. The Exiles made it count. The man advantage allowed them to maul against the Harlequins. A good drive from the maul put Pittsburgh on the back foot when the ball finally came wide to the backs. Elusive running and good offloads put the Exiles over the line for their first try of the day.

With some momentum of their own, Schuylkill was resolved to keep the pressure on. Aided by poor tackling and inadequate defensive communication, the Exiles were over the try-line within five minutes of the last.

As fatigue set in for both sides, the Exiles would catch their second wind first. More poor tackling from the Quins countered with quality offloads from the Exiles, gave the Schuylkill side plenty of room to work. The ball came to the Exiles back line with a lot of space in front of them. The Quins did not adjust quickly enough and suddenly the score was 35-22.

Eventually, and with the help of substitutes, the Pittsburgh side caught their second win. Noticing Schuylkill’s wide spacing around the breakdown area, Quins forwards looked to pick the ball from the back of the ruck. Gain-line after gain-line the Harlequins marched their way back down the field. Awarded a breakdown penalty, Pittsburgh slotted a penalty goal off the foot of Sheedy.

With time winding down, the Exiles made their final push. They came close on a number of occasions, but stout defense from the Quins kept them out of the in-goal area. A massive hit from center Viliami Siale, popped the ball out of the attacker’s grasp. A few passes to the exterior of the field brought the ball to fullback Scott Hervoyavich’s hands. Evading multiple defenders he could not be caught en route to a length of the field try.

Pittsburgh continued to control possession as the clock wound down to zero. Two bonus point home victories in as many weeks advances the Quins to 5-4 in MAC play. The Pittsburgh Harlequins are back in action next week, 11/18, in Baltimore for the final match of the Fall season.