Washington Irish RFC come to Pittsburgh

Washington Irish vs. Pittsburgh Harlequins

“A win is a win,” says Head Coach Eric Jerpe as the Quins gather around him after their 30-17 victory. Pittsburgh did get a bonus point win against the newly DI promoted Irish side, but many expected a wider margin of victory after a good deal of the match was played inside the Irish twenty-two.

The match began with the Quins kicking off to Washington. Well-placed restart kicking from scrum half Evan McNenly put the pressure on the Irish early. Pinned inside their own half the Irish struggled to move the ball against the Quins’ defensive line. Defensive pressure forced an Irish knock-on and suddenly Pittsburgh had the ball in great scoring position. Dominant scrumming put the Irish on their back heels and put winger Brandon Stine into the in-goal with fly-half Ted Sheedy to convert.

Patient play from the Harlequins would quickly put them back into scoring position, but a combination of handling errors and penalties kept them out of the try-zone. Then, a quick succession of break down penalties gave the Irish the ball with good field position and a man advantage with flanker Robbie Roche receiving the game’s only yellow card after an off-sides tackle made shortly after lock Jeff Stratford committed the same infraction. The ensuing line-out inside the Quins’ twenty-two worked well for the Irish. The ball went wide quickly and a defensive breakdown for Pittsburgh left a an exploitable gap for Washington. An unconverted try made the score 7 to 5 after thirty minutes.

In the closing minutes of the first half the Quins were once again attacking inside the opposition twenty-two. A pair of hard-fought line breaks from the Pittsburgh forward pack created an overload along the edge of the field. Recognizing this the Quins got the ball out wide quickly. After three passes the ball got to the hands of prop Zachary Jessell and he got over the line. Score at halftime 12 to 5.

The second half saw a quick offensive surge from the Harlequins that pushed them once again inside the Irish twenty-two. After a few phases an Irish defender bridged himself over the ruck conceding a penalty. Fly-half Ted Sheedy extended the lead 15 to 5 with a penalty goal.

The Irish refused to go away, however, responding with a try of their own shortly thereafter.

With the score 15 to 10 the Quins were in a dangerous position. More pressure from Pittsburgh on defense continued to force handling errors for the Irish. Consistent scrumming pushed the Irish back and #9 McNenly spotted a gap in the defense along the primary channel from the ruck. A few offloads later and McNenly himself would touch the ball down in goal.

More consistent offensive play kept the Quins in good position. Another penalty from the Irish put the ball on #10 Sheedy’s foot for another penalty goal.

Once again the Irish knew they needed to respond. They did respond with another try, but it was too late. The Quins got the ball back and winger Jason Krut found some space on the edge of the field for a thirty meter scoring run. Final score Pittsburgh 30 – 17 Washington.

The Harlequins remain home next weekend to face the Baltimore-Chesapeake Brumbies.

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