Out of Touch: International Rugby in Pittsburgh

    The Stoney Creek Camels traveled south for some rugby on Saturday. Between the on-field play and the post-match social, it was a full trip.

    The match started with the Camels receiving the ball. The opening minutes featured strong back and forth rugby. Stoney Creek gained ground early with strong gain line breaks from their forwards, but a handling error gave the Harlequins possession. With the ball in hand, Pittsburgh made good use of the back line. Dummy lines, good spacing, and strong discipline in maintaining individual lanes advanced the ball forward through the hands. But in the same way Stoney Creek conceded possession, the Harlequins struggled with knock-on penalties early.

    The first ten minutes proceeded as such. Both sides showing promise in advancing the ball before giving up possession. Eventually, though, Pittsburgh made a break off a strong run from flanker Zack Kochin. An ensuing breakdown penalty put the ball on the boot of full back Ted Sheedy, and suddenly the Quins had a line-out ten meters from the try line. From the set piece the ball traveled the full width of the field before full back Sheedy dotted it to the ground. Missing the conversion, Pittsburgh took a 5 to 0 lead.

    Stoney Creek responded quickly with a try of their own. The Camels’ 8-man made the Quins defensive line pay with strong line breaks and well-timed offloads. Keeping the ball alive as it traveled the width of the field, Stoney Creek found more space in the Pittsburgh line and just like that the match was tied at 5 points all.

    Pittsburgh recovered possession quickly after the restart kick and immediately moved the ball through the back line. Newcomer and man of the match Lewis Klinthong was able to turn the ball up field all day long. He kept finding seams in the defense and he made Stoney Creek pay. Another breakdown penalty gave the Quins a line-out within ten meters from the try line. This time Pittsburgh would form a maul. Good initial movement of the maul allowed prop Max Lum to roll off the back and carry the ball the final few meters to the in-goal. A converted try made the score 12 to 5 Pittsburgh.

    Just as they had before, the Stoney Creek Camels had a quick response to the Pittsburgh try. More missed tackles from forward runs helped advance the ball within the Harlequins’ twenty-two. An offsides penalty flustered the Pittsburgh defense. A quick tap and go from the Camels put the Quins on their back foot without enough time to recover defensively. As the thirty minute mark approached the match became tied at 12 points a piece.

    The Quins would close the half strongly with two unanswered tries. The first came off of a turnover. Strong gang tackling allowed the Quins to counter ruck successfully. Scrum half Timothy Sowa stepped in immediately for the quick pick and go. Meanwhile, flanker Paul Holmes put himself in great position on the wing. Sowa passed to Holmes and by then it was too late for Stoney Creek to slide over defensively; 19 to 12 Pittsburgh.

    Strong defensive scrumming from the Quins allowed them to spend more time with possession of the ball. Good communication between fly half Brandon Stine and his back line put the ball into Klinthong’s hands once again. Pushing the gain line forward phase after phase, the Quins were awarded another breakdown penalty. From the ensuing line-out, two phases to two forwards was not enough to break through. Recognizing this, Stine sent the ball wide to the edge of the field. The ball would go through center Vili Siale’s hands to Klinthong to winger Greg Chinchilla. One quick step later and Chinchilla had dotted the ball down. With the conversion the Quins had the lead 26 to 12 at the half.

    The strengths for both teams persisted into the second half. The Quins did well to move the ball through the hands efficiently while the Camels continued with strong forward runs attacking the space not the defender and well-timed offloads.

    Stoney Creek responded quickly with the first score of the second half bringing the score closer; 26 to 19.

    But from that point the Quins started to find their rhythm more and more. Strong defensive scrumming and defensive line-outs allowed the Quins to maintain possession for extended sequences of play. Pittsburgh would go on to score three more tries to Stoney Creek’s one. Pittsburgh tries came from Klinthong and second row Zack Jessell with two. More solid conversion kicking brought the final score to Pittsburgh 41 – 24 Stoney Creek.

    Thanks to the Camels for making the trip and thanks to our supporters for cheering us on.

    The Harlequins travel to Rocky Gorge, MD next week (4/28) for the first round of MAC playoffs.