Out of Touch: Norfolk ver. 2

    Regular season MAC play came to a close for Pittsburgh when the Norfolk Blues traveled to play the Harlequins.

    The match opened up to promising attacking opportunities from both sides. Quins’ front rower Max Lum broke through the defense early after a maul, but an ensuing pass went errant leading to a turnover. Norfolk would kick and chase to get into good attacking position. A breakdown penalty gave the Blues a penalty goal opportunity, but they would miss on the attempt.

    The opening minutes proceeded back and forth evenly matched. Each side would trade promising attacking sequences. For the Quins, flanker Zack Cochin intercepted a pass and went forward within the Pittsburgh attacking twenty-two. But handling errors would cut the opportunity short.

    Shortly thereafter the Quins would win a defensive scrum before eight man Vili Siale picked the ball from the back of the scrum for another line break. But once again handling errors turned the ball over.

    Meanwhile Norfolk had their share of promising opportunities on offense. The Blues were exceptional at spreading the ball to the edge of the field. Their large back line proved difficult for the Quins defense to match. They would advance the ball all the way within ten meters of the try line. A breakdown penalty against Pittsburgh scrambled the defense for the split second it would take for the Blues to tap and go into the in-goal. After missing the conversion the score was 5 to 0 Norfolk.

    Norfolk did not skip a beat after receiving the ensuing kickoff. Once more they spread the ball to the edge and evaded Quins defenders. This time, however, fullback Ted Sheedy was in position for the try saving tackle. Center Greg Genovese followed immediately in support and secured the ball for the Quins at the breakdown after being awarded a penalty for not releasing the ball.

    Sheedy would kick to touch, but the Blues stole the ensuing line out. Winger Eddie Varea was not dismayed at the turnover. Instead he took it as an opportunity for a strong defensive play. He delivered a punishing hit on the Blues’ ball carrier and in the process stole back the ball. Churning his feet ever forward Varea moved the gain line before offloading to front rower Ryan O’Kane. The Quins kept the ball alive through several offloads before finding space on the edge. Strong support rucking maintained possession before the ball came to center Lamont Gadson in the middle of the field. Diagnosing space further to his left he delivered a long skip pass to Sheedy who had a clear line to the in-goal. Suddenly the match was tied at 5 points all.

    Maintaining possession and good attacking form the Quins continued their offensive advance to just outside the Blues’ twenty-two. A breakdown penalty would go the way of Pittsburgh and Sheedy would shout out for his kicking tee. A long penalty goal went straight down the middle from Sheedy. Into the half the Quins held the lead at 8 to 5.

    Upon receiving the second half restart kick, Pittsburgh picked up right where they had left off. Strong support running and the ability to maintain attacking shape through multiple phases brought the ball to within the Blues twenty-two. Another breakdown penalty would place the ball on the kicking tee of Sheedy. Slotting the penalty goal the Quins expanded their lead 11 to 5.

    Norfolk was not discouraged, however. They regained possession shortly after the kickoff and once more played to their strength. Moving the ball wide into the hands of their hard to hit backs they quickly went the distance for a try of their own. The Quins’ lead was cut to one; 11 to 10.

    More back and forth kept the match even as the second half progressed. But as the minutes continued ticking off the clock the Blues started to take over. Their defensive pace and discipline kept the Quins from advancing the ball. When they got their opportunities to play with ball in hand they took full advantage. With twenty minutes left they dotted down another try making the score 20 to 11.

    In the final fifteen minutes of the match the Blues asserted themselves in all facets of the game. They went on to score three more tries as the Harlequins ran out of steam. Pittsburgh would score one final try as front rower Jake Smith overwhelmed the Blues goal line defense on a five meter run.

    Now the Norfolk Blues have an opportunity against Rocky Gorge for the MAC title. The Pittsburgh Harlequins will finish third in the conference with a record of six wins to six losses.

    Final score Norfolk 39 – 16 Pittsburgh.

    Join the Harlequins next week as Stoney Creek RFC travels down from Canada for an exhibition friendly at Founders Field.