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.

    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.