Out of Touch: Where the Sun Don't Shine

    All things considered, the trip from Pittsburgh to Baltimore was pretty tame compared to having gone to Norfolk only a week prior. Upon arriving in Maryland, however, the Quins were met with the same rainy conditions as in Virginia. Another week of tight play and a heavy scrummaging load for the forward pack.

    Pittsburgh started strong, sticking to the initial game plan; one off runners with quickly recycled ball to punish the defense without over extending the attack. Once satisfied with the numbers that Baltimore had committed defensively, fly half John Stapleton would call for a wider ball. Stapleton did well to use his centers both as decoys and reliable options to carry the ball. The result was consistent line breaks for the Harlequins early in the match.

    When center Viliami Siale broke through the line he bumped off the next few would be tacklers, moving the gain line forward. Spotting a little seam around the breakdown, scrum half Dom Piazza took the ball into the in-goal for the first score of the day. Full back Ted Sheedy slotted the conversion to make the score 7 to 0 within ten minutes.

    Pittsburgh struggled to get back in their attacking end for the remainder of the half. Baltimore, aided by strong set piece performance in the scrums, put their foot on the gas and did not let up for the next thirty minutes.

    Baltimore’s advantage in the scrum meant the rainy conditions, responsible for a plethora of handling errors, consistently placed them in good attacking position. Several times the Quins were playing from their own goal line, playing solid defense phase after phase. Twice the Quins escaped without letting a score, but twice more Pittsburgh did not escape. The first Baltimore score came after their back line’s patience was rewarded after double digit forward phases. The second came after a dominant scrum five meters from the goal line was pushed all the way over the line where the Baltimore eight man easily tapped it down. Both tries were converted. Halftime score: 14 to 7.

    Pittsburgh had more promising attacking opportunities in the second half, but struggled to take advantage of them all the way into the in-goal. Baltimore, meanwhile, took advantage of their opportunities such that they never lost their lead.

    Baltimore, leaning on the success of their set pieces, drove down the field phase after phase keeping Pittsburgh on the back foot. Baltimore did a better job of spreading the ball wide in spite of the miserable conditions. It helped them take the ball over the line within the first five minutes of the second half. Score: 21 to 7.

    The Quins consistently put themselves in good position to retake control of the match, but handling errors, set piece turnovers, and penalties kept giving possession back to Baltimore. The home team bided their time well when controlling the ball. Another Pittsburgh penalty within kicking range allowed Baltimore to extend the lead with a PK. Score 24 to 7.

    Pittsburgh put together one more attacking drive. Maintaining possession into the opposing twenty-two, the Quins forwards took ball after ball from the back of the ruck, scraping away inches at a time and tiring down a stout Baltimore side. The ball went wide a few times before more picks from the ruck. Eventually, Sheedy spotted some space across the width of the field. He booted a floating kick with winger Greg Genovese chasing it down into the in-goal. Genovese narrowly touched the ball down before it could go into touch to give Pittsburgh their only score of the half. Sheedy was good on the conversion to make the score 24 to 14.

    By then it was too little too late for the Harlequins. Baltimore regained possession of the ball and controlled it until the final whistle blew.

    Pittsburgh’s record is now 3 - 3. The Harlequins have next Saturday off. The upcoming week will be important rest and recovery before the final two matches of the Fall half.