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    Out of Touch: The Harlequins of Avonworth

    Pittsburgh had something to prove on Saturday. After taking three consecutive losses on the road the Harlequins were home for their first match since mid-October. The Quins started the match strong, playing consecutive phases in their attacking half. Strong forward running opened up space on the edge for the Pittsburgh back-line. Possession still changed hands a few times due to handling errors, but when NOVA was called for a breakdown penalty, fullback Ted Sheedy called for the kicking tee. Score: 3 - 0 after twelve minutes.

    Pittsburgh controlled possession off the restart kick and picked up right where they left off. This time, however, they were not plagued by handling errors. Well timed lines, and the ability for forwards to seamlessly integrate into the back-line continued to push the ball forward. Tight-five player Zack Jessell, and flanker Zack Kochin led the way for Pittsburgh with punishing line breaks down the field. Kochin was the one who finally got the ball to the ground in-goal. Sheedy was good for the conversion and Pittsburgh expanded their lead. Score: 10 - 0 after seventeen minutes.

    Play went back and forth for a few minutes, but NOVA struggled to get the ball out of their own defending half. And Zack Jessell was just heating up. Consecutive forward hit-ups drew NOVA defenders inward while another hybrid back-line was setting up for Pittsburgh. Jessell received the ball from flyhalf Allan Hanson and then wove his way through a scattered NOVA defense. He beat everyone to the corner for the try. Sheedy continued his flawless kicking with the conversion. Score: 17 - 0 after twenty-five minutes.

    NOVA had something to say about the mismatched score, however. Theirs was a fast and large back-line. Where they were not given space from the Harlequins defense they took it by barreling through would-be tacklers. This ability kept Pittsburgh on the back foot and gave time for the NOVA attack to continue setting up positive sequences. They scored in minute twenty-nine. Score: 17 - 7.

    Directly from the restart kick NOVA continued their attacking streak. Pittsburgh struggled to take down the ball-carrier on first contact and NOVA scored again in minute thirty-three. Score: 17 - 12.

    Pittsburgh regained possession after pinning NOVA in their own end and forcing a poor clearance kick. Then a NOVA penalty put the ball to Sheedy’s foot for a line-out in promising territory. The Quins controlled possession in the set-piece and looked to maul into the in-goal. NOVA was quick to back up from the drive and not engage. Harlequins flanker Zack Schell had controlled the ball from the line-out. Schell quickly recognized that NOVA was declining to maul and he immediately looked to carry the ball forward. The speed at which Schell made this decision was more than enough to catch the NOVA defense off-guard. Schell went all the way for the try. More masterful kicking from Sheedy made the score 24 - 12 just before the half.

    Pittsburgh started the second half strongly with more impressive attacking sequences. The next try came off the boot of flyhalf Allan Hanson. Hanson received the ball around the middle of the field with a pair of supporting players running convincing dummy lines. Hanson diagnosed enough space behind the defense and saw winger Brandon Stine with pace. The kick sailed over the NOVA defensive line and Stine snagged it off the bounce. He took it to the house. Sheedy again. Score: 31 - 12 after forty-three.

    NOVA was quick to answer, capitalizing again off of strong ball carrying and missed tackles. They closed in on the lead by five after a try and missed conversion. Score 31 - 17 after forty-nine minutes.

    Pittsburgh had their attacking turn next after regaining possession after the restart. Engineering space along the edge by a disciplined attack around the breakdown, Pittsburgh advanced the ball toward the goal-line. Flanker Zack Schell found the ball again for a run to the in-goal. Sheedy again. 38 - 17 after fifty-eight minutes.

    Then NOVA prepped for their comeback. Their attack picked up and refused to let down for the remainder of the game. They scored at minute sixty-four, but missed the conversion. Score: 38 - 22.

    Pittsburgh struggled to defend against the NOVA attack as the minutes waned. NOVA capitalized off a Harlequins yellow-card and found the in-goal again after minute seventy-seven. Score 38 - 29.

    NOVA came within inches of tying the game. They scored the final points of the day with an eightieth minute try. The conversion was good and the final whistle blew. The missed conversion after the sixty-fourth minute try was enough to seal the victory for the Quins. Final score: 38 - 36.

    The Quins finish the fall half of the season at four wins and four losses. Time to rest, recover, and improve as winter approaches. The Pittsburgh Harlequins would like to thank all supporters.