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Rocky Gorge's Erik Tack diving for the try. Evan Lappen Photo.

In DI Men’s Club on Saturday, the Midwest continued into its fourth weekend of play while the Mid-Atlantic began its season with three matches, including a rematch of the conference championships from the spring.

Midwest

In the Midwest, Metropolis RFC stayed 4-0 and perfect with a 97-point victory, while the Chicago Lions, Kansas City Blues, and Cincinnati Wolfhounds also notched victories.

Metropolis scored early and often against a beleaguered Chicago Griffins side en route to a 109-12 win in Minneapolis, Minn.  The home team blasted the Griffins for 17 tries by nine players. The try scorers were Carter Beelman (5), Joeli Tikoisuva (3), Trace Bolstad (2), Logan Hanson (2), Broderick King, Bryant Larson, Bryan Ptomey, Pita Naruma, and Ratu Peceli Rinakama.

The Chicago Lions survived a stiff test from Columbus with a one-point 25-24 home victory in Chicago, Ill. Prop Frikkie De Beer got the scoring started six minutes in, but Columbus’ Riekert Hattingh responded to trail 7-5. Tries by center Eric Williams and wing Spencer Cameron extended the lead to 19-5, but Taylor Howden got the visiting team back in the game at the half for a score of 19-10.

Two penalty kicks in the first 20 minutes of the second half by JP Eloff lengthened the lead to 25-10. Columbus refocused in the final quarter of the match as Hattingh scored his second at 65’ and Zachary Stryffeler in the 76th minute. After the conversion by Luke Hickey, the score was 25-24 with only a few minutes remaining. The Chicago defense held on for the one point win.

Lions’ coach Dave Clancy pointed to “discipline, patience and some excellent work on defense” as the keys that kept his team in front when it mattered most. Flanker Sean Mahon earned himself a Man of the Match performance with 70 minutes of hard all-around play, while reserve Zibi Pawlowski had some big turnover-causing hits to help swing the momentum in Chicago’s favor.

The Kansas City Blues evened its record to 2-2 with a 38-20 road win over the Palmer Dragons in Davenport, Iowa. Additional information regarding this match was unavailable at the time of publication.

Finally, the Cincinnati Wolfhounds also improved to 2-2 with a 48-28 win over Milwaukee in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Wolfhounds jumped out to a 31-0 lead before Milwaukee could answer with a converted try early in the second half. Cincinnati answered right back with another try at 52’, and that was all the scoring the home team would need in this one.

Milwaukee did fight back to close it to 38-28 with ten minutes to play, but the Wolfhounds ended any comeback attempt with another converted try and penalty kick for the game’s final score, 48-28.

Mid-Atlantic

In the opening weekend of Mid-Atlantic play, Rocky Gorge knocked off Pittsburgh in a championship rematch, Norfolk held the port against Potomac, and the Washington Irish earned its first victory in its DI debut versus Baltimore-Chesapeake. Although Schuylkill River was on a bye, the Exiles tested themselves against Kutztown to be ready for the MAC season.

In Columbia, Md., Rocky Gorge turned a tight game into a 21-point win against Pittsburgh in a rematch of the spring’s Mid-Atlantic finals. The Harlequins struck first with a long, 40-plus-phase drive to open the match with Brendan Stine dotting down the try. The teams then traded scores before Gorge went up at half, 21-14, with a score from flanker Jon Mbagwu.

In the second half, Josh Brown notched his second try of the game and Ben Cima’s fourth conversion extended the Gorge lead to 28-14. Pittsburgh fought back with tries from Ryan O’Kane and Mitch DePellegrini sandwiching a Eugene Becton score for Gorge. It looked like it would come to a tight finish, but Chris Kunkel’s try at 63’ was the back breaker and Gorge tacked on a exclamation point with a bit of champagne rugby six minutes later. With some brilliant passing in the backline, wing Erik Tack dotted down the score and Cima’s seventh conversion made the final margin of 49-28.

With a healthy mix of new players and Gorge vets, captain Josh Brown pointed to the first-year players as keys to the victory. “I think the new faces is what put us over the edge today,” he explained. “A lot of the older guys did what was expected, the new guys we weren’t as sure what they were going to do. Guys like Erik Tack out at wing made big plays that put us in scoring position and that’s promising. Eventually you need to rebuild, and while we’re rebuilding we still want to be the best in the Mid-Atlantic. ”

The Norfolk Blues defended home turf with a 43-10 win over the Potomac Exiles in Norfolk, Va. Norfolk ran out to a 29-0 lead in the first half and never looked back. Wing Joanel Joseph scored early in the second half to give the road team some life, but Norfolk went on another 14-0 run to seal the deal.  Outside center Kenny Rothmann scored on the game’s final play to close the gap a bit.

Notching tries for the Blues were Eric Hagen, Justin Menke (2), William Jefferson, Adam Brubaker, and Michele Minichiello. Flyhalf Jake Humphrey notched five conversions and a penalty kick with the boot.

After winning the MAC DII Championship in the spring, the Washington Irish were promoted to Division I and turned heads in its debut with an impressive 18-17 home victory over Baltimore-Chesapeake in Washington, D.C. Each team held the lead in the match, but BC was up 17-15 going to the final ten minutes of the game. A penalty with five minutes left proved to be the game-winner for the Irish securing its fist DI win.

“We really wanted this win,” said Irish coach Tonga Fanueli. “It was a very close match that anyone could win. They just played; most of the guys played together in D2 and went up together. I think the key was togetherness. You know, it’s a different level, but it’s still rugby.”

Fullback Cameron Collins starred in the Irish DI debut with a man of the match performance that included some try-saving tackles and a good setup for the game-winning score.

With the rest of the conference on notice, Fanueli’s guys will have to raise their collective play to keep the momentum going. “It’s a huge win for the boys, I told them to enjoy it. The division is going to get tougher. Now that we set that expectation, we have to manage it,” he said.

Alexander is a beat reporter for Rugby Today, published author, freelance sports writer and club rugby player for the Potomac Exiles and the Beltway Elite 7s. For more rugby action and his sports takes, follow him on Twitter @alexanderdiegel.