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Life on the run vs NYAC. Dennis D Hawk / DoctorHawkPhoto.

With the Pacific Northwest on bye, there were only three conferences in action across the DI club scene. Glendale and Life were the winners in the ARP Friendlies, while it was Metropolis, the Chicago Lions, Columbus, and Cincinnati that took home victories in the Midwest. There were only two matches in the Mid-Atlantic, won by the Potomac Exiles and Schuylkill River. The Norfolk-Rocky Gorge match was postponed due to a death in the family of one of its players. Rugby Today extends its condolences to the player and the Norfolk Blues’ family.

American Rugby Premiership Friendlies

The Glendale Merlins extended their winning streak to four games with a 76-35 victory in a highly-anticipated match against Old Blue of New York at Infinity Park in Glendale, Co. A Will Magie penalty kick spotted the Merlins a 3-0 lead before a chip, recover, and offload to Maximo de Achaval made it 10-0 eight minutes in. An Old Blue intercept of a Magie chip closed the gap to 10-7, but the veteran Merlins’ side answered when scrumhalf Shaun Davies found flanker Peter Dahl for a line break, who then offloaded to Ryberg to make it 15-7.

Glendale opened up the scoring when Dustin Croy sprinted down the sideline finding De Achaval for the try which was followed by Dahl for a 27-7 Merlins’ advantage. Next, it was Johnny Ryberg who found a gap in the Old Blue defense and the Magie conversion made it 34-7 before Old Blue responded with two tries to make it 34-21 at halftime.

Glendale took the momentum back early in the second half when Davies found Croy to make it 41-21. Ben Landry was next to dot the ball down for Glendale, followed by Ryberg. Old Blue answered to make it 55-28 at 50’, but Croy’s third try and a score by Grigor Kerdikoshvili increased the home tally to 69 points. The proud Old Blue squad never gave up scoring in the 65th minute and Davies dummied his way to a final try to bring the match to 76-35.

“Glendale dominated the time of possession,” Old Blue coach Dom Wareing said after the loss. “When they did have the ball, we made some basic errors and missed some tackles. They’re a big, physical team and we knew coming in that it would be a challenge. We had to make those first-up hits and unfortunately, we didn’t quite make it. It was a huge learning curve. Hats off to Glendale, they played some fantastic rugby and took some opportunities, and they raised the bar as the best team in the country in our eyes. We now know where we need to be in order to compete with the best.”

In a much tighter ARP friendly, it was Life that came out on top of NYAC, 36-31, in Marietta, Ga. NYAC struck first with two unconverted tries, then Life found the offense with a penalty kick, followed by two converted tries from Sebastian Banos and Harley Wheeler to go up 17-10. The score held until halftime, but Life that seized momentum in the second to extend the lead to 24-10 after a Duncan Van Schalkwyk try.

NYAC did not go away though, and it was 24-17 before the visitors got another converted try to make it 24-all with 16 to go. Life’s Marcus Walsh broke the stalemate with a try and was followed by Jamie Berrisford soon after to give the home team a firm 12-point advantage with less than ten minutes to go. NYAC fought through to the end with a converted try to cut it to 36-31, but that was it and Life defense held on at the end.

Mid-Atlantic

The Potomac Exiles recovered from a tight loss to Pittsburgh with a 27-10 home victory over Baltimore-Chesapeake in Bethesda, Md. Potomac jumped out to a 10-0 lead with tries from hooker Guy Lopresti and flanker Tyler Blaser before Blake Carroll answered for Baltimore to make it 10-3. The Exiles extended the lead with wing Matt Quigley’s try at 39’ to head into the halftime break with the momentum and a 12-point lead.

The score held until 65’ when Potomac got its third try from outside center Joe Whalen, then grabbed the bonus point try when inside center John Davis found paydirt four minutes later to make it 27-3. BC earned a penalty try in the final minute, but this one was already wrapped up and went to the home team, 27-10.

Asked what the difference was between this week and a blown second-half lead last week, Potomac coach Owen Lentz said, “we did a really good job of not committing to the breakdowns. We kept our defense in numbers and basically strangled Baltimore out of the game. It’s a team thing, everybody has to buy into not competing for the ball, staying disciplined and patient.”

Leading the way in the backs for Potomac was John Davis with solid tackles and offensive strikes, while it was the Lopresti brothers standing out in the forwards. “Dante especially played really well; he showed a good skillset and good hands.”

After playing its part in a comeback and two near-comebacks, it was Schuylkill River that almost blew the big lead against Pittsburgh in Philadelphia, Pa. Tries from prop Ricky Schneider, fullback Pat Boyle, wing Cody Bukowski, and a conversion by #10 Matt Chiaromonte put the hosts up 19-3 23 minutes in. Pittsburgh's Mitch DePellegrini bulldozed his way to a converted try before the half, but the momentum seemed to still be in Schuylkill’s favor.

Flanker Ben Janssen and another Chiaromonte conversion extended the tally to 26-10, but Pittsburgh would mount its comeback and make things interesting moments later. The Harlequins' Viliami Siale and Brandon Stine scored tries at 51’ and 61', then hit a Ted Sheedy penalty kick to take a 27-26 lead with 14 minutes left to play. At 70', Boyle scored his second try to put Schuylkill back on top, but Pittsburgh answered with a pick and go try at the line by Steve Novacic for the 34-33 lead. The match came down to the final minutes and it was Bukowski playing the part of the hero for Schuylkill as his try at 76’ put his team up for good and sealed the 38-34 win.

Schuylkill coach Owen Jones pointed to the team’s recent experience in tight matches as a factor that enabled his team to pull the win out at the end. “This weekend was a little different; we were up, then let them back into it, and they eventually took the lead,” he explained. “Toward the end, we just stuck to our system and our structure. We’ve been able to stretch defenses and find some holes that have gotten bigger for us at the end of the game.”

Midwest

The Cincinnati Wolfhounds hammered Palmer, 51-7, in front of the home crowd in Cincinnati, Ohio. An early yellow card slowed the Wolfhounds, but still went into halftime up 15-0 thanks to tries from fullback Ryan Grote, inside center Sam McAninch, and a penalty kick from scrummy John Stapleton.

Cincinnati opened the floodgates early in the second half with two tries in the first 14 minutes from McAninch and eightman Eric Lalley with a Stapleton conversion making it 27-0. Palmer got on the board at 67’, but it was all Wolfhounds from there. Stapleton tacked on another penalty and McAninch’s third try was followed by scores from flyhalf David Brogden and reserve Lemeki Betomakita.

Columbus RFC went to Chicago, Ill. and came home with a 31-18 win over the Griffins. The victory improves Scioto Valley's record to five wins and a firm hold of third place in the Midwest. Eightman Riekert Hattingh and wing Tevita Maitavuki each notched two tries in the win and outside center Derek Patick scored his squad's final try in the 66th minute. Hattingh was perfect with the boot with three conversions and a penalty. 

In a match full of cards on both sides, the Chicago Lions emerged from the chaos with a 27-25 road win over the Blues in Kansas City, Mo. Flyhalf Harrison Deck spotted Chicago a 7-0 lead with an early try and conversion and the Blues responded with a Mike Mercer penalty to cut the lead to four points.

Unfortunately for KC, the scrumhalf Casey Cummings was sent off the pitch with a red card in the 23rd minute. Down to 14 players for the remainder of the game, the Blues rallied and kicked another penalty and Sean Murray scored a try for the 11-7 advantage just before halftime. The Lions cut the lead to a point at the whistle with a Deck penalty to make it 11-10.

With the man advantage, Chicago pressed the pace piling up the points in the process. Eric Williams and Dan Coci notched early tries, but ill-discipline sent two Lions to the bin halfway through the period. KC took advantage with a Walter Elder try but was able to capitalize further even with a third yellow card to Chicago in the 66th minute.

Once Deck returned from the bin, Chicago pushed its lead to nine points with a penalty at 72', but KC wasn't done. A last-ditch try by KC's Brendan Nachbar made it 27-25, however, the Lions held on in the final minute for the win.

Outside of returning its men to the pitch following three yellow cards in four minutes for ruck infringements, Lions’ coach Dave Clancy pointed to one of his reserves as a spark in the win. “Eric Williams came on at halftime and gave us some great go forward, which was key to our next few scores.”

Metropolis shook off a bizarre start to defeat the Barbarians, 63-24, in Milwaukee, Wis. Milwaukee was issued a red card just three minutes in, but the infraction also cost Metropolis its starting scrumhalf for the rest of the match as Trace Bolstad left with an injury.

When the fireworks settled, Metropolis took advantage as it continuously swung the ball to wing Melvin Desouza, who single-handedly outscored Milwaukee with five tries. Flyhalf Ratu Peceli Rinakama scored first, then it was Desouza with three straight. Milwaukee’s Ryan Duklas broke up the streak, then Desouza came right back. Eightman Pita Naruma was next to find the try zone for Metro and fullback Bryan Ptomey’s conversion made it 32-5 at halftime.

Milwaukee went on a little run in the second half to get within 39-19, but the Metropolis bench took it from there to seal the win. Finishing up the scoring for Metro was Ryan Gilligan, Desouza’s fifth, Logan Hanson, Ekapatalisio Veamatahau, and Naruma’s second. Ptomey finished with four conversions on the day.

“Our defense was really good,” Metropolis coach Rob Holder said about the win. “Milwaukee held the ball for long phases of the game and we really held our shape in defense. Our line speed was decent. They were holding the ball for long periods of time but we were comfortable holding our shape and defending. Our defense was really strong and then things opened up on our counter-attack.”