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Chicago Lions at Columbus. Scioto Valley RFC - The Columbus Rugby Club Photo.

The penultimate Saturday of DI Club Rugby in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest saw the conference leaders remain undefeated with all of the other squads grinding for position. Rocky Gorge and Metropolis won their respective games while the Chicago Lions were defeated in a high-scoring affair against Columbus. The Blues of the Norfolk and Kansas City variety were victorious as well as Pittsburgh and Palmer.

Mid-Atlantic

In the Mid-Atlantic, Rocky Gorge finished its undefeated fall season with a 54-12 home finale against Baltimore-Chesapeake. Gorge led from the start scoring a total of eight tries on the day. Wing Eugene Becton racked up a hat trick in the win with Derrell Kittrell, Josh Brown, Brady Smith (2), and Kevin Jackson Jr. joining him the endzone. Eagle Ben Cima was seven for eight on conversions.

“Defense was very good today and the continuity in open play led to some big tries,” Gorge head coach Nick DiMichele said. “There was a lot of moving parts within the club, we are exactly where we want to be finishing the fall season. It wasn’t the most efficient route but we got the job done. Leaving some room for improvement in the spring.”

The Norfolk Blues rebounded from its first loss of the fall to beat the Potomac Exiles, 35-17, in Bethesda, Md. The Blues led 14-5 at the half and put in another three tries after the break. Norfolk finished the fall with a 6-1 record and head coach Chris Porter had his club ready after a difficult defeat.

“Our set piece set the tone for the whole match,” Porter said. “Our scrums were dominant and getting us some good go forward ball. Lineouts were good and we used that to unleash the backline to moving forward. We cleared the rucks and got the ball out to open play. Once we got on the front foot, we kept hammering going through.”

Porter believes his squad’s maturity has led to the fall success and bright outlook for the spring. “The theme for the fall was playing the full 80 minutes of rugby,” Porter concluded. “In year’s past, we made mistakes and fell apart for 10-15 minutes. This year when people scored on us or we made a mistake, the guys picked it back up and continued playing the game. The maturity was a huge thing for us this year.”

In a rematch from a month ago, the Pittsburgh Harlequins exacted their 43-22 revenge against the Schuylkill River Exiles at Founders Field in Pittsburgh, Pa. After an early PK gave Schuylkill the lead, the Quins scored five straight converted tries for the commanding 35-3 lead just after halftime. The Exiles attempted to come back with a three-try run in the second, but a PK and score from Pitt late sealed the win.

Mitch DePellegrini, Zack Jessell, Ted Sheedy (two tries, five conversions, and a PK), Steve Novacic, and Scott Hervoyavich scored for Pittsburgh in the win. Dan Deal, Lucas Brickley, and Mike Centanni dotted the ball down for the Exiles with Brian Keown kicking a PK and two conversions.

Despite the loss, Schuylkill head coach Owen Jones is optimistic about the future of Exiles rugby. “The fall has been a positive and exciting fall. One of the unspoken luxuries we have as a club is our collegiate clubs in/around Philadelphia. Over the years, we have seen a consistent player turnover and continue to maintain a high level of play as a direct result of the ability levels of players leaving college programs. Our area college coaches need to be acknowledged for our amazing player pool. Learning and watching the level of talent we have and will have for years ahead has been exciting for me.”

The final fall match of the Mid-Atlantic is Saturday between Pittsburgh and Baltimore-Chesapeake. After the winter break, the action resumes on March 17th.

Midwest

The Marathon Midwest enters its 13th week and Metropolis is the Energizer Bunny that keeps going and going. Nothing has stopped them yet and Milwaukee was the latest victim on Saturday.

Metro took a 17-0 lead before the Barbarians stormed back for a 19-17 advantage in the 50th minute. The lead didn’t last long as Metropolis scored the final three tries to close out the match. Logan Hanson, Melvin Desouza (3), Bryant Larson, and Carter Beelman scored in the victory with Justin Patterson, Matt Drzewiecki, and Conor Bell finding the endzone for Milwaukee.

“It was one of our tougher games on the season,” Metropolis head coach Rob Holder said. “Milwaukee really came to play... They controlled possession for a lot of the game, but we were able to really step up defensively and absorb their pressure, and convert our chances when we had them.”

Metropolis finishes the fall at Columbus on Saturday. “We have to travel well,” Holder said. “Columbus will be really difficult at home, but the weather is better there. We are going to travel a day in advance, try to have good preparation, and finish out the season strong.”

Speaking of Columbus, the Scioto Valley club pulled off the 49-35 upset of the Chicago Lions in Obetz, Ohio. Columbus took control from the opening whistle scoring the game’s first 22 points. The Lions were unable to recover from Scioto Valley’s fast start and trailed 32-14 at the half. Each squad scored three tries in the second half with the Columbus defense thwarting the Lions from getting back into the match.

Chicago head coach Dave Clancy was disappointed with the result attributing missed tackles and critical individual errors to handing Columbus some soft tries. With second place locked up in the Midwest, Clancy’s focus for the last match versus Cincinnati is on squad rotation and getting playing time for younger players.

Derek Patick (3), Punnarah Sok, Zach Stryffeler, Taylor Howden, Richie Hines, and Ryan Cochran each scored for Columbus with Howden adding three conversions and a PK. Eric Williams, Kevin Lydon, Mungo Mason, and Brian Rooney scored in the loss for Chicago in addition to a penalty try in the 52nd minute.

In the cold and rain, the Kansas City Blues won their sixth game of the season beating Cincinnati, 27-10. KC head coach Scott Kram said, “Cincinnati had a solid defense and points were not coming easy.  Keeping possession was key for us and allowed us to slowly build a lead up.”

Flyhalf Kelly Mercer led the way for KC scoring 17 points with a try, three conversions, and two penalties. Matt Behnami and Blake Baty also finished with tries for the Blues.

The Blues will host Palmer on Saturday and Kram hopes to have a couple key players return from injury. “Palmer is one of the most physical teams in our league and can cause trouble for any team not performing at their best.  Winning our last home game will get us back to .500 and make up for the struggles we had from a long series on the road in midseason.”

In the lowest scoring test of the weekend, Palmer outlasted the hosting Chicago Griffins, 12-6. Points were hard to come by as all the scoring took place in the first half. The Griffins got on the board with two penalties by Sam Seymour, but the Dragons countered with two tries by Shane Wend and Gareth Lourens. Defense was paramount in the second half as Palmer held on for its fifth win.

“We started the game off well, dominating possession and being very aggressive on defense,” Palmer coach Mike Lawrenson said. “The high amount of yellow cards slowed the game down and allowed the Griffins to capitalize on pick and goes and Palmer infringements. However, we controlled the field for the most of the game and kept the aggression high.”

With an away game this Saturday at Kansas City, Lawrenson hopes his team can end the season on a high note. “At the close of a very long season and facing some close, devastating losses, we would like to come out with a convincing win to reflect the hard work we have put into this season.”