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Norfolk Blues scoring a try vs the Washington Irish. Anthony Sandoval III Photo.

Busy weekend in DI Club as there were four conferences in action across the country on Saturday. The Potomac Exiles and Pittsburgh Harlequins defended home turf, while the Norfolk Blues notched a road win for a 3-0 start in Mid-Atlantic play. In the Midwest, Metropolis continued its undefeated season, with the Chicago Lions, Cincinnati Wolfhounds, and Palmer Dragons also picking up wins. Meanwhile in the first week of Pacific Northwest play, the Portland Pigs, Oregon Rugby Sports Union, and the Eastside Tsunami earned victories. Last but not least, Glendale rang up 64 points in a win versus Mystic River, while Old Blue fell in a friendly to Oxford University.

Mid-Atlantic

The Potomac Exiles defended home field versus Schuylkill River with a 29-27 win in Bethesda, Md. Potomac struck first with a try from #8 Gabe Free five minutes in, then wing Matt Quigley slotted the conversion. Schuylkill #10 Brian Keown answered with a penalty kick, but Potomac answered with a 22-0 run via two tries from hooker Guy Lopresti and one apiece from Joe Whalen and wing Joanel Joseph.

Just as it did the week before, Schuylkill made a valiant effort to come back but fell just short. Flanker Joe Midwig scored at 50’, followed by prop Ricky Schneider at 58’. The Schuylkill reserve props made their presence felt once again with Richard Casey dotting down a try at 65’. Ryan McHugh followed up at 71’ and the Keown conversion made it a two-point game with eight minutes to go.

However, Potomac stood up and shut Schuylkill down from there. Playing a tactical game plan that pinned Schuylkill in its own half, centers Kenny Rothmann and Man of the Match John Davis led the way with pressure D and tenacious tackling to secure the Exiles’ win.

“Our strategy toward the end was to pin them back. We had some good kicking and we had some outstanding defensive efforts from Rothmann, Davis, and Free,” said Exiles’ president and lock Mike Minchik. “When we got possession, we’d pin them down and our defensive efforts were much better in the last eight minutes of the game.”

At Founder’s Field in Cheswick, Pa., the Pittsburgh Harlequins got the offense rolling in a 47-17 win over Baltimore-Chesapeake. 

The Harlequins raced to a 17-0 lead after center Greg Genovese scored after sustained phase play, flyhalf Ted Sheedy found a rumbling Zach Jessel for the second try, and finally, a botched lineout found its way to into the hands of lock Mitch DePellegrini for the score. BC’s forwards had the visitors knocking on the door just before half and executed with Gabriel Tupper try, but the momentum was still firmly in Pittsburgh’s favor at the break.

As the second half began, Jessel found pay dirt again followed by tries by Zack Schell, Robbie Roche, Man of the Match Eddie Varea, and the boot of Sheedy finishing up the scoring for Pittsburgh.

After trailing by a point ten minutes into the second half against the Washington Irish in Washington, D.C., the Norfolk Blues used a strong final 30 minutes to pull away for the 31-18 victory.

“The key for us was staying in the gameplan and cleaning up our own mistakes,” said Blues’ coach Chris Porter. “We had a few times where we made some breaks and our offloads in contact were intercepted or knocked down by Irish. And if we knocked it or on or made a mistake they jumped all over us. The last 30 minutes of the match we focused on staying basic and simple and not trying to do too much. When we did that, the guys were continuing to run hard and that cleaned up our errors.”

Porter pointed to the calming presence of Dutch Jones, who logged time at inside center before moving to his natural position of scrumhalf, as well as the hard runs and hits by flanker Matt Holsopple as standout performances in the win.

Midwest

At home in Minneapolos, Minnesota, Metropolis RFC defeated Columbus, 47-15. Metro used a strong bench that included capped Eagles Garrett Bender and Lemoto Filikitonga to put Columbus away after a tight first half.

Tries from wings Carter Beelman and Melvin Desouza put the home team up 10-0 early, but Columbus answered to make it 10-5. At 21’, eightman Pita Naruma scooped up a Columbus knock-on, dotted down the try and the Bryan Ptomey conversion made it 17-5. The visitors notched another try, however Ptomey struck back with a penalty kick at 31’. The 20-10 advantage held until halftime, when Metropolis coach Rob Holder dipped into his bench on an unseasonably hot day in Minnesota.

Metro captain Ekapatalisio Veamatahua extended the lead with a try early in the first half followed by lock Chris Marias making it 32-10. Ptomey hit an another penalty then Bender and Beelman finished up the scoring for Metropolis. Columbus didn't go silently scoring on the game’s final play to close the margin to 42-15.

“We were able to capitalize on some key mistakes by Columbus and get rolling,” Metropolis coach Rob Holder explained. “The big difference was we had a pretty strong bench. Bender made his 15s debut for the club and had a really strong impact.”

Holder also pointed to a big performance from #12 Logan Hanson as a key factor in the win. “Logan had a really good game overall, but especially on defense. He was really strong guarding the first channel between the forwards and backs and also had a nice interception.”

The up and down season season for the Kansas City Blues continued on Saturday in Cincinnati, Ohio as the Wolfhounds held on in a back-and-forth 22-18 win for their third win of the year.

The Blues jumped on top 8-0 with a try from outside center Greg Fry and a penalty from #10 Michael Mercer. A yellow card gave the Wolfhounds new life and the home team went on a 13-0 run via the boot of scrummy John Stapleton and a try from #8 Eric Lalley to grab the lead at 31’. It was Cincinnati’s turn to send a man to the bin and the Blues capitalized with a Brodie Orth try.

With all 15 men back on the pitch, Stapleton put the Wolfhounds back on top before Mercer answered to give the lead back to the Blues, 18-16. Stapleton was again good with the boot at 67’ to swing the advantage back to Cincinnati, 19-18. Stapleton notched the game’s final points with another PK and the Wolfhounds’ defense stood strong for the final six minutes to earn the victory.

The Chicago Lions used an explosive attack to ring up 66 points on its hosts in Milwaukee, Wis. The Lions were already up 26-0 via three Richard Hidalgo tries and one from #13 Sondi Adjei before the Barbarians found the try line at 38’. Fullback JP Eloff answered right back and hit his third conversion to put Chicago up 33-7 at halftime.

In the second half, it was more of the same with Milwaukee getting no closer than 43-12. Finishing up the try scoring for the Lions were flanker Sean Mahon, scrummy Grady Gent, reserve Jake Nazworthy (2) and inside center Spencer Cameron for the 66-12 win.

“We finally started to click and execute our pattern,” explained Lions’ coach Dave Clancy about the offensive explosion. “Our ball-carrying by our forwards was key, as it enabled front-foot ball for the backs to shine.” Clancy pointed to back-rowers Michael Ziegler and Andy Rose, as well as prop Frikkie De Beer as the leaders in the win. “Frikkie was our man of the match after some great carries and work around the field,” he said.

In Davenport, Iowa, a yellow card in the first minute of the match was not enough to stop the Palmer Dragons from picking up a 46-30 home win over the Chicago Griffins. Palmer managed to put three points on the board with its man in the bin, then quickly found the try zone and never looked back after he returned.

Palmer coach Mike Lawrenson thought it was dedication to the game plan and an opportunistic attack that led his team to victory. “I believe we played well within our system to get across the gain line,” he explained. “Both teams played hard right until the end, but we capitalized on a few more turnover balls for points.”

Lawrenson also pointed to his flyhalf Henrique Riberio as a leader in the win. “Henrique showed poise and skill to challenge the line and move the ball when necessary. He effectively used the boot on multiple occasions to safely exit or put pressure on their back three.”

Pacific Northwest

In its first game in the DI Pacific Northwest, the Tacoma Nomads came up just short in a 35-34 home loss to the Eastside Tsunami in Tacoma, Wa.

Eastside jumped out to a 30-12 halftime lead, but this one was far from over. The Nomads scored four tries to Eastside’s one in the second half. But three critical conversion misses—including a block—and a maul held up in the try zone in the last minute kept Eastside ahead when the final whistle blew.

“It was a great match. Tsunami came out a bit stronger in the first half, but Tacoma came out even stronger in the second,” explained Tsunami president Nephi Kalamafoni. “We barely had enough gas in our engine to hold them off. Cheers to the Nomads. They are definitely going to be a force to be reckoned with in the Northwest DI.”

Over in Portland, Ore., the Pigs fell to Snake River 38-25 at home. Snake River struck first five minutes in, but Portland scored back-to-back tries at 26’ and 32’ to take a five-point lead. Snake River answered with a converted try, but Portland scored once again just before the half to go into the break up 15-12.

Snake River went on a run early in the second half with three converted tries to gain a strong 31-15 lead. Portland then fought back with scores at 69’ and 76’ to close the gap, but this one was pretty much sealed up. Snake River stamped the win with a try at the death to make the game’s final margin, 38-25.

In SeaTac, Wash. the Valley Kangaroos dropped a home match, 29-20, to the Oregon Rugby Sports Union.

“Our forwards established a good platform for our backs to strike throughout the first half,” ORSU captain Enrique Lopez explained. He pointed to his wing Tim Minks and #8 Stephen Boger as standout players in the win. “Tim made several breaks and Boger was all over the pitch winning turnovers and lending his energetic style to the attack.”

ARP

In the American Rugby Premiership, the Glendale Merlins delivered a pounding to Mystic River, while Old Blue came up short in a friendly against Oxford University.

With Mystic River traveling to Infinity Park in Glendale, Co., the Merlins did not let sloppy conditions slow down its attack in the 64-7 win. Three early tries spotted Glendale a 19-0 lead and it did not really look back from there. Mystic River did score to make it interesting at the 24-minute mark, but that was as close as it got; the Merlins responded with two more tries to make it 31-7 at the half. It was more of the same from Glendale in the second stanza as five more tries sealed this one in a big way.

Ten Merlins scored in the victory as Bryce Campbell, Zach Fenoglio (2), Connor Cook, Brent Hamlin, John Ryberg, Shaun Davies, Casey Rock, Brian Wanless, Peter Dahl and Grigor Kerdikoshvili dotted down tries.

“Overall, I was happy with the team’s performance," Merlins head coach David Williams explained in a press release. "We controlled the ball for large parts of the game and were generally pretty good on defense and our line speed and physicality. They had some physical and skillful players that offered us challenges which we dealt with.”

In New York, N.Y., Old Blue played host to Oxford University.  In a physical match, Oxford beat Old Blue, 32-19, to complete its American tour. Old Blue knocked on the door early, but could not punch home any points. After Oxford cleared the ball, Old Blue tried to do the same but botched the exit. Oxford capitalized and took the ball all the way to the try zone for a 7-0 lead. The University boys then extended the lead to 10-0 after a penalty kick.

Old Blue responded with a mauling try, but the conversion clanked off the post. Oxford extended it to 13-5 with a drop goal and then again to 20-5 after a 70 meter try. Old Blue answered with strong defensive pressure causing a turnover sending #8 Cam Dolan into the try zone to cut the lead to eight points at 20-12. Oxford came right back with an unconverted try in the corner and went into the break up 25-12.

It was Old Blue that struck first in the second half with a try and conversion to make it 25-19. Then, in perhaps the key phase of the game, Oxford’s defense stood strong on the goal line. Old Blue pounded away, but could not break the try line. A knock-on gave Oxford the ball back and the visitors escaped the threat with no points surrendered. Oxford took the space following a penalty, executed its lineout, and mauled in for the decisive try and the 32-19 lead. Despite some furious play from Old Blue, the score held as scoring attempts went begging, and Oxford flew back to England with the victory in hand.