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Competition in the Red River Rugby Conference resumed over the weekend and produced two big shut-out results. The Reds handily beat HARC, 62-0, and the Austin Blacks defeated the Dallas Harlequins, 56-0.
Depth was the key to the Reds’ success Saturday. With a number of players out due to having other commitments, a number of backup players stepped up to fill in the gaps. Despite having some different faces in the lineup, the Reds executed a team-based plan that HARC couldn’t find and answer for.
“We moved the ball well and supported our line breaks in order to allow us to flow through multiple phases,” said Filip Keuppens, manager of the Reds. “We communicated well [on defense] and succeeded in preventing overlaps. There weren't very many missed tackles and we were able to win the contest at the contact point for the most part, which made it difficult for our opponent to get on the front foot.”
The Reds’ reserves made a sizeable impact on the match’s result Saturday, accounting for three of the team’s tries. Reserve scrumhalf Phil Bolton put in a five-pointer, as did Chris Slater, who came in at the wing. Tucker Shaw filled in for the team’s absent outside center on Saturday and had a pair of tries to his name. Chad Joseph also ended the day with two tries to his name. Dale Russ and Jeremy Nelson rounded out the scoring for the forwards, while Kelly Kolberg and Spencer Cameron had a try a piece from the back line. Zack Klump went six-for-seven on conversions.
According to Keuppens, the high level of execution by his starters allowed him to clear his bench earlier on in the match and give his reserves a good amount of playing time; and, though all the players performed well, there were a few that stood out from the crowd.
“All of the reserves performed well when they came on the field,” he said. “Shaw, no. 13, and Vincent Chase, no. five, both got opportunities to start and made strong cases for future considerations with the selectors.”
Score line aside, HARC threatened the gain line when players had ball in hand. According to Keuppens, the forwards from HARC frequently challenged his players close to the breakdowns, attacking at the first channel and forcing the Reds to pay close attention to the fringes. The Reds’ defenders adapted to this pressure by abandoning the breakdown to concentrate on the attacking runners.
In the next few weeks, the Reds will have six players returning eligibility. These additional bodies will bolster an already-deep roster for the Reds.
The Reds aren’t focused on replenishing the line-up with reinforcements, though. The team is looking forward to the next tough challenge and focusing on the team’s positive progress.
“Our pattern is beginning to click, the culture in the clubhouse is outstanding and the players are focused on the job at hand every week,” Keuppens said. “We have a very strong Huns side to prepare for this week so our task will, as always, be to focus on the job ahead and get out of Austin with a win on Saturday.”
The Austin Blacks were in action over the weekend as well, and the team’s convincing victory was the result of the team imposing its will throughout the match.
On offense, the Blacks’ execution wasn’t perfect but the players made the most of the chances that presented themselves. According to Tane Jericivich, head coach of the Blacks, sturdy set piece play played a large part in scoring movements.
“The scrum was solid and gave us a good platform,” he said. “We played on the front foot throughout the game and took most of our opportunities.”
Razzle Radzavich ended his day with a hat trick. Levi Kereti, Samuel Rooke, Tyler Terrazone, David Comerford and Patrick Sullivan all added tries to the team’s total as well.
The Harlequins weren’t able to get much offensive steam going throughout the match. Pressure from an advancing Blacks’ defensive line forced the Harlequins’ attackers to commit errors and prevent phases of possession from coming together. Though his players were able to get the best of the Harlequins Saturday, Jericivich said they will likely be a much-improved outfit down the line.
“They have some good players there, and it seems to be a new squad,” he said. “They'll get better and better as the season progresses.”
Even though the Blacks got the win Saturday, there is still more work to be done. The breakdown was one area of weakness for the Blacks over the weekend and will have to be addressed before next weekend’s match.
“We just need to keep working hard and moving forward in the right direction,” Jericivich said. “It was good to get the win but we know what we need to work on this week. New Orleans in New Orleans this Saturday is another beast. We have never won there, so we are all looking forward to the challenge.”