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Last weekend’s slate of matches in the Red River Rugby Conference produced a pair of close results. The Dallas Reds notched a 25-17 win over the Austin Huns, while the Dallas Harlequins defeated Houston Athletic Rugby Club 14-0 in a two-try affair.
The Reds’ win against the Huns was the result of a tug-of-war contest where neither team was truly out of the running, even until the very end. The Reds drew first blood, but the Huns struck back shortly after to draw level. From there, the Huns took the lead. After that the teams exchanged tries and penalty kicks. In the end, it was the Reds’ skill from the tee that helped the team prevail.
“When we were able to get into our game plan, it worked well. Our forwards did well to fight hard to get us a strong attacking platform,” said Filip Keuppens, manager for the Reds. “Zack Klump had another good day off the tee, which helped us get a bit of momentum in the second half and regain the lead in the 60th minute.”
Blake Boulton, Chad Joseph and Dale Russ scored tries for the Reds. Klump converted two of the three tries and sent over two penalty kicks during the match and fought strong gusts coming across the field in the process. Hal Struckman returned to action on Saturday, and Mike Ryan came in as the reserve scrumhalf with much of the match still left to play. Both made a big impact on Saturday’s result.
“It was a very physical match,” Keuppens said. “A few players ended up with cuts and bruises and will be evaluated during the week. There is a chance that we will have to call on our depth in a few positions next weekend, but we are confident that the players that may be asked to step up will be up to the task. The Huns have, for the second year in a row, proven to be a very tough opponent at home and earned a lot of respect from our players for their resilience and physicality.”
That physicality paid dividends for the Huns throughout the match and allowed the team to remain competitive until the very end. The Huns made nuisances of themselves during the set pieces and plucked four of the Reds’ throws from the air during the line-outs. The Huns’ pressure really paid off when the runners had ball in hand. According to Keuppens, his players had trouble taking down the opposition attackers at times. The Huns took full advantage of these miscues and utilized them to put points on the board. The Huns also took advantage of an errant pass and took advantage of the opportunity to score a try.
The Reds will look to perfect the fundamentals during training this week and try to get players as healthy as possible in the process. The team takes on the Harlequins next week and need to be as prepared as possible for that match.
When the Harlequins took the field against HARC Saturday, the team had to battle the elements on top of the other players when trying to secure the win. According to the Harlequins’ Head Coach Jan Boot, the conditions were wet and opening quarter of the match had Houston putting the screws to his players.
“Houston were incredible in the first 15 to 20 minutes, putting us under a lot of pressure especially in the scrums,” he said.
In the end, patience ended up being the Harlequins’ best weapon on Saturday. On Defense, the Harlequins refused to give up any points, which frustrated the HARC attackers. The Harlequins flew up on defense and flocked to every breakdown, mucking up the opposition’s momentum. Patience paid off for the Harlequins on offense as well, translating into points at the perfect time.
“In the second half we created a lot of opportunities and we had a lot of continuity in our broken-play, which gave us numbers out wide,” Boot said. “We were patient in attack and scored when we needed to.”
Daron Liebenberg, Jeff Dull and Deon Anderson secured all the Harlequins’ points on Saturday. Liebenberg and Dull had one try a piece and Anderson did well to successfully convert both. Liebenberg also made an impact on the defensive side of the ball, with help from Imille Keyser, Ti Paongo and Romain Gadeaux.
This weekend’s close victory was the first of the season, but for Boot and his players it is the first step in a journey towards regaining excellence.
“The Dallas Harlequins is a very proud organization,” Boot said. “We have a spirited team fighting for each other and working very hard on and off the field to get better results, to get us back where we belong: on top.”