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In a Division I showdown between two of the undefeated Mid-Atlantic teams, the Potomac Exiles traveled south to play the Norfolk Blues in Virginia. Both teams have enjoyed early season success to find themselves on top of the division. With the clubs knotted at 3-3 early on, a red card by Norfolk’s scrumhalf gave Potomac a man advantage for most of the match, which propelled the Exiles to a 31-10 win.
In the first 20 minutes of the match, Exiles flyhalf Matt Quigley and Norfolk flyhalf Jake Humphrey exchanged penalty kicks for a 3-3 tie. At about the 20-minute mark, Blues scrumhalf Dutch Jones dump tackled the opposing wing, which drew a red card from the referee.
Norfolk was able to hold off the Exiles’ attack until the 35th minute, when wing Mark McKinnon received the ball out wide from Connor Mannix to score a 20-meter try. Quigley made the conversion, and the first half ended with Potomac leading 10-3.
The second half began with Norfolk getting into more penalty trouble. Already playing a man down, the referee enforced two yellow cards to the Blues for collapsing the maul and offside penalties. Potomac took advantage, as scrumhalf Matt Desir scored from five meters out off a quick-tap from fullback J’Son Townes in the 50th minute, and Townes scored off the ensuing kickoff following successive phase play in the 51st minute. Quigley converted both kicks to take a 24-3 lead.
In the 60th minute, Potomac had a man sent to the sin bin for not rolling away, which led to a try for Norfolk. Following a lineout, reserve flanker Kevin Mott bursted through the Exiles defense after a few offensive phases. Humphrey connected on the kick to cut the lead to 14 points, 24-10.
Norfolk caught another opportunity when Potomac’s Amin Azizi was yellow carded for repeated infringement, but the Exiles were unable to capitalize. When Azizi returned from the bin in the 78th minute, he intercepted a pass from Norfolk and offloaded to Mannix for the try. Quigley nailed the conversion, and the Exiles came away with the victory, 31-10.
“I thought we could have done better. Once they went down a player, we didn’t put the nail in the coffin and we lost some discipline in terms of our systems and the way we play the game,” said Potomac coach Chris Mahony. “The good thing is that we coped with everything they threw at us.”
“Losing Dutch [Jones] early on was rough for the guys. They definitely stood up to the challenge,” said Norfolk head coach Chris Porter. “Only being down 10-3 and down a man to a team like Potomac was pretty adequate, and I’m proud of them for that. Then going down two more guys and not getting blown out was amazing. For 10 minutes, they were playing 12 on 15 and we held up pretty strong, but it wore us out… Overall, I’m proud of our guys for how they played and we realize that Potomac is a good team and you can’t give those little breaks to.”
With Baltimore Chesapeake defeating Schuylkill River to remain undefeated, the Exiles will play in Baltimore for the divisional lead.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” said Mahony. “We didn’t beat Schuylkill by that much, so I guess that makes them favorites. We’re going to have to work really hard on our game this week to be able to put on a decent effort to try to beat them next week.”