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The frontrunners kept pace with each other at the top of the Mid-Atlantic on the weekend, as Norfolk and Baltimore-Chesapeake won comfortably and Potomac edged out a one-point victory over Raleigh.

Potomac Exiles at Raleigh Vipers
Leading by less than 10 points with about 10 minutes left, the Potomac Exiles held off a fierce Raleigh Vipers side who brought to the lead to one point with two minutes remaining. Raleigh was unable to complete the epic comeback, and the Exiles won by the slimmest of margins, 27-26.

“In the second half, [Raleigh] asked the biggest questions of our defense that we had anyone ask us all season, and we were struggling with that,” Potomac head coach Chris Mahony said. “It was the most threatening attack that we had encountered this year.”

Potomac scored almost immediately in the third minute when prop Robert Garvis broke a 30-meter run and offloaded to fullback Mark McKinnon for the try. Scrumhalf Chris Saint added a penalty kick at the 18th minute, and Raleigh inside center Rob Grodinsky scored a try a minute later. Shortly thereafter, it was an Exiles lineout 15 meters away from the try zone. The ball was dropped and Saint recovered it to weave into the try zone.

With over half the period exhausted and the Exiles up 15-5, Potomac hooker Jason Vanterpool took a pick-and-go from a few meters out for the try. Saint converted the kick, and the Exiles closed out the half, 22-5.

Showing that they belong at the top of the division, the Raleigh Vipers defended their home pitch by scoring three tries in the second and limiting Potomac to only five points. With the momentum on their side and Potomac plagued by poor decisions and ball handling errors, Vipers wing Steve Johnson scored twice in the first 15 minutes of the half. Both tries were converted by flyhalf Gareth Jones, and Raleigh cut the lead to 22-19.

With the advantage at three points with 12 minutes left, Potomac’s Saint grabbed a pick-and-go from 15 meters out, dodging defenders to run in for the game-winner. The kick sailed wide and the Exiles held a tenuous lead 27-19. Potomac was threatening deep in Raleigh’s zone late in the game, when Vipers’ Johnson picked off the pass as the Exiles’ tried to get it out wide. Johnson darted 65 meters for the try. Jones made the conversion, and the lead was at one point, 27-26.

Raleigh made a valiant effort in the closing minute, but was not able to get into position for the last ditch comeback.

“The game was well played by both teams,” Raleigh head coach Rick Bell told to Rugby Today. “We let them get too many points in the first half. They scored within the first three minutes. We settled down and played really well despite them getting 22 points in the first half. We left a few on the table, which we should have converted into scores. The score in the second half showed that we were playing with them. There was nothing to say negative about the way we played or them. It was a really good well-played game, we just came up a point short at the end. We were fortunate to get the fourth try to get two bonus points out it though.”

“We played really well in the first half, we stuck to our systems and we valued the ball, said Mahony. “After half time, people got too individualistic from our prospective. On the one side when we had the ball, we didn’t really value it. People started running as individuals instead of working in our attacking system. From their point of view, they worked really hard when they attacked with the ball and we were falling off tackles. It was really disappointing because people weren’t working hard within our defensive system that allowed them back into the game...They won the second half, which was disappointing because we wanted to put in an 80-minute effort.”

Norfolk Blues at NOVA
The Norfolk Blues remained within striking distance of the Mid-Atlantic DI leaders with a convincing win against Northern Virginia (NOVA), 52-12. Norfolk improved their record to 4-2 and, with the bonus point, is only two points behind Baltimore-Chesapeake for second place in the conference. Seven tries were scored by four different players, including a hat-trick by wing David Paradiso and 27 points by flyhalf Jake Humphrey (7/7 on conversions, 1 PK, 2 tries).

“The game started off really well. It was our forwards and backs linking up together,” stated Norfolk head coach Chris Porter. “We kept our composure. In the first 40 minutes, we played a nice steady composed game. We were hitting multiple phases, going through things, and doing all the things we wanted to do and what we have been working on the last few weeks. It was nice for everything to come together.”

The Blues didn’t wait long to score their first try. In the third minute, Fred Wintermantel’s eightman pick was passed through hands to wing Paradiso, who raced to the corner to dot the ball down. Wintermantel followed with his own try in the 11th minute after a free kick, he received the ball, made a dummy pass and scored under the posts. Seven minutes later after a short lineout, Wintermantel passed the ball out to flanker Kevin Mott, who crashed and scored. Jake Humphrey, who was perfect on his conversions, added to total of 21-0.

Not to be shut out, NOVA’s outside center took a quick tap from a scrum penalty and offloaded to their flyhalf for a long break. The ball was passed back to the outside center and ran it into the try zone. The kick was successful and the score was 21-7.

In the 35th minute, the Blues were on the offensive again and Humphrey took crash ball to score and then converted his kick. At the close of the half, Humphrey tacked on three more points from a penalty kick following a NOVA yellow card for tripping. At half, Norfolk held a 24-point advantage, 31-7.

The second half began with NOVA a man down, but the shortened side managed to score during the power play off the second phase of forward ball in the 48th minute. Eight minutes later, the Blues extended the lead to 38-12 when Humphrey laid down a great grubber that bounced into his hands leading to a score under the posts.

Paradiso scored Norfolk’s last two tries of the match. The first was a counter following a NOVA kick, and the second was a recovered blocked kick.

On his two impact players of the match, Porter said, “Paradiso, he played a great wing. He stayed wide on the outside, let them do the work. When the ball finally got spread out, he took advantage of all the opportunities that were given to him. He did exactly what we want from our wing. Stay outside, let the guys in the middle do the hard work and when we swing it wide, be there to convert and he did that fantastically.”

“Jake [Humphrey] was phenomenal. His kicking was right on, hit his conversions and we had some tough ones from the sideline. His running and running the offense, getting the forwards moving and getting the backs taking things up hard, he did a great job that way. When his chances came for him to run, he was right there to take advantage of them.”

Baltimore-Chesapeake Brumbies at Pittsburgh Harlequins
Baltimore-Chesapeake collected another win and bonus point after a 34-13 drubbing of the Pittsburgh Harlequins at Founders Field in suburban Pittsburgh, Pa. With the win, the Brumbies are 5-1 on the season and Pittsburgh is still searching for its first victory.

Baltimore-Chesapeake coach Ryan Burns said that the deciding factor of the game was, “Our scrums were really strong and our forward pack kept them in line. It opened up holes for our backs, which we were able to get a couple of tries off of.”

The first half featured three scoring plays by BC, sandwiched by two Pittsburgh penalty kicks. BC outside center Tony Wamwea, wing Jamie Pierce-Williams, and lock Dan Wykowski each scored a try and flyhalf Pat Foley was successful on all three of his kicks. Pittsburgh captain Nick Koon connected on two penalty kicks in the 18th and 25th minutes. Going into halftime, the Brumbies led 21-6.

The Harlequins second half started out promising after a lineout at mid-field. The ball was swung out wide to wing Brice Myers, who raced into the try zone. Koon converted the kick to make it 21-13. That would be the closest Pittsburgh would get, as BC scored the next 13 points for the victory. Foley added a penalty kick in the 47th minute, and scrumhalf Colby Buss and Wamwea scored back-to-back tries 15 minutes later. The conversions were missed, but BC earned the win 34-13.

“We got word this morning that one of our old boys passed away, Dan Brooks,” Burns stated. “There wasn’t a formal announcement before the game, but the guys who did know wanted to come out hard for him. We knew we needed to come out hard against Pittsburgh and they would be prepared for this game. Things went well. There are areas we need the work on, but overall we thought we did pretty good.”