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With the DI Mid-Atlantic competition only three weeks old, the frontrunners have defined themselves. Rocky Gorge doesn’t look like it has lost a step after winning the division last season as it easily dispatched Schuylkill River, 49-12. The Pittsburgh Harlequins have gone 7-1-1 this calendar year and took another big step defeating previously unbeaten Norfolk at home, 32-10. Lastly, the Potomac Exiles rebounded from last weekend’s loss to outplay Wilmington, 47-17. Rocky Gorge travels to Pittsburgh this Saturday to determine the top dog of the conference.
Rocky Gorge continued its 2016-2017 romp through the conference with a 49-12 beating of the Schuylkill River Exiles in Columbia, Md. The first half couldn’t have gone any better for Gorge as everything clicked to lead 42-0 at the break. With such a big lead and improved play by the Exiles, Gorge let its play slip allowing Schuylkill River to score two tries and hold Gorge to a single try in the second half.
Although Gorge won handily, head coach Nick DiMichele was critical of his team’s performance. “We didn't play a full 80. The first half was great. The boys really work our shape and executed the game plan we wanted. The second half is usually our strong suit and I think we lost focus and got out of our structure due to a heavy lead. We need to be better at finishing and show more composure.”
Eightman Josh Brown, lock Will Miller, and fullback Nick Kuhl each scored a pair of tries in first half and prop Brady Smith rumbled through the defense for a second half try. Flyhalf Ben Cima was perfect with the boot connecting on all seven conversions. For the Exiles, Gorge had trouble dealing with the mauls as Casey Richard and Randy Helsman added points from the forwards play.
Commenting on the match, Schuylkill head coach Bill Jalbert said, “Gorge put a lot of pressure on us offensively in the first half. Being forced to play defense for pretty much 40 straight minutes takes a lot out of you. Hats off to my guys for coming back in the second half and turning up the heat and putting more pressure on them.”
On the prospects of playing Pittsburgh next weekend on the road without Cima, who will be with the USA Selects at the Americas Pacific Challenge, DiMichele said, “Traveling is always tough, we are expecting a physical pack with a dynamic backline. Luke Titus leads his team well and is dangerous with his boot. We've been in these situations before with Ben being absent due to Eagle priorities. It's just another opportunity to test our depth. It's simple a formula, next man up.”
The Pittsburgh Harlequins defended their home turf of Founder’s Field against the Norfolk Blues, who made the seven hour trip to Pittsburgh. Travelling light, Norfolk did its best, but the Harlequins took advantage of the Blues’ numbers to outlast their opponent.
Pittsburgh flyhalf and captain Luke Titus was on point leading his squad with two tries, two penalties, and three conversions. Wing Jason Ewing and eightman Vili Siale also scored for the Harlequins. In the defeat, Tavaris Tucker and Anthony Wright dotted down tries for Norfolk.
“It was a really physical game,” Titus stated. “Norfolk was big and strong and they ran real hard. We were able to capitalize on penalties and turn them into points. We spread the ball around evenly to our forwards and backs. The second half was where the game changed. We just outlasted them as we had fresh legs coming in and they were pretty tired. We were able to moved around more and capitalize on the tired legs.”
Norfolk head coach Chris Porter characterized the loss as missed opportunities. “We were down inside the 22 three or four times and we missed some opportunities to put points on the board. With the way Pittsburgh is playing right now and the way Luke Titus is running that team at #10, you cant miss those opportunities against them. We did and they made us pay for it by playing a consistent pattern all day long. They wore us out a little bit and some gaps starting opening up. Luke exploited them not only for himself, but for his teammates.”
When asked about the this Saturdays game versus Rocky Gorge, Titus said, “That’s going to be a tough one. They are big and strong guys. Everyone wants a piece of Gorge this year after last season.”
The Potomac Exiles got back on the right track picking up its first conference win with a 47-17 victory over hosts Wilmington. Potomac absorbed the contact from Wilmington as the Delaware squad attempted to keep to ball tight with its strong forwards. The Exiles effectively shut down the Wilmington attack, but the home team kept competing until the final whistle as evidenced by a late try.
Potomac’s Alex Diegel led all scores with a hat trick followed by Chris Saint with a pair and Tyler James and Iosia Luca with one each. Matt Quigley only missed a single conversion notching six kicks. Wilmington opened and closed the game with tries by Rob Walls and Martwain Johnston. Tom Parry converted both scores and nailed a penalty.
Potomac head coach Owen Lentz said the key to the game was believing in and working the pattern. “We are trying to play the game where we spread the field more. Once we opened it up, opportunities were there. We took our chances better and that helped quite well. We had more of our own ball in the set piece and were more competitive.”