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The revamped Division II of the Mid-Atlantic Conference began with a wet Saturday where the elements were against both teams. With four games on the slate, Wilmington blew out Severn River 39-0, Richmond beat Philadelphia-Whitemarsh 33-28, Old Gaelic edged the Washington Irish 16-15, and Lancaster outlasted Doylestown 17-10.
Severn River at Wilmington
Wilmington’s 2015-2016 campaign started with an encouraging 39-0 bludgeoning of Severn River in Wilmington, Del. Despite losing a few younger players who returned to the University of Delaware, Wilmington received big days from their veterans on the way to victory.
Most of the points were scored in the first half with Caoimhin De Barra, Todd Gallen (2), Jordan Ashburn, Peter Weir, Ian Ferguson, and Chris Wiggins each scoring tries for Wilmington.
“We found a rhythm about 20 minutes into the game and really turned it on by halftime,” Wilmington president Matt Weik stated. “We didn’t score much in the second half, it was more field possession and work on our defense. For the most part, we dominated possession, but we gave away a lot of penalties late in the game. They had a couple of goal line chances, but we kept them out. They didn’t really do anything to surprise us.”
Philadelphia-Whitemarsh at Richmond
The second seeds from last year’s playoffs took the field in Sandston, Va. as Philadelphia-Whitemarsh (PWM) took on the hosting Richmond Lions. The clubs traded blows throughout the match and it wasn’t decided until the last minutes of the game. Richmond came from behind with a try in the 76th minute for the 33-28 victory.
PWM scored first and then the Lions responded immediately building a 19-7 lead about 20 minutes into the first half. PWM’s defense would shut out Richmond for the next 40 minutes on the way to a 28-19 advantage. At the 62nd minute, Richmond would score the first of it’s two second half tries to retake the lead and claim victory. Caleb Balaban and Justin McCarthy each had two tries for the Lions and Chris Knight scored the game winner. For PWM, Isaac Katz, Nicholas Karas, and Steve Frey had tries and Turei Maraki made three penalty kicks and two conversions.
“It was a great game all the way to the end,” Richmond head coach Matt Robinette said. “Two good teams slugging it out. No one really had control of the game at all. Each team had their successes and series of time where they controlled the game... [I was impressed with Richmond’s] resiliency and overcoming the opposite team. Philly is a great team. It was back and forth. Every time we went down, we fought back. When we had several series of penalties and we pulled ourselves up from our mistakes and came back on a good team.”
Washington Irish at Old Gaelic
In the closest game of the day, Old Gaelic won their first DII match by a one-point margin over the visiting Washington Irish, 16-15, in Dillsburg, Pa. The deciding points came from an Old Gaelic penalty kick with less than five minutes to go to put them up for good.
Old Gaelic were on the board first with a penalty kick by Brian Calaman. The Washington Irish responded eight minutes later with a pair of tries by Luke Hammock and Toby Ulm. With an Ulm conversion, Irish took a 12-3 lead into halftime. Old Gaelic scored their first try in the 42nd minute by Jase Martin to cut the advantage to two points at 12-10. The teams would trade penalty kicks until the 78th when Calaman slotted the game-winning penalty kick to win the match 16-15.
“It rained throughout game and made handling sloppy with lots of knock-ons, lots of strategic kicks and many charge downs,” Old Gaelic head coach Mark Cooley said. “Old Gaelic was very impressed with the depth and tenacity of the Washington Irish. They capitalized on our mistakes and prevented us from playing our style of game throughout the first half... Our set pieces, rucks and strategic kicks were more effective second half, but the game could have gone either way and was a well played defensive game by both teams.”
“It went pretty well and was evenly contested,” Irish captain James Bragan said. “Both teams were spreading the ball wide and sloppy conditions led to sloppy play. They got the last penalty kick in the last three minutes so it was anyone’s game. They just came away with it.”
Doylestown at Lancaster
In the final match, Lancaster never trailed and beat Doylestown 17-10 for their first divisional win of the season. Weather played a big part in the match as Lancaster kept the ball with the forwards for most of the game and the rain limited Doylestown’s backs effectiveness.
Lancaster’s new head coach Kevin LaPorte said, “For the most part, it was a heavy forwards-oriented game where we kept it really tight and grinding it down the field... Passing was very bad and what helped us out the most was that Doylestown’s strength was in their back three. It was very difficult for those guys to get he ball because of the conditions.”
The Roses shot out to a 12-0 lead with tries by Chris Knarr and Dan Oliver and a conversion by Braden Story. The Dragons added a try by Roman Boell late in the period to only be behind by seven points going into halftime. About 20 minutes into the second half, Oliver scored his second try of the match opening up a 17-5 advantage. Max Compo would score Doylestown’s second try and bring the tally to 17-10, but the Dragons would not get any closer. At the final whistle, Lancaster was victorious and earned their first win.
“Lancaster dominated the scrums all match long. Winning their own, and stealing virtually every Doylestown scrum.” Doylestown captain Doug Ortiz said. “Rucks were contested on both sides, with only a few breakaways ending with tries. Lancaster did a great job kicking the ball downfield into Doylestown territory where they challenged Doylestown to advance or knock the ball on themselves.”