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Boston offloading in contact against Rocky Gorge. Evan Lappen photo

In a match both clubs were waiting for, Boston’s ARP side battled the defending DII National Champion, Rocky Gorge, to a 21-21 draw in Fulton, Md. Moved from the original field because of weather issues, the game was played on artificial turf at a nearby high school. Trying to get away from the winter weather up north, Boston traveled to Maryland, but seemed to bring the windy and cold conditions with them.

Both teams got what they wanted out of the match: a physical competitive game to prepare for the remainder of the seasons. The clubs were able to work on their weaknesses and solidify their strengths while playing 80 minutes of rugby against a quality opponent.

“It gave us a realistic barometer of where we are right now,” Boston head coach Mike Diamantopoulos said. “It showed us that we have a lot of work to do in the next two weeks [before playing Old Blue.].... I think we struggled in the set piece today. Defensively, we missed a ton of one-on-one tackles, which put us under a lot pressure, especially in the first half. We played OK in pieces, but I think we really look like a team that hasn’t been outside. I thought Rocky Gorge played great. They were extremely athletic, ran the ball really hard and played really good defense. Full credit to them for the tie.”

Rocky Gorge head coach Will Brewington saw many positives from playing a top ten opponent. “My takeaway from the game is that we proved something to ourselves that we can hang with a premier team. It should give us confidence moving forward. I though we played well. We won our own ball on the scrums, the lineouts were a mess because of the wind, loose play was not bad. We held our own in loose play. That was my concern with their physicality and scrimmaging that we wouldn’t be able to win our own ball and maintain possessions, but we did those well.

Rocky Gorge opened the match with the momentum scoring first. Flyhalf Nick Kuhl penetrated deep inside the 22 and the forwards took over with pick and goes. Prop Tony Ayigah finished the play with a lunge try and Kuhl kicked the conversion for a 7-0 lead.

Gorge increased the advantage to 14-0 after an impressive back play between the flyhalf and the centers. Kuhl dished to inside center Josh Cherriman who passed to outside center Ethan Reese for the line break. Reese offloaded back to the charging Cherriman for the try.

Boston fought back inside Gorge’s 22 and kept getting chances due to multiple penalties. Gorge forced one held ball in the try zone, but was unable to keep prop Tony Purpura from scoring Boston’s first try, 14-7. Gorge threatened deep inside Boston’s territory at the end of the half, but was denied within the five-meter line as the whistle blew.

The teams kept up the intensity in the second half. Boston tied the score at 14-14 taking a quick penalty getting the ball wide to wing Mike Hunnewell for the try. The clubs battled to a standstill until with about ten minutes to go, prop Marcus Flegmann scored two phases after a five meter scrum.

As time wound down, Gorge kept challenging their ARP opponent and with less than a minute left, got inside the Boston 22. The forwards pounded the ball and Boston was called for diving over within the five meter line. With a heads-up play, lock Kevin Jackson Jr. took the quick tap and dove for the try. Kuhl made the conversion and the referee ended the game for a 21-21 tie.

This was Boston’s first full 80-minute game of the spring and captain Sean Treacy said that his team needs to shake off the rust before facing Old Blue. “They came out firing and ran some strong lines. We were slow to start and it took us awhile to get up to speed. We had 20 minutes of decent rugby, but it’s an 80 minutes game and it wasn’t good enough. A lot to build on. We were got outside for the first time last weekend and it’s nice to get a run out here today as well. Rocky Gorge was a good side, so it’s nice to get 80 minutes in.”

After 8-0 conference season, Gorge coach Nick DiMichele wanted a challenge so his team could feel the pressure. “We haven’t played a lot of defense throughout the season because we were putting on a lot of points. It ‘s good to finally have your back against the wall, get on the goal line and get yourself out of it. Defensively, I think Boston and the Potomac Exiles are going to prepare us for the better teams coming from the Mid-Atlantic North.”

“We got the result we wanted,” DiMichele added. “Overall, the pack was outstanding in just holding their own in the scrums, moving around the field knowing where to be at the right times. I think Nick Kuhl, our flyhalf, played stellar today. Our centers, Josh Cherriman and Ethan Reese, are connecting on another level that we haven’t before. All around, a very good performance.”

Boston will kick off their spring season on April 11th against Old Blue and Rocky Gorge will play the DI Potomac Exiles on April 11th and start the MAC Playoffs on April 18th.