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The summer heat continued on an early fall Saturday as temperatures reached into the 80s in Laurel, Md., where Mid-Atlantic Division II leaders Washington Irish and Rocky Gorge battled in an early season match. It was a tale of two halves, as Gorge sprung out to a 17-3 halftime lead and a defensive struggle highlighted the second stanza. Neither team was able to improve their scores and Gorge emerged victorious, 17-3.
Rocky Gorge forwards coach Nick DiMichele believed that his team left plenty of points out on the field, though. “The game was really not up to our standard," he said. "The penalty count was really high, and there were a lot of missed opportunities with knock-ons after we were attacking pretty well. Defense was solid, but the fitness isn’t there yet.”
Gorge struck first after a quick tap by lock Will Miller, who was tackled inside the five-meter line. Two rucks later, eightman Josh Brown culminated a forwards-heavy attack for the try. At the 27th minute, Brown scored again when he took a forwards ball following a successful 15-meter lineout. Flyhalf Derek Chell converted the kick to take a 12-0 lead.
Irish would not be shut out and got on the board with a penalty kick after Gorge was called for not rolling way. With nine minutes left in the half, wing Dean Topodas split the uprights to make it 12-3. Gorge came back three minutes later when an errant pass off an Irish player turned over possession. Gorge got the ball wide to Chell, who raced down the sideline for a 35-meter try. The conversion was unsuccessful, and Gorge went into the half leading 17-3.
Both clubs came out physically in the second half, but the heat and fitness started to become a factor. Field position was crucial as each team chipped and chased to gain an advantage. Gorge exerted their might in the scrums, but penalties were mounting against them. Irish had an opportunity to chip away at Gorge’s lead when flanker Dustin Meehan was yellow carded at the 65th minute. Behind a staunch defense, Gorge held Irish out of the try zone during the man advantage. Defense was the major theme of the second half, as neither team allowed a try and the game ended 17-3, Gorge.
“It was a hard game as always is with Irish. Our defense was solid. We played a man down, and they still didn’t put us under pressure. With our defense being our backbone, I think that held up well,” said Rocky Gorge head coach Will Brewington. “We felt in control from the beginning, so there was no sense of urgency. The frustration was there because we weren’t scoring tries.”
“Almost everything we did we did right, we just didn’t do it fast enough.” Washington Irish head coach Brendon Worley stated. “When you take that and add in a couple of handling errors and a couple of defensive miscues that allow the opposition to score, there’s your game.”
“Gorge is all going to put there best foot forward. They are a great team and they capitalize on your mistakes,” said Irish captain James Bragan. “They capitalized on our mistakes and we didn’t capitalize on theirs. Overall, it was a real hard game. A real tightly contested match and they capitalized and we didn’t.”