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With three weeks left in the fall season before winter break, the DI Mid-Atlantic is heating up with the top contenders matching up with explosive results. Two of the three undefeated teams played against each this past weekend with Norfolk beating Schuylkill River, 57-34, in a high-scoring affair. The remaining unbeaten team, Rocky Gorge, easily shut out Raleigh, 71-0, and Pittsburgh routed Northern Virginia, 43-17. Finally, Potomac put a stop to their three-game losing streak with a 27-24 win over Baltimore-Chesapeake.
In the last weeks of the fall, frontrunner Rocky Gorge will be tested as they travel to Philadelphia, Pa. next weekend to face Schuylkill River then host Norfolk on November 14th. Games will resume March 12th with seven more weeks of rugby in the Mid-Atlantic.
Schuylkill River at Norfolk
Coming off a dominant win over Baltimore-Chesapeake last weekend, the Norfolk Blues looked to continue their trend as a true test came to town in the Schuylkill River Exiles. Also undefeated, Schuylkill beat Potomac the week before and wanted to prove itself against a quality opponent. The result was a high-scoring clash between two warriors that saw Norfolk as the 57-34 victors.
“I think the guys had another great performance,” Norfolk head coach Chris Porter said. “It clicked again. As I said last week, we turned the corner and we’re looking to go back-to-back good games and they did. The guys stepped up and played hard. Schuylkill is a good club and they pushed us. We stood up to the challenge and really responded well.”
Schuylkill started the match with a try by Bruce Dolan and Norfolk answered with a Kevin Marley try and a conversion and penalty by John Cameron for the 10-5 lead. The fireworks then went back and forth as Kyle Travelet and Dolan scored for the Exiles and Chris Bloks and Sam Johnson II scored for the Blues. A conversion on the last Blues try gave Norfolk the 22-15 halftime lead.
A total of 54 points was scored in the second half as Norfolk’s offense exploded for 35 points to win 57-34. The Blues’ Man of the Match Eric Hagen had two of the five second half tries with Marley, Steven Terjesen and Cameron each scoring the other tries for Norfolk. Additionally, Cameron ended the match slotting seven conversions. Mike Ruggieri, Robert Rosato and Dolan scored for Schuylkill and Matt Chiaramonte kicked two conversions in the second half
“The game was really what we expected and we didn't deal with it effectively,” Schuylkill River head coach Nick Clapinson said. “When you score 34 points, you should win the game. Norfolk scrummaged really well and attacked really effectively around the base of the breakdown. We didn't deal with that and 57 points later, [Norfolk won the game].”
With next Saturday’s match with Rocky Gorge looming, Clapinson says that his squad needs to improve fast to match against the heavy hitters of the division. “Next week, we'll just say if Saturday was not a wakeup call, then don't know what is because it will get harder. [Rocky Gorge] will not concede 30+ points like most others we have played, so if we don't shore up our defense, it will be tough.”
As for Norfolk, Porter’s team will have to contend with upstart Pittsburgh for a second time, then Rocky Gorge to closeout the fall. “With Pittsburgh, they are not ones to take lightly with that backline. We have to force them to chase our forwards around to open up gaps for our backs. With our backline defense, we need to stay out and make sure we make our one-up tackles and not give them any space to run around. Heading into that Rocky Gorge game, those guys have been playing really well this season. We want to go up there and put pressure on them in the set piece and in open play. We’ll see how they handle that and how we are able to make our own breaks from there.”
Raleigh at Rocky Gorge
For the third time this season, Rocky Gorge’s pressure and tenacity forced a shutout and the offense exploited Raleigh’s weaknesses for a 71-0 victory. Nine players scored 11 tries as fullback Nick Kuhl scored the hat trick for Gorge. Erik Anderson, Will Miller, Josh Brown, Ben Snyder, Matias Cima, Matt Burns, Brady Smith and Kevin Jackson Jr. each notched tries for Gorge in the win. The Cima brothers, Ben and Matias, split the halves for the conversions with each connecting on four in each period, respectively.
“We played well today,” Gorge head coach Nick DiMichele said. “Despite the score, we did have some missed opportunities offensively and defensively inside the 22s that will be costly in a tight game. Our pack controlled the set piece and our backs fed off of that. Jorge Molinari, our new backs coach, has really put together a high-powered offense. Defensively, it was the same story as the weeks before, communication, making our one-on-one tackles, and working our system.”
“We were out-played, out-muscled, and out-gunned by a bigger, stronger, faster, more organized team,” Raleigh head coach Mark Hemingway stated. “I haven’t seen Norfolk and Potomac play yet, but Norfolk’s pack is the only one that is going to stand up to these guys. I think there are back divisions who can stand up to them, but I think it’s going to come down to who has the better set of forwards. Pound for pound, Rocky Gorge is probably going to go through and if anybody comes close to them, I’ll be surprised.”
Gorge will face the top two teams in the division at Schuylkill River next Saturday and at home versus Norfolk on November 14th. “The next two weeks will be the most challenging and the most fun,” DiMichele said on the prospects of playing Schuylkill and Norfolk. “This is the reason Rocky Gorge moved up. We wanted better competition and all our focus is on Schuylkill. We don't know much about them, but are looking forward to making the trip.”
Baltimore-Chesapeake at Potomac
The Potomac Exiles finally got off their three game schneid with a 27-24 victory over Baltimore-Chesapeake. With the Brumbies in control for most of the first half, Potomac turned the tables at the start of the second half and utilized the first ten minutes to put together three tries that ultimately won the game for the Exiles.
“We played well for 70 minutes and we lost it in the first ten of the second half,” BC captain Ryan Burns said. “We gave up three tries, mainly from poor tackling and that’s what lost it for us... They scored off scrums and moving it out wide. Potomac found holes, broke through, and scored.”
BC built a 14-0 lead before Allan Stafford scored Potomac’s lone try of the first half. Down by nine points at halftime, Jason Vanterpool and Robert Newcomb scored twice in succession to mount the 24-14 comeback. An exchange of penalty kicks increased the score to 27-17 until BC scored another try with ten minutes to go. Potomac held on in the final moments for it’s third win of the season.
“Once again, it was our mistake that let BC score first and score early,” Potomac’s eightman Alex Diegel said. “We kept our composure this time and didn’t let it get into our heads. We continued to play our game plan and chip away. They went up 14-0 at one point, we just fought back to get into striking distance in the first half and it opened up in the second half. We executed our game plan like we haven’t done at all this season. We stayed patient, played a real team game, moving the ball, trusting our teammates. It was hard fought, Baltimore played great, but we were able to come out on top.”
Northern Virginia at Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh earned its second win of the season with a 43-17 win over NOVA at Founders Field in Pittsburgh, Pa. After a close first half where the Harlequins led 12-10, Pittsburgh broke out for five tries in the second half. Flanker Zack Schell led all scorers with three tries and Geoff Jordan (2), Nick Regas, and Luke Titus each scored for Pitt. The Harlequins host Norfolk next week and hope to improve over the score of their first meeting earlier this season.
Regarding the game against NOVA, Pitt captain Paul Homes remarked, “It was 12-10 at half and we had 10+ penalties that inhibited us from having continuity. Penalties have been an issue for us all year. The second half was still polluted with penalties, but our open play was exceptional. It's DI so no team is going to roll over and play dead. NOVA came out and played hard. We are looking forward to playing Norfolk this weekend.”