MATCH REPORT: November 12, 2016 @ Pittsburgh Rugby Club
After a much needed bye week due to USAR’s Rugby Weekend in Chicago, the Highlanders (7-0) would travel to North Huntingdon, PA to take on the Pittsburgh Rugby Club (2-5) in a rematch of the week two game where the Highlanders defeated Pitt City by a score of 53 – 19. Since then, the Highlander continued to roll to a perfect record while Pitt City lost another 4 matches while stealing a couple of wins during the weekends when their Division 2 side didn’t have competition. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh Rugby Club, USA Rugby would correct a poorly worded competition regulation on Thursday, November 10 which officially made players who’ve participated 50% or more of a higher division’s league matches now ineligible to play in a club’s lower division games. This forced Pitt City president Ryan King to contact the Highlanders prior to kick off to forfeit the league match due to needing to play a number of higher division players in the match. The Highlanders accepted the forfeit and agreed to play their D2/D3 split squad in a friendly test match.
The Highlanders were able to use this valuable opportunity to start a number of newer club members who’ve worked very hard this season, but may not have been able to see a great deal of playing time during league competition. Among them were Nick Munk, a player new to rugby who’d be making his first career start at hooker and lock Jon Fazekas (W&J), a collegiate veteran who joined the team over the summer. They would be joining Lance Reaghard and Mike Zapf, both of whom have earned some first side playing time, but could benefit from additional experience. The clubs agreed to play three, 30 minute periods and allow for rolling substitutions throughout the game.
The first period was dominated by the Highlanders even while playing several new forwards. Number 8 Michael Rennie was able to open up the scoring for the Highlanders and the conversion was nailed by Scott Powers (UPJ), playing wing today. Shortly thereafter, flyhalf and captain Tyree Massie (Cal U) was able to intercept a pass in the City backline and touch the ball down for his second try of the season. After the conversion by Powers, the Highlanders led 14 – 0 at the conclusion of a very successful first period.
The second period saw Pittsburgh increasing the number of higher division players into the game, particularly in the backline. These additions would test the Highlander backs, especially after stout defender Neil Reynolds (UPJ) had to leave the game early in the first period due to taking a nasty cut on the eye. Devin Zangaro (IUP) was once again able to show his versatility by moving from wing to outside center for the duration of the game. He’s played a number of different positions very well this season including wing, fullback and flyhalf.
After the Highlanders were able to initially get on the board with a brilliant try from rookie winger Mike Zapf to start the period, Pitt City was able to touch down their first try of the game after spending several minutes attempting to crack the Highlander defense from the 5 meter line. It took Pitt City several phases and attempts, but after some brief miscommunication on a lineout, City was able to set down a converted try. Rennie was able to respond quickly for the Highlanders when he touched down his second try of the day, but Prop Brendan Crifaci (SRU) was unable to convert. That score was answered with two consecutive converted tries from Pitt city to shrink the Highlander lead to 5 points, but shortly before the end of the second period, Zach Powell (Cal U) was able to touch down a try, but he missed the following conversion. The score after two periods of play read Highlanders 31 – Pittsburgh Rugby Club 21.
The final period of play saw the momentum swing solely back on the side of the Highlanders, much to the frustration of several Division 2 City players who took some early on penalties. Solid tackling, hard running and forced timely turnovers seemed to surprise the higher level players who felt as though they’d overpower the Division 3 Highlanders. Rookie Nick Munk was able to open the scoring in the third period with his first career try following a series of tough “pick ‘n goes” ran by the Highlander forwards. City was able to answer with an unconverted try of their own, but the next 20 minutes were spent with wave after wave of Pittsburgh attack only to be thwarted and well defended by the Highlanders.
Finally, with little time remaining, Scott Powers was able to score a try after some brilliant ball movement from the Highlander backline. Zach Powell, now at scrumhalf along with Patrick Dobbins (UPJ) and Devin Zangaro were able to move the ball down field and make timely offloads to spring Powers for the score. The try totally deflated Pittsburgh Rugby Club; which was evident on the ensuing kickoff when Patrick Dobbins was able to take the ball wide and score to conclude the game. The Highlanders were able to defeat the Pittsburgh Rugby Club’s split D2/D3 squad by a final of 46 – 26, however a 28 – 0 win via forfeit was registered for the league standings.
First XV: 1 – Crifaci, 2 – Munk, 3 – Ab. Cone, 4 – Fazekas, 5 – Benvenuti, 6 – Reaghard, 7 – Boyd, 8 – Rennie, 9 – Vesely, 10 – Massie, 11 – Powers, 12 – Reynolds, 13 – Dobbins, 14 – Zangaro, 15 – Powell
Reserves: 16 – Marnell, 17 – Andrus, 18 – T. Chapman, 19 – Shearer, 21 – Glasstetter, 22 – Zapf, 23 – A.Chapman
Substitutions: Rolling substitutions, no tracking.
Referee: Judd Worrall (ARURS)
Tries: Dobbins (6), Massie (2), Munk (1), Powell (4), Powers (5), Rennie (7, 8), Zapf (2)
Conversions: Crifaci (0/1), Massie (0/1), Powell (0/1), Powers (3/5)
Man of the Match: Tyree Massie, Flyhalf (1)
With the win, the Highlanders have finished the fall season a perfect 8 – 0. With the wins and the accompanying bonus points for more than 4 tries scored in each of their games, they’ve earned 40 points and not only sit atop the Midwest Eastern – East division, but second place in the entire Midwest East. Fort Wayne sits atop of them in the standings due to a better point differential during league play.
The Highlanders have finished their home at home series with both South Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Rugby Club, but will still need to play the other four opponents in their division one additional time in the spring. They will host Greensburg (2-5-1) on March 25th and Akron (3-3-1) on April 8th to start the spring portion before traveling to the Cleveland Rovers (3-5) on April 15th. The Highlanders were close out the season by hosting the second place Cleveland Crusaders (6-2) on April 22nd. Playoffs begin the following weekend, on April 29th at the number 1 seed’s home pitch.