MATCH REPORT: September 24, 2016 @ Greensburg Rugby
On a cool and overcast Saturday afternoon, the Highlanders traveled east to Mammoth Park, Mt. Pleasant, PA to face brother club – the Greensburg Maulers. The Highlanders consider Greensburg a brother club because when the Maulers were looking to get things rolling again, it was the Highlanders who worked closely with them in getting operations back up and rolling. Now, standing firmly on their own two feet, the Greensburg are an up and coming club filled with solid, hard hitting ruggers that are formidable on any given Saturday.
As the game got rolling, it became apparent to the Highlanders that the Mauler’s home field advantage definitely lies in the size of their pitch at Mammoth Park. The narrow field did not provide much running room and a spread defensive line would leave very little gaps for the Highlander back line or their shifty forwards. With Greensburg’s solid tackling skill and hard running style, it was apparent that the Highlanders were not going to be able to finesse around Greensburg, rather they would have to run through them.
After several minutes of grueling offense and attempts to go wide around Greensburg, Highlander number 8, Michael Rennie was able to open up the scoring with a try off the back of a 5 meter scrum. Scott Powers (UPJ) was unable to convert the kick, but the Highlanders were finally able to break through and lead 5 – 0. The next several minutes were once again dominated by tight running, hard hits and some ball miscues, but shifty forward Brandon Benvenuti was finally able to find some space to dot down his second try of the season. Powers was able to convert and the Highlanders found their lead build to 12 – 0. Throughout the game, Greensburg was able to hang tough and continue to provide the Highlanders with no space. During the later stages of the first half, and into the second half, Greensburg was able to continually maintain possession and test the defense of the Highlanders. Greensburg was able to get one try down before half and begin the second half down only 12 – 7.
The second half was much like the first: hard, solid tackling and slow, but steady offense. Each team’s defense was tested and the hard hits started to take their toll as injuries started to affect both teams. Patrick Dobbins (UPJ) was able to get down his second try in two weeks to put the Highlander up 19 – 5 only to see Greensburg maintain possession and battle back for another score. The game was close again, 19 – 12, heading into the final minutes with both teams taking turns threatening offensively and conversely making great defensive stands. Finally, with about 5 minutes remaining, flanker Mike Boyd (Cal) was able to make an excellent play, forcing a Mauler turnover deep in their own territory. Boyd was able to make the hard tackle, field the loose ball and carry it forward to near the Greensburg try line. The play set up Dobbins for his second try of the game, and after the conversion by Powers, the 26 – 12 Highlander lead seemed enough to finish off the tough Maulers. Greensburg would not go quietly, however, and were able to dot down a final try as time expired to finish the game 26 – 19 in favor of the Highlanders.
The Highlanders are 3 – 0 and atop the Midwest Eastern – East division standings as they head into an October 1st bye week. Not far behind them is the surprising Akron Rugby Club who stands at 2 – 0 heading into their weekend clash with the Cleveland Crusaders. If Akron can win that matchup, they will set up an intriguing early season match-up with the Highlanders on October 8. The Highlanders travel to Akron on that date for a battle of first place in the division.
First XV: 1 – Crifaci, 2 – Ab. Cone, 3 – Andrus, 4 – A. Chapman, 5 – Benvenuti, 6 – Zimmerman, 7 – Boyd, 8 – Rennie, 9 – Powell, 10 – Massie, 11 – Powers, 12 – Reynolds, 13 – Dobbins, 14 – David, 15 – Zangaro
Reserves: 16 – Munk, 17 – Marnell, 18 – Smith, 19 – T. Chapman, 20 – Zapf, 21 – Dell, 22 – Gregorich, 23 – Fazekas
Substitutions: Marnell for Crifaci @ 48’ (TC), T.Chapman for Benvenuti @ 55’ (IJ), Smith for Andrus @ 62’ (IJ), Zapf for Rennie @ 62’ (IJ), Fazekas for Zimmerman @ 65’ (TC)
Referee: Alex Gralia (ARURS)
Tries: Benvenuti (2), Dobbins (2, 3), Rennie (4)
Conversions: Powers (3/4)
Cards: Yellow – None
Man of the Match: Brandon Benvenuti, Lock (1)