MATCH REPORT: October 8, 2016 @ Akron Rugby Club
On what ended up being a very nice, fall day, the Highlander men (3 – 0) traveled to northeastern Ohio to take on a tough Akron (2 – 1) side at their beautiful pitch. Akron, just off a lost to the Cleveland Crusaders, look to improve to 3 – 1 while dropping the Highlanders to 3 – 1 for a win – loss tie atop the Midwest Eastern Division.
The opening kickoff went to the Highlanders and the methodically moved the ball down the field with several phases. Playing text book rugby, the Highlanders were able to spring talented fullback Devin Zangaro (IUP) for his third try of the season. It was a fitting conclusion to a beautiful sequence of text book rugby. Akron was able to show some fight, and several times took the ball down the field and threatened in Highlander territory. The Highlander defense was strong, however and forced a mistake to regain possession.
Brandon Benvenuti was able to put down one try and was awarded another on a high tackle, penalty try… both in the first half. Eric David, was able to make an incredible play, picking off the pass from the scrumhalf to the flyhalf off an Akron lineout that stunned the Akron players and the crowd. The relentless Highlander lineout defense confused and frustrated Akron all day. At the half, the Highlander led 24 – 5.
During the second half, the Highlander began working some forward substitutions into the game. First came Bill Marnell (Cal) for Mike Boyd (Cal). Marnell was able to make an impact in the scrum as the Highlander forwards dominated the scrums throughout most of the day. The set piece domination directly led to two tries for Pittsburgh; first from scrumhalf Zach Powell (Cal) and then from Number 8 Mike Rennie (Old Blue). The last score of the day for the Highlander came from talented lock Andrew Chapman (Erie RFC) and after the Scott Powers (UPJ) failed conversation, the Highlanders put up 43 points on the road against a tough Akron squad. Akron, to their credit was able to take advantage of a few Highlander mistakes and spring their talented center for two tries on the day. After all was said and done, the Highlanders won the game by a commanding margin: 43 – 21.
This weekend, the Highlanders will host the Cleveland Rovers (2 – 3) for the fall home finale. The Rovers are the division champions from last season and prevented the Highlanders from making the playoffs for two consecutive years. Although seemingly down this year with 3 losses, the Rovers are a very tough team that can score from anywhere on the field. The Highlanders will look to improve to 5 – 0 before traveling to Cleveland to face the second place Crusaders on 10/22.
First XV: 1 – Crifaci, 2 – Ab. Cone, 3 – Andrus, 4 – A. Chapman, 5 – Benvenuti, 6 – Boyd, 7 – David, 8 – Rennie, 9 – Powell, 10 – Massie, 11 – Powers, 12 – Reynolds, 13 – Dobbins, 14 – Zapf, 15 – Zangaro
Reserves: 16 – Munk, 17 – Marnell, 18 – T. Chapman, 19 – Fazekas, 20 – Reaghard, 21 – Zimmerman, 22 – Gregovich, 23 – R. Gregg
Substitutions: Marnell for Boyd @ 40’ (TC), T. Chapman for Benvenuti @ 55’ (IJ), R. Gregg for Andrus @ 60’ (TC), Gregovich for Zapf @ 60’ (TC), Zimmerman for Rennie @ 65’ (IJ)
Referee: Unavailable (ORURS)
Tries: Benvenuti (3, 4), A. Chapman (2), David (4), Powell (1), Rennie (5), Zangaro (3)
Conversions: Powers (4/7)
Man of the Match: Zach Powell, Scrumhalf (1)