MATCH REPORT: April 8, 2017 v. Akron Rugby Club
Following the bye week, the Highlanders (9 – 0) would once again enjoy home cooking as they played host to an always tough Akron Rugby Football Club coming in with a record of 2 – 6 – 1. In their previous meeting back in October, the Highlanders beat Akron handily by a score of 43 – 21. Akron would be looking to exact some revenge on Pittsburgh and build on some positive performances earlier this spring.
After freezing rain and snow the day before, Saturday brought clear, sunny skies and much warmer temperatures. At kickoff, the air was a comfortable 58 degrees. The Highlanders kicked off to Akron and were able to regain possession of the ball quickly. They maintained control and moved the ball down the field to set up a scrum at the Akron 5-meter line. This allowed lock Brandon Bevenuti, playing number 8 today for Michael Rennie, to pick the ball and open up the scoring with a few nice moves off the scrum. Winger Scott Powers (UPJ) was able to nail the conversion and the Highlanders started with a bang to take a 7 – 0 lead. After some more ball possession and excellent defense, Captain Tyree Massie (Cal) was able to set down his fourth try of the season. With the Powers conversion, the lead was extended to 14.
The Highlanders were able to continue possessing the ball throughout the first half. Although mistakes ended some productive phases that would have led to additional scoring opportunities, the Highlanders were still able to add tries from Devin Zangaro (IUP) and another from Massie before the half. With a Scott Powers’ conversion, the score at half stood 26 – 0.
For the second half, the Highlanders planned to utilize their deep and talented bench to overwhelm Akron much like they did to Greensburg RFC two weeks prior. New comer Eric Giles (S.U.N.Y. Cortland) came in for Marnell (Cal) at the half and played very well for the club. He was followed by a number of talented forwards including Jeff Muha, Lance Reaghard and David Gregg (IUP). These fresh legs assisted in setting up more tries, predominately from the Highlander back line. Shortly after the half began, Benvenuti was able to dot down his second try of the day off a long run, but from that point on, it was all Highlander backs. At 55 minutes, Zangaro got his second try of the day, his seventh for the season. Powers would nail his fifth conversion before heading to the bench for rookie Nate Hoellman. Speaking of rookies, new club player Anthony Viviano (Pittsburg) was able to touch down his first try as a Highlander at the 65 minute mark after coming in for Michael Zapf shortly after half. Viviano is a veteran of the Kansas City Blues organization, but recently moved to Pittsburgh for work.
Veteran centers Neil Reynolds and Patrick Dobbins, both from University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, were each able to add tries during the second half before the scoring was finally closed out with a try from rookie Nate Hoellman. Benvenuti was able to add a conversion to bring the scoring to an end. The final read Highlanders 62 – Akron RFC 0.
With the victory, the Highlanders improve to 10 – 0 with two games remaining against both tough Cleveland sides. This weekend, the Highlanders will travel to the west side of the city to take on a reloaded Cleveland Rovers Side. Although only sporting a 6-5 record, the Rovers have reloaded for the spring season to return to the powerhouse they were in years past. If the Highlanders are able to secure 2 league points in the match, they will officially clinch the division and their second playoff berth in three years. For Akron’s part, they will host South Pittsburgh on April 15th.
First XV: 1 – Ab. Cone, 2 – Eritz, 3 – R. Gregg 4 – Marnell, 23 – A. Chapman, 6 – Zimmerman, 7 – David, 8 – Benvenuti, 9 – Powell, 10 – Massie, 11 – Powers, 12 – Reynolds, 13 – Dobbins, 14 – Zapf, 15 – Zangaro
Reserves: 5 – Giles, 16 – Morris, 17 – Muha, 18 – Reaghard , 19 – D. Gregg, 20 – Vesely, 21 – Viviano, 22 – Hoellman
Substitutions: 40’ – Giles for Marnell (TC); 46’ – Muha for Eritz (TC), Viviano for Zapf (TC); 60’ – Reaghard for Zimmerman (TC); 65’ – Vesley for Powell (TC), D. Gregg for Chapman (TC), Hoellman for Powers (TC); 70’ – Morris for R. Gregg (TC)
Referee: Mark Seaton (ARURS)
Tries: Benvenuti (7, 8), Dobbins (7), Hoellman (1), Massie (4, 5), Reynolds (6), Viviano (1), Zangaro (6,7)
Conversions: Benvenuti (1/1), Powers (5/8), Zangaro (0/1)
Man of the Match: To be determined.