MATCH REPORT: October 29, 2016 @ South Pittsburgh Hooligans
On a sunny, but windy day in late October the Highlanders traveled to McDonald, PA to take on their rivals: the South Pittsburgh Hooligans. After defeating the Hooligans in the opening weekend of the season by a score of 42 – 26, the Highlanders continued to roll to a 6 – 0 record. The Hooligans have had an up and down season, losing to the Crusaders and Pittsburgh Rugby Club (D3) while scoring nice wins against Greensburg, Akron and the Cleveland Rovers. The Highlanders expected a tough match, regardless of records, as South Pittsburgh was sure to throw everything they have at home against their bitter crosstown rivals.
Shortly after the opening kickoff, the Hooligans were able to take advantage of a defensive lapse and score quickly, within the first 2 minutes. The Highlanders were able to match the try just a few moments later when winger Scott Powers (UPJ) was sprung for a try out wide. The score was tied after a missed conversion, but South Pittsburgh was able to take the lead back again quickly when they scored a converted try again about 15 minutes into the half. The Highlanders, playing sloppy, managed to keep pace with the try when center Neil Reynolds (UPJ) broke through the line for a long score, taking the Hooligan fullback for a ride with him. The conversion was missed and after another Hooligan try near the end of the half, the Highlanders found themselves trailing 19 – 10 half way through the game.
During the break, the Highlanders were able to regroup and make some adjustments which included bringing on Highlander veteran Bill Marnell (Cal U) for Timmy Chapman who started the game in place of Brandon Benvenuti, the talented lock who was out this game for a wedding. The second half would start out slow, but eventually the Highlanders were able to battle deep into Hooligan territory. After several defensive stands from South Pittsburgh, coupled with some Highlander miscues, the Highlanders were able to dominate play with forwards ball which allowed them to eventually spring winger Scott Powers into the try zone for his second score of the day. This would draw the Highlanders closer, trailing now only by 4. A few minutes later, Highlander rookie Devin Zangaro (IUP) was able to put down his fifth try of the season. Zangaro seems to get on the score sheet and play well every week, no matter where he is on the field. Today, he would start at wing as opposed to fullback where he’s played the past several weeks. Later in the game, when captain and flyhalf Tyree Massie (Cal U) would go down with an ankle injury, Zangaro would step into the flyhalf role and play great there as well. The try at approximately the 60 minute mark, was converted by Powers and would finally put the Highlanders in front 22 – 19 with about 20 minutes remaining.
South Pittsburgh would continue to threaten and the game remained very close; each side trading solid scoring chances and making good defensive plays to keep the game from tipping in favor of one side or the other. With less than 10 minutes remaining, the Highlanders were able to win a key lineout and get the ball out to the backs. There, Zangaro was able to spring Bill Marnell for a long run through South Pittsburgh defensive backline. With only the fullback to beat, Marnell was able to get off a nice offload to the charging Patrick Dobbins (UPJ) to score his fifth try of the season. Zach Powell (Cal U) was able to convert the try and extend the Highlanders lead to 10 with time running out on the Hooligans. With no time remaining, South Pittsburgh was able to score for the first time in the second half to draw the game closer and secure themselves two bonus points in the losing effort. The final score read Highlanders 29 – South Pittsburgh 24.
With the win, the Highlanders have now swept the season series with the Hooligans for the past three seasons and have not lost to them in league play since April 2014. They also improve to 7 – 0 and take a commanding lead in the Midwest Eastern – East division with 35 points. After this week’s bye, they will face Pittsburgh Rugby Club (D3) in White Oak on Saturday, November 12 to close out the fall portion of the season.
First XV: 1 – Crifaci, 2 – Ab. Cone, 3 – Andrus, 4 – A. Chapman, 5 – T. Chapman, 6 – Zimmerman, 7 – Boyd, 8 – Rennie, 9 – Vesely, 10 – Massie, 11 – Powers, 12 – Reynolds, 13 – Dobbins, 14 – Zangaro, 15 – Powell
Reserves: 16 – Marnell, 17 – Munk, 18 – Fazekas, 19 – Reaghard, 20 – Shearer, 21 – Sparkman, 22 – Glasstetter, 23 – Sabatini
Substitutions: Marnell for T. Chapman @ 40’ (TC), Reaghard for Andrus @ 55’ (IJ), Glasstetter for Massie @ 65’ (IJ)
Referee: John Hogan (ARURS)
Tries: Dobbins (5), Powers (3, 4), Reynolds (3), Zangaro (5)
Conversions: Powers (2/5)
Cards: Scott Powers (Yellow)
Man of the Match: Bill Marnell, Forward (1)