MATCH REPORT: September 10, 2016 v. South Pittsburgh Hooligans
The Highlanders hosted rival South Pittsburgh on an extremely warm and sunny late summer day. Both teams came into the game with high expectations on the 2016 season. Leading up to the game, the Highlanders were bolstered their roster by a large group of newly recruited players while the Hooligans added several players from the recently disbanded Erie RFC. The Highlanders looked to make it five wins in a row during league play against the Hooligans, while South Pittsburgh looked to build some momentum off a 7’s victory over the summer.
The Hooligans kicked off and immediately the Highlanders went to work. Strong forward running and excellent support lead to a quick score by lock Brandon Benvenuti, putt the Highlanders up 7 – 0 quickly after a conversion by Scott Powers (UPJ). Unfortunately, the Hooligans would just as quickly steal momentum shortly thereafter and keep it for most of the first half. The Highlanders had trouble with set pieces early and containing the large South Pittsburgh centers. The Hooligans were able to put two scores up on the Highlanders, while only converting one, to take a lead with little time in the half remaining. Luckily, rookie back Devin Zangaro (IUP) was able to take a nice offload from center Neil Reynolds (UPJ) and put the Highlanders back up before half after the Powers conversion, 14 – 12.
The Highlanders were very tired and disappointed in their first half performance. They looked to regroup in the second half with some key substitutions and corrections to their set pieces. Although the Hooligans were able to keep the game modestly close with great ball movement and hard running, the Highlanders conditioning and deep bench were able to be the difference in the game.
The second half was highlighted by great play from fullback Zach Powell (Cal U), flanker Eric David and Mike Boyd (Cal U). Boyd, who moved back to wing after starting the game at flanker, took a nice pass on the outside to score a beautiful corner try. Center David Gregg (IUP) was able to field a bouncing ball in the try zone off the foot of Neil Reynolds, and Eric David was able to score twice in the second half. Powell was playing a clinical game at fullback and set up a number of scoring opportunities. Scott Powers was perfect on the day with conversions, making several from the corners. At the final whistle, the Highlanders were able to hold of the Hooligans in the heat and win by a score of 42 – 26.
First XV: 1 – Crifaci, 2 – Marnell, 3 – R. Gregg, 4 – Benvenuti, 5 – Shearer, 6 – Boyd, 7 – David, 8 – A. Chapman, 9 – Vesely, 10 – Massie, 11 – Powers, 12 – D. Gregg, 13 – Reynolds, 14 – Zangaro, 15 – Powell
Reserves: 16 – Andrus, 17 – Reaghard, 18 – Fazekas, 19 – T. Chapman, 20 – Zimmerman, 21 – Gregovich, 22 – Zapf
Substitutions: T. Chapman for A. Chapman @ 40’ (IJ), Zimmerman for Vesely @ 40’ (TC), Reaghard for Marnell @ 55’ (IJ), Andrus for Zimmerman @ 65’ (IJ), Fazekas for Shearer @ 67’ (IJ)
Referee: Jamie Miller (PRO Rugby)
Tries: Benvenuti (1), Boyd (1), David (1, 2), D. Gregg (1), Zangaro (1)
Conversions: Powers (6/6)
Man of the Match: Mike Boyd, Flanker/ Wing (1)