Rocky Gorge Repeats as DI Mid-Atlantic Champions
Rocky Gorge Repeats as DI Mid-Atlantic Conference Champions with 38-15 win over Pittsburgh Harlequins. Congrats to Rocky Gorge for its seventh straight appearance in Nationals.
As featured on Rugby Today: http://www.rugbytoday.com/clubs/rocky-gorge-repeats-di-mid-atlantic-champ
In the DI Mid-Atlantic Conference Finals, Rocky Gorge preserved its reign as defending MAC champions and earned its trip back to Nationals with a 38-15 victory over the Pittsburgh Harlequins. Seventeen penalties in the first half limited Gorge to a 7-3 advantage at halftime. However, Gorge solved its issues and opened the second half with four straight tries to break the game open. Gorge will now travel to Founders Field in Pittsburgh, Pa. on May 20th for the National Quarterfinals against the Midwest Champion, the Chicago Lions.
When asked what the main difference between the halves was, Gorge head coach Nick DiMichele said, “Turnovers, penalties, and possession. [It was a team effort as] our tight five controlled the set piece and our back row covered the field. The backs attacked with a dangerous pace and made the right choices.”
At Dorey Park in Richmond, Va., each team got off to a poor start. After several Gorge penalties stalled its progress, a penalty off a five-meter scrum turned into forward pick. The ball was swung out the backs where fullback Nick Kuhl found a gap for the self-converted try.
Rocky Gorge’s defense prevented Pittsburgh from making any serious moves in the half, but its high penalty count thwarted any effort to improve the score in the period. The Harlequins finally got into scoring position after a high tackle and Ted Sheedy slotted the penalty to cut the lead to 7-3. The score remained the same going into halftime.
At the break, the main focus in the Gorge huddle was reducing penalties and turnovers. “We let the players speak, everyone knew the issues,” DiMichele said of halftime. “Our defense in the first half was outstanding.”
Gorge came out of the break on a mission. Lock Will Miller was first on the board running straight through the middle of the defense for a 20-meter scamper and then it was the Mike Tillman show. Off the restart, the ball was spun wide to Tillman who kicked and chased and then kicked again, catching, spinning, then diving in for the try. Kuhl nailed both conversions for the 21-3 lead.
When a Pittsburgh player was sin binned for offsides when Gorge was threatening, the defending DI MAC Champion pounced scoring twice in ten minutes. Kuhl and Tillman scored their second tries during the man advantage to extend the lead to 31-3.
Once back to full strength, Pittsburgh pulled together and scored back-to-back triesby Robbie Roach and Luke Titus. Gorge responded with a multiple phase attack culminating in a Scotty Wheeler dot down. The Gorge defense clamped down on Pittsburgh the rest of the way for the 38-15 win.
Speaking of his team’s performance, Pittsburgh captain Luke Titus said, “It was a good game all the way up until halftime. After halftime, I don’t know what we were thinking. We came out really flat and they advantage of it and ran two quick ones in. Stupid penalties don’t help when you play a man down against these guys. They exploit the space and it’s pretty hard to come back from that.”
As for Gorge’s next opponent, the Chicago Lions defeated Columbus, 33-20, to win the Midwest Championship. In order for Gorge to advance to the semifinals, DiMichele said his squad “must limit our penalty count and turnovers to be able to survive. A good team will make you pay for that every time. When we have the ball, we can be dangerous and score from anywhere. Our defense needs to play like we did today.”