Leading up to this weekend’s match, the Cleveland Rugby Club had imposed their will on their opponents – most recently putting up more than one hundred points on the Detroit RFC. While the wins might have been good for the Club’s confidence and gotten them some practice putting their plays together against live competition, they paled in comparison to this past weekend’s match.
Pittsburgh came to Cleveland over the weekend in the hopes of advancing further into playoffs. The Club had the same intentions going into Saturday, but when the match started out it appeared as if Pittsburgh wanted it more. The visitors jumped on three of the Club’s mistakes to put in a trio of unanswered tries. With barely a quarter of the match down, the Cleveland side found themselves in an unfamiliar place – at a deficit and, apparently, unable to find a viable solution.
The Club fired back with a try of their own, but then execution issues came back to haunt them once again. Poor handling caused scrums to take place when there could have been a try. Penalties continued to grant Pittsburgh unearned yards and put the hosts under more pressure. The difference was how each team responded to the pressure of the day. Where Pittsburgh resorted to cheap tactics and arguing calls, the Club’s players kept their cool and let their play, and the referee, speak for themselves. On a number of occasions, Pittsburgh found themselves short a few men on the field, either from incurring penalties or injuries. All the Club had to do is capitalize, and they did.
Nick Musarra put in a pair of tries from his position on the wing. His long-range tries were matched by scores from the forward pack courtesy of Chris Fischer and Trent Szente. On separate occasions the two men hammered five-pointers past the visiting pack, both of which came at the end of a flurry of pick-and-go attempts at the Pittsburgh line. Nick Viviani used his feet to put points on the board for his team as well. Not only did he put the back through the uprights on a few occasions, but he darted by a defender who did more talking than tackling and put up another five points for his team.
The match was hard-hitting and intense. Tackles came fast and could be heard from across the field. Pittsburgh tried to push the Club around in mauls, while both teams made battlegrounds of the breakdowns and set pieces. The back lines for both squads took the battle to the air after running the ball on the ground only reaped but so many dividends. The Club’s backs pinned the Pittsburgh backs deep in their own end a number of times. Unfortunately, the ensuing chases left something the be desired and the visitors regained a good amount of ground.
In the end ball security decided the match. At the close of the match, the Club found themselves up by four points with the ball squarely in the visitors’ hands. Unwilling to relent, Pittsburgh plodded down the field, keeping the ball in the capable hands of their larger forwards. Their progress was halted when the Cleveland side stripped the ball from a stampeding Pittsburgh player. Shortly after that the ball was secure behind the secure Cleveland ruck. Viviani did the honors and sent the ball out of play to end the match. The final score was 37-33 in favor of the Cleveland Rugby Club.
Next the Club travels to Detroit to face the Tradesmen, the one nut in the Midwest they’ve been unable to crack. Getting past them will be a taller order than defeating Pittsburgh. It will take a great week of practices and a practically perfect performance to get the victory and make a deeper run into playoffs, but anything is possible.
The Cleveland Rugby Club defeated two college teams in successive weekends. They put up over one hundred points on Ohio University last week in Athens,OH and put together a performance against Ohio State University that netted them over 50 points this weekend.
Both matches were hard-hitting affairs where execution was the name of the game.
Against OU last week, continuity was a bit of an issue as timing was off when running offensive lines in that backs and defensive assignments were missed on a few occasions. The Club had a number of absences in that lineup at that game and a number of players were out of position during the match. On the plus side, set pieces were solid and the Club dominated the scrums and lineouts. The forwards for the Club capitalized on mistakes made by the Bobcats and stole the ball away on a number of occasions. The backs also made life difficult for their opponents, smothering the attacks by OU, for the most part, and not allowing them many chances to mount an offense.
Ohio University didn’t roll over and die, though. They made nuisances of themselves at the breakdown, turning the ball over frequently in a back-and-forth battle that lasted the full 80 minutes of the match. They also exploited players out of position and placed chip kicks over the defensive line to create tries and put points on the board.
This past weekend, the Club came to the match with a fool complement of players and subs to spare. The preparation and personnel present paid dividends against the Buckeyes as attacks were more crisp and the flow was certainly back in the offense. The ball transferred easily from one side of the field to the other and from forwards to backs, and vice versa, during open field play. The ball was held securely at the breakdown for the most part, which helped the offensive flow. The flow got disrupted a bit as the Club called upon its reserves to finish out the match. Defensive structure suffered a bit and the offense slowed as the fresh legs took the field. Fortunately, their skills were enough to protect the established lead and add on a few points to ensure they got the win. As competition gets more serious, these subs will need to play tougher if they hope to be effective against the stronger competition down the line.
While Ohio State didn’t seem to have an answer for the Club’s lineout formations, they made things more than a contest at the scrums. Though they were smaller in the forwards for the most part, OSU used superior positioning to put pressure on Cleveland’s pack. At every scrum they threatened to steal the ball from the Club and kept their ball secure for the most part. Despite some muddy conditions the scrums stayed up and safe the entire match.
The toughness of the competition facing the Club had only gone up in recent weeks, and that tend will only continue in the near future. They play host to the Detroit RFC and the West Side Mouth-Breathers before heading up north to tangle with the Tradesmen. The Club will need to take care their issues in execution, sort out their subs and cut out the penalties if they hope to have success down the road.