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.