There are plenty of quotes about how people react in the face of adversity. There are platitudes falling off horses, getting knocked down and all that jazz. Well, the Cleveland Rugby Club made good on all those when they hosted Dayton for their second official match of the Fall season.
The Club started off the season with an uncharacteristic loss to the West side team that shall not be named. After that the club’s starting XV had two weeks off of competition – the week immediately following the match was Labor Day weekend and the week after the second side hosted Kent State University and Cleveland State University during a bye weekend. Put two weeks away from competition on top of a rare opening-season loss to a rival and you have a set of circumstances that are hard to overcome, mentally. In classic Club fashion, they did just that.
The Club kicked off against Dayton two things became abundantly clear very quickly: the Cleveland side was playing with fire in their strides and they were still recovering from white line fever. The opening kick hit the ground and the hosts were all over it, diving on the loose ball before Dayton knew what was happening. After pressuring their visitors for a while, there was an opening out wide. A misplaced forward stifled the would-be try after knocking on a direct pass with no pressure in front of him. The mental errors would only be part of the story, though.
During the down time, the Club’s starting XV made significant strides in shoring up the problems they had in their opening match. Though Dayton threw themselves into – and, more often than not, over – every breakdown, the Club managed to do a better job retaining ball and keeping the flow of play going. Occasionally, support did slack and resulted in loss of possession and penalties but those were few and far between. For the most part, runners made breaks with support runners flanking at at least one side of them. There were a few times when the extra pass enabled one of the Cleveland runners to break free of the fractured Dayton defenses and dash across the try line. Other times, runners held the ball just one second too long and either snuffed out a potential scoring opportunity or resulted in a forward pass and a scrum being called.
Normally, scrums would not be an issue for the Cleveland forwards but they had some struggles Saturdays. Whether it was from Dayton beefing up their pack , the ground being soft or troubles within the Cleveland pack, the scrums weren’t going very well for a while. When the Cleveland scrumhalf put the ball in, it was either kicked off the prop’s shin or stuck just behind the front row. Despite the few difficulties they had, the Club’s forwards held their own pretty well in the scrums in the first half. In the second half a few substitutions were made and the scrum solidified. Suffice to say these were big subs.
The Cleveland forwards controlled the action on the sidelines, locking down the every lineout they threw in. For a short while Dayton opposed the throws but after a while resigned themselves to trying to break up ensuing mauls, which they did to some success. The Club’s lineout defense was on point as well. If Dayton did get the ball cleanly to their jumper, there were almost always forwards darting through gaps in the line to get at the scrumhalf. When Dayton brought the ball down and tried to maul, the Cleveland defense shut them down relatively quickly. Whether it was due to a Cleveland forward knifing through the initial maul setup or them wearing down and stalling out the progression, Dayton’s maul progress was limited.
Imperfect as the performance might have been, the Cleveland Rugby Club put together a strong performance against Dayton and got back to winning ways. They took the A side win 53-12.