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Friday, March 30, 2018

Old Blue Beats Rocky Gorge

Press Release

The formation of Major League Rugby has been both a blessing and a challenge for Old Blue this spring season. Many of their fall 15’s starting players have been given the opportunity to pursue professional rugby here in the United States. A few of these players even had the opportunity to Represent Old Blue and their country at the most recent ARC tour which ended with some hardware. In total, 17 players from last fall’s ARP roster would not be available to play for Old Blue this spring season.

Old blue began their exhibition season with back to back losses to Schuylkill River and Long Island RFC. While the margin of separation for both games was 10 points, it was a definite gut check for the Club leading into their big match up against a stout Rocky Gorge side. The last time these two teams played was in Pittsburg in the D1 Quarterfinals where Old Blue found themselves out on top. The focus of the practices leading up to Saturday were relentless line speed and tackling paired with a high work rate with ball in hand. Emphasis on structure, tackling, and ball retention were the main topics of discussion. The club needed young guys to step into key roles as well as vets to take the lead if they were going to come out successful in their exhibition against Rocky Gorge.

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The conditions on Saturday were clear with whirling winds making the ball tough to predict. Early on, Rocky Gorge would find themselves with the upper hand at scrum time while Old Blue fared better with their lineouts. Old blue would strike first in the opening minutes when Rick Kirkland slipped passed Rocky Gorge’s defensive edge to dot down a try. Rocky gorge immediately responded in kind with vicious crash balls before breaking through the defensive line completing a try as well as their conversion. Old Blue returned the favor with 2 more tries beating Rocky Gorge both around the edge and up the middle. With 5 minutes left, Rocky Gorge was able to pin Old Blue back on their goal line and rumble in for a try. Old Blue would manage to sneak one more in before heading to the locker rooms at half with the score 22-12.

After enforcing a moment of calm for the team, Dominic Wareing, Interim Head Coach of Old Blue, gave his thoughts and praise on how the first half went. He discussed the relentless pressure the players were putting on Rocky Gorge with their tackling. “They were putting together 10 or more tackles during a few phases of play and that kind of pressure; most teams can’t keep up.” He also praised the team on how they were able to stick with the system and their ability to retain their own ball. Before going back on the field, he reminded the players of what they had discussed at practice and urged them “Don’t force anything but let’s test what we see in front of us.”

Coming out of the half, Rocky Gorge continued with the relentless crash balls while Old Blue matched them with their tackling. With ball in hand, Old Blue began testing the back three of Rocky Gorge with multiple high balls down the field. After a fortunate bounce and two passes Old Blue had dotted down their first try of the second half. The next 15 minutes were much the same with Old Blue kicking to find weakness in the Rocky Gorge defense and Rocky Gorge continuing to try and plow their way down the field. Old blue would score two more tries before making their first subs of the game. With backs against the wall, Rocky Gorge marched their way down the field twice to score a walk over scrum try as well as crashing one over the line. Following the try, a brief scuffle ensued with a player from both teams being sent off with yellow cards. Rocky Gorge would score one more time before the final whistle leaving the game 36-29 for Old Blue.

Following the match, Old Blue had a brief chat and discussed what went well and what needed improvement. The Captain on the day, Calder Orr, pointed out the team’s mistakes. “We held the standard for 80% of the game but the discipline just dropped off at the end.” He also praised by saying, “The whole team stepped up to the challenge in front of them. For most of the game we played to our level and style of rugby instead of allowing ourselves to stoop down to theirs.” It was a much-needed win for Old Blue this Spring season which brings their record to 1-2. The Man of the Match is a tie between Luis Carpio who had an incredible work rate and offensive presence all game as well as Derek Lipscomb who ran hard lines and made dominate tackles. Looking ahead to April 7th, Old Blue will be playing NYRFC at home where they will be working to pick up another win in a thus far challenging season.

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