Rugby Club braves through another loss

Written By Josh Croup

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Robert Morris University (RMU) is the reigning Three Rivers Rugby Conference (3RRC) champion and entered Saturday’s match with Point Park undefeated on their 2015 campaign. They didn’t play like champions during the latter part of the first half Saturday, but showed up in the second half on a mission.

RMU (4-0) handed the upset-minded Point Park Rugby Club (1-3) its third loss of the year Saturday in a match that was a tale of two halves.

Point Park came to the game ready and prepared to face the defending 3RRC champions.

“We had so much enthusiasm out there,” said sophomore hooker Zach Brown. “We played really well and kept together. I think we just let it get into our minds after they came back. It was just downhill from there.”

RMU scored the first three tries of the game and jumped out to an early 17-0 lead. In the 26th minute, senior Alden Roth advanced the ball down field and made a heads-up pass to his fullback, Phil Falchetti.

Point Park continued to work the ball deep in RMU territory. Roth caught a pass on the far side of the field, dove into the corner of the end zone and touched down for a try to put Point Park on the board and get them back in the game.

“I think we got a new breath of fresh air,” Roth said. “Everybody was like, ‘all right, now we have a chance. These guys were pounding on us, but now, we can score on them. We can make these throws, we can make these tackles, rucks, everything. We have an actual chance to do it.’ Everybody was just recharged right away.”

Leading 17-5, RMU marched down the opposite end of the field and scored again not three minutes after Point Park’s first try. But Point Park answered with a score of their own when fly-half Isaac Kullgren scored and Roth connected on the conversion kick to send Point Park into halftime trailing only 24-12.

“At halftime, we were pumped up,” said senior flanker Richie Carver. “We were ready to go. We were playing some good rugby. We were definitely playing them tough. We were ready to go in the second half.”

RMU committed a number of penalties that held them back in the first half. RMU lock David Williams said the team adjusted at the half and focused on limiting their miscues.

“We talked about watching our penalties and playing the actual game,” Williams said. “We really cleaned up our act. We were making a lot of stupid plays in the first half and in the second half, we really started to just play the game.”

The second half was scoreless for the first nine minutes. Then, RMU scored to go ahead 31-12. They never looked back.

On Point Park’s next possession, senior captain Colby Barrett exited the game with a right knee injury. He was replacing Brady Winner as a captain, who broke his wrist in the club’s week one victory over Fairmont State.

Barrett, who limped off the field with the assistance of his teammates, downplayed the injury with a smile and plans on playing next week. After the game, the captain was recruiting his teammates to run with him Monday morning.

“I was in some pain, but it’ll be all good for next week,” Barrett said. “I’m going to do whatever I can do to be out there with my boys. You know what I’m saying? You got to do what you got to do.”

The team had to deal with the loss of one of its leading forwards and tacklers. Four minutes after restarting play, RMU added another try to the board to go ahead 36-12. Point Park struggled to move the ball offensively, but held RMU off until the 68th minute when they scored again to go ahead 41-12.

Less than four minutes later, Williams scored again for RMU. It was then he said they knew the game was in the bag.

“I think that gave us momentum and that we were finally getting ourselves together,” Williams said. “I wanted to see us work and come closer together and be able to communicate better out on the field and do what we know how to do efficiently.”

RMU scored four more times in the final ten minutes and came out on top 63-12, outscoring Point Park in the second half 39-0.

“They were a lot bigger than us, but they weren’t tougher than us,” Carver said. “They went down. We just needed to take better angles and tackle a little better.”

“This is the best team in our conference, no doubt,” Barrett said. “We started off a little slow, but then we picked it up and started driving the ball and moving the ball. If we can do that for 20 minutes in a half, there’s no reason we can’t do it for the full 80 minutes in a game.”

Point Park’s offense was a bright spot in the loss. In the second part of the first half, they began to run their offense like they wanted to. Once they gained possession, they booted the ball down field and out of bounds. They then won a majority of the following line outs and continued to move the ball effectively.

Before Saturday, RMU only allowed one other team to score more than once in a match – the defending 3RRC runner-ups Franciscan University. Point Park scored twice in the first half alone. Although they weren’t able to find the try zone in the second half, the players were satisfied with the way they ran their offense in the first half.

“It goes to show that we are progressing as a club and we do have potential, but guys can’t get down on themselves as soon as things get tough,” Barrett said. “We got to preach that, no matter where we are on that field or what the score is on that scoreboard, we’re not out of this game. There’s always a shot.”

“We know that we have a good offense. We need to start capitalizing on that more,” Roth said. “I think that everybody that was out there put all of their heart into that game. The score may not reflect it, but I know that everybody tried their hardest.”

Williams said RMU noticed Point Park’s determination on the pitch to play through the final whistle.

“They played pretty well. They played really hard the entire game,” Williams said. “That’s all I can say. They played really hard.”

Senior scrum-half and captain Jakob Como said injuries hurt Point Park late in the match and not physical fatigue.

“I know me and half the other players on this team could play another 30-40 minutes of rugby if we had to,” Como said. “I just think it’s hard to get injuries and see key players that you count on being there throughout the whole week that are pivotal parts of the offense going down. I think it takes a toll on the mental stamina more than the physical stamina.”

Point Park will play 80 more minutes of rugby Saturday afternoon when they travel to Grove City College. Barrett expects to play and expects his team to come out hungry against Grove City.

“We’ll be ready to go next week,” Barrett said. “They better be ready for us.”