Witter Field, Piedmont–
The PITS Ruggers opened up their season under the lights at Witter Field on Friday night. They squared off against the Marin Highlanders who have already played 2 league games. The two teams spent the first 20 minutes testing each others’ defenses for weak spots without either team making any serious threats.
But at the 25 minute mark, the Marin team took advantage of a free kick from a penalty and ran in from 2 yards out for the score. The conversion was good, and the boys from across the San Rafael bridge led 7-0. The teams settled into a back and forth game, even though the Piedmont ruggers were playing one man down due to a yellow card for a high tackle.
The PITS club turned on the offense for a series shortly before the half ended. Everett Ellis, playing wing and out of his normal No. 8 slot, scored on a very nice pass, catch and 40 yard run. There were no extra points added as the conversion kick sailed wide. At the intermission, the PITS boys were down 7-5.
In the second half, all the scoring was from Marin, but every point was hard fought. The Marin team scored one try for five points, and then with just a little time left in the game, they added some insurance with a quick penalty kick for 3 points. For their first league game, the Piedmont team came out on the bottom, 15-5. The visitors named Captains Mason Willrich and Fiachra Collins each “man of the match” which is the designation of the best play through the entire game from the opposing team.
Playing down a player for most of the game due to penalties did not help the home team ruggers. The PITS boys committed a number of mental errors that did not exist in Canada. This was a tough test for the Piedmont team as the Marin team is clearly the cream of the Redwood league. PITS missed two earlier league games due to weather which showed in this effort. Going forward, they will need to focus on not committing penalties, or it will be a long season, indeed.
by Ned Schroeder
In a rematch of last season’s loss to the Gleneagles Talons boys rugby team, the PITS Rugby team traveled to Coquitlam, British Columbia (just outside Vancouver), for the second stop on their Canadian tour. It was a friendly reunion between the two teams because the PITS’ families hosted the Talons for a couple of days on the Canadians 2014 tour, but all pleasantries were postponed when the whistle sounded to start the game.
The two teams were evenly matched, but the first 15 minutes of the game were played in the Talons’ side of the field. Sophomore Bill Whiteside showed a considerable amount of improvement from his rookie season. Flyhalf Fiachra Collins fed the ball to Whiteside several times but the PITS ruggers could not punch it through the Talons defense.
But midway through the first half, Whiteside injured his shoulder on another massive run, and with him out, the Talons found some answers to the PITS defense. PITS No. 8, Everett Ellis was called for a high tackle, and the Gleneagles scored off this penalty with a quick tap. With the conversion, the visiting team was down 7-0.
In response, the boys from Piedmont began rucking again. After several phases of play, Captain Mason Willrich took the ball in for the score. Joe Cumbelich made the conversion. Game tied.
The PITS forwards found a rhythm and discovered their earlier success in rucking and finding weak points in the Talons defense. So not to be outdone by his co-captain, Liam Schindler scored off a short one meter pick and go. Scrumhalf Joe Cumbelich made his second conversion. PITS was now ahead for the first time, but it would not be a lead for long.
Before the half, the Gleneagles boys would benefit from a questionable offsides call. Off the penalty, the Talons scored, but they would not convert for the extra points. PITS was still ahead, 14-12, but just barely.
After the intermission, the Talons scored and converted to go ahead 14-19. The two teams settled into a back and forth affair with neither team getting the better of the other. After several phases, Gleneagles scored again and the PITS boys were looking at a long road to get back into the game, but the one silver lining was the missed conversion. The score was now 14-24.
With time winding down, PITS No. 8, Everett Ellis scored off a nice run. Joe Cumbelich again converted to bring the score to 21-24. After being down for nearly 15 minutes, these PITS boys discovered their attack, and wing Philip Kim made a nifty run to get within the Talons’ red zone. Freshman Gavin Hill took the ball and scored with time running out. Joe Cumbelich missed the extra points, but it didn’t matter, the score had the PITS boys on top, 26-24.
The game wasn’t over yet, as the Gleneagles boys did not want this loss on their home field. The final minutes were fierce, but eventually time ran out for the hosts. Front Row forward, Hunter Abel, was a standout, and received special recognition for his play from the Gleneagle’s head coach, but as it turned out, Cumbelich’s foot saved the day, making just enough conversions for the Piedmonters to stay ahead of the Canadian hosts. the PITS return to Northern California and play Alameda on Saturday, February 28.
By Ned Schroeder
Berkeley- In what has become their annual ritual, the Piedmont rugby club, PITS Rugby, traveled up Interstate 80 to Gilman Field for a pre-season scrimmage against the Berkeley Rhinos. More than a couple of the boys had good friends on these rival teams. As is typical in this “friendly match” there was a lot of cobwebs that needed to be removed. The first 15 minutes was marred by a lot of dropped passes and missed tackles, but neither team could get much traction. The game seemed to be mired in the middle of the field as both sides tried to figure out what would work for them as opposed to figuring out the weakness of their opponent.
But the veterans on the PITS Club showed their mettle and struck first. Scrum-half Cole Gruendl passed the ball to Captain Fiachra Collins, but the ball was tipped and hit Collins in the forehead. As luck would have it, the ball bounced to Winger Javi Prospero who picked the ball up and scrambled 40 meters for the score. It was exactly like they drew it up. Joe Cumbelich making his first start for PITS kicked the conversion, and the PITS club was leading 7-0 at the half. Collins had a good game against Berkeley and was like a dervish on the filed involved in every critical defensive stop.
After the break the Rhinos scored but could not convert the extra point, so the score was 7-5, as both teams started subbing liberally to get their teams playing time. Rookie Frank Kossak ended up at the wing for the Piedmonters, and it was a good thing as he showed some lightning speed that the Rhinos could not answer. Kossak scored twice to seal the game for Piedmont. The first run was for 50 meters. Kossak got a clean pass from the back-line, and as soon as he had his hands on the ball, all that was missing was squealing tires and smoke off his cleats as he outran his opposite number. Kossak added another try in less than 5 minutes as he showed his speed was no fluke running for 40 meters on his second score.
The Rhinos did mount a response, and the final 15 minutes of play was spent with the PITS Ruggers backs against the wall. The Rhinos had two opportunities to score. On one, the ball carrier was held up preventing the score, which resulted in a PITS kick. And the second time the Berkeley team had the ball in the try-zone, the PITS boys got to the ball before the Rhinos could score the try. The PITS team gutted out a tough final 15 minutes and learned a lot about themselves on Saturday.
Piedmont Rugby travels to Sacramento for the annual Kick Off Tournament on January 24.