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.