Lincoln Park deal split results to Harlequins.

We traveled light to Lincoln Park with several guys unavailable due to injury, work, and family obligations. We were also slow to prepare for the match with limited full team drills before kickoff, and it clearly showed in our lack of cohesive play during the first 20 minutes. While our defense was solid with few breaks and no scores allowed, we were somewhat soft on attack and we didn’t support well. In contrast, they applied heavy coordinated pressure near our goal line on several occasions and we only able to drive them back each time with solid tackling and swarming defense. Unfortunately, our offense was initially stagnant and unable to take advantage of several breaks inside their 22-meter line. We killed numerous offensive series via lost possession, unforced errors, and undisciplined penalties. Their pack also played well, particularly on lineouts where they won most of their own throws and often stole or interfered with ours. Fortunately our pack began to exert their advantage in scrummaging and the tide slowly turned in our favor.

We earned a well-deserved try when Rob Jacobs dotted down for the first score just shy of 22 minutes into the match. This was followed just 6 minutes later by a Dom Singleton try that started out wide but cut back against the grain to touch down near the posts. Mark Fine then split the defense for our third try of the match just a minute before half time. All 3 tries were converted by Dom Kasten to put the Harlequins in front 21-0 at the break.
Recognizing Lincoln Park’s emphasis upon poaching rather than taking the ball carrier to the ground, we decided to attack more aggressively inside with stronger mauling support through the middle in the second half. We wanted to control possession and better support the ball carrier to take advantage of our forward loose play. While they were dominant on lineouts, we also decided to concede those set pieces and instead challenge their attempts to drive with mauls or attack out wide with their speedy backline. Scraping defense across the line limited their backline attacks in the first half and we opted to continue to neutralize their backs that likely represented the bigger threat.
Lincoln Park attacked with renewed vigor at the start of the second half and we were forced to desperately defend our goal line for several strong series. Once we were able to buy some space away from our own goal line, however, we applied the new tactics. Following several long series where near tries were not awarded (Joseph Kloiber swears he was robbed again!), Jeff Hoffman touched down following a 5-meter scrum further demonstrating our scrum advantage. Kasten intercepted an errant pass 10 minutes later to pad the score line. Vince Kelly and Mark Fine added 2 more tries in multiple phase play in the final 10 minutes to seal the victory, 43-0. Vince Kelly earned man of the match honors due to his attacking play with the backline, support on the outside, and solid defensive play.
We were fortunate that our unforced errors and undisciplined penalties did not cost us in the present match, but we need to reduce these mistakes and continue to improve to make the next level. We also need to start the match ready to play, rather than wait 20 minutes to get our engines running on offense.
Due to a coaching decision to rest most of our first team players for the trip to Columbia, the second match required us to play with no substitutions, one borrowed player from the Lions who had a bye weekend, and one old player who is better suited for the sideline holding a beer. JP Kloiber and Vince Kelly earned ironman awards for playing every minute of both matches. Colin Opper deserves honorable mention for playing all but 20 minutes as well.
The match started slowly for us with Lincoln Park scoring 2 tries in the early going. Missed tackles on defense and sloppy possession on offense simply gave them their points. Similar to the first game, our lack of organization prior to the match and our scrambling for players and positions clearly had an impact on our cohesion or lack thereof. We began to settle down and our defense solidified to hold them out for the rest of the half. We struggle with lineouts terribly, but were able to control our own scrums to piece together several solid phases of rugby. Near the end of the first match recently married flyhalf, Ben Nirschl, broke our scoring drought via a few broken tackles to bring us closer on the scoreboard, 5-12.
The second half saw LP with their fresh reserves scoring the first try of the half and increasing their lead to 5-17. Another try might have been added by our opponents, but a devastating tackle from rookie fullback, Mike Reagles, sent their lanky lock flying out of bounds and our pack secured the lineout to buy us some space with the kick to touch. While Thomas Kloiber was able to bring us closer in score, 17-10, no more points were added before the final whistle despite some excellent team series. Ben Nirschl was awarded player of the match for his ball distribution (or not) and his tackle breaking try to get us on the scoreboard.

Joe Cunningham
Joe Cunningham
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