Harlequins complete Spring rugby season as finalist in Chicago-area championship.

Today the Milwaukee Harlequins competed for the inaugural CARFU Cup Championship, a regional championship of rugby clubs in the greater Chicago/Milwaukee area. The match was in Lemont, IL against the Chicago Blaze.

The vastly improved Blaze boasted a revamped backline, a much improved forward pack, and a lot of energy having gone undefeated in CARFU league play this spring.

Unfortunately, we arrived late and shorthanded, and we weren’t ready to play at kickoff. As a result, we were punished with 2 quick tackles by the Blaze due to missed assignments and tackles, and they jumped to an early 12-0 lead just 5 minutes into the match. We regrouped and solidified our defense, keepng the Blaze scoreless for the rest of the half. Our forward pack began assert themselves in scrums but we did not take advantage of our possessions. Both teams also struggled with clean lineouts. In general, our offense was stymied by limited continuity, poor decision-making, and multiple lost possessions. Despite these issues, we were very much in the match and Vince Kelly finally broke our scoring drought with an unconverted try at 33 minutes to bring us to 12-5.

The 2nd half saw the Blaze pad their lead at 46 minutes with another unconverted try to take them to 17-5. The next 20 minutes of play was mostly defensive stands and lost opportunities for both clubs. We each had long breaks towards each others goallines, but neither team could close the deal. Finally at 65 minutes, Mark Tobin was able to squeeze into the try zone after multiple strong phases for an unconverted try, closing the gap 17-10. Unfortunately, the Blaze responded with a try just 4 minutes later and the rest of the match belonged to the home team. Two more tries and one conversion saw the scoreline end at 34-10 in favor of our opponents.

After the disappointing loss, we quickly gathered together to set our lineup for the B-side match. Thanks to a player from MU and 3 from UW-Parkside, we were able to put together a solid team. We all appreciate the first team players who played the 2nd match, particularly JP Kloiber playing every minute of both games.

The Blaze scored their first unconverted try just 5 minutes into the match, but Phillippe Leka answered with his own try by stealing the ball from their scrumhalf after their pack had won possession. The rest of the half involved several missed opportunities with our players making breaks, but unable to capitalize upon them. As the half progressed, we started adjusting to our teammates and continually threatenned their tryline. The half ended with a 5-5 tie, but momentum had clearly shifted in our direction.

We continued to improved our cohesion in the 2nd half and Vince Kelly scored his first try of this match by breaking a tackle or two and then outrunning the cover defense. Vince (UW-Parkside) then added to the scoreline after multiphase ball, tight support, and clean rucks allowed him to touch the ball down on the last phase. Vince Kelly converted the try to increase our lead 17-5. Mike Reagles added his unconverted try from multiphase ball to bring the score to 22-5. The Blaze answered with an unconverted try, but Joey (UW-Parkside) scored the final try of the match to end scoring 27-10.

Joe Cunningham
Joe Cunningham
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