Harlequins capture first win for Milwaukee in Division I Rugby.

Milwaukee Harlequins 25 – 7 Chicago Lions

There is much to celebrate from Saturday, the clubs first win in Division I USA Rugby competition and the completion of our official third division season.

The foundation we have developed from the efforts of the players and coaches this season in our Division III campaign is bearing fruit, you only needed to watch the second game of the day to see this. With this season we have been able to bring new players to the game of rugby and have been able to develop their skills and experience faster than ever.

We have created an outlet for senior players to extend their playing career and be able to pass along their knowledge, intensity and love of the game to the next generation of Harlequins. I have stated this before, but it is the biggest step we have taken to demonstrating we are a club not a team.

With the loss to the Black and Blue ,we close out the 1-4 in Div. III season play with some additional wins on the side . The score line of the game was a handy victory to Black and blue 55-0. The game was a tight contest for 50 minutes before frustration and outside forces created breakdowns in the defense and allowed the scoring to flow unabated.

The development of the team from its first game was evident with periods of play where we exhibited good control of the ball and more importantly excellent communication off the ball. There are players that will become forces in the third division and others who with continued focus can move to the first division.

The results and development of the D1 campaign is due in part to the clubs ability to run two teams. This has allowed the club to expand its coaching staff and provide targeted training specific to players experience and skill level. For the Division I team this had meant a large focus on development and strategy of the game.

The teams win over the Chicago Lions was well deserved and a proud representation of Harlequin Milwaukee Rugby. The team started with the same mind set and intensity that allowed them, the previous week, to hold Pearl City to such a close contest. Any concerns I may have had as a coach were dispelled quickly and it was one of the easiest Saturdays for the coaching staff since the players were recognizing and adapting to game developments without their input.

The strength of the Harlequins forward pack in the set piece has been a strength the entire season. Today was no exception as we were rewarded 26 minutes into the game with the best gift they could have asked for, a 5 meter scrum, which they easily drove in for a push over try for Jeff Hoffman. A push over try at this level is extremely rare and after nearly duplicating the result 10 minutes later from a scrum 10 meters out, no one can debate the dominance of our forwards in this game.

The back line of the Milwaukee Harlequins, through injury and numbers, has had a difficult season to gel and hit its stride but has continued to develop and demonstrate the promise they displayed. With clean forward moving ball the backline was finally able to demonstrate they were also of the caliber to compete at this level.

Fellipe Leka at scrum half and Mark Fine at fly half had an excellent game controlling the offense and moving the point of attack, probing the lions defense for weaknesses and more importantly developing holes in the Lions defense through 4and 5 phases.

This intelligent play allowed the backline to enjoy some controlled penetrating runs leading Nate Olson to score In the 51st minute. Dom Kastens’ always reliable boot moved the score line even further ahead when captain Ben smith elected to kick for goal and points to further secure the lead with 20 minutes to go.

This proved to be the correct decision and underline the rugby intelligence the team has developed when the Lions demonstrated why they have been a force for some many years in Midwest rugby by quickly intercepting the ball and scoring their first points of the game with a converted try.

The Lions’ program, with the privilege of having a Super League team, were not ready to concede this game and from the kick off quickly ate up 60 meters of the field with quick supported running from the breakdowns.

This effort was met by a reorganized and intense Harlequins defense five meters out from the try line, whose efforts forced a Lions scrum which was then stolen by the Harlequins hooker Garret Meyers, one of many the harlequins stole.

After a safe clearing kick this was the last deep threat the lions were able to mount and any other penetrations in to the Harlequins 22 were from individual runs which some excellent defense was able to contain. A perfect example of this was an intercepted pass by the lions out side center that saw him caught by the Harlequins new winger Collins who was assisted by tight head Aaron young.

The last 10 minutes saw the game become heated as off the ball activity increased,resulting in the referee sending three players to the sin bin. Cyprian Shimenga, however, finished the game with a final try for the Harlequins in the corner to gain the bonus point for the game.

We knew we belonged in first division and will continue to develop and take bigger steps forward. Be part of it and support the only Division I club in the state of Wisconsin this weekend as we play our last home game against Metropolis. The game will be covered by Time Warner Cable and is the opportunity we need to bring more people into the family of rugby.

Mike Loader
Mike Loader
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