Redemption over crosstown rivals sends Milwaukee rugby team to the CARFU finals for the second time.

Two weeks and two losses to in-state teams and the season was over for the Harlequins RFC (Division I, USA Rugby), one of 10 teams battling on the rugby pitch for the 2010 CARFU Cup.

After a spring filled with emotion both on and off the pitch, we were pleasantly surprised to be seeded 4th in CARFU standings with at least one shot at redemption in the semi-finals.

When we received news that long-time rivals Milwaukee Black & White (Division 2, USA Rugby) were the 1st place seed and would face us in the semi-final match, we were even more excited as a lot was on the line for both clubs.

The Black & White were looking to extend their 4-match winning streak after defeating the Harlequins just two-weeks prior in a 10-8 barn-burner. In addition to the long-standing rivalry, the Harlequins blocked the Black & White promotion to Division I by dominating the entire 2009 season, defeating them in the Midwest semi-finals, season and placing 5th at the National Championship (Division 2).

On the other side of the pitch, the Harlequins were relishing the chance for redemption against a Division 2 side that had got the better of them a few weeks earlier. The Harlequins, back to full strength as the captain and others travelled to Fiji to bury our fallen brother in his native country, HAD to justify why they deserved the title of the ‘only Division 1 rugby team in Wisconsin’. In addition, the Harlequins had left a lot of points on the field in the 2009 CARFU Cup final, and a win over the Black & White would give them yet another chance to set the record straight.

Not surprisingly then, it was clear from the kickoff that both teams came to play as the match was fiercely contested.

After just 10 minutes though, the Black & White had a 10-point lead. The Black & White are a strong team and are experts at taking advantage of loose ball and open spaces. They were able to capitalize on two turnover balls and took them both in for unconverted tries.

After this jarring turn of events, the Harlequins, proudly, went back to business and continued to lay the foundation for our style of play: control of the set pieces and clean ball at the break downs followed by a constantly probing offense.

After 20 minutes, the Harlequins were enjoying an increasing percentage of possession and territory and we eventually crossed the whitewash.

Continued control and team play allowed the Quin’s to advance past the Black & White and finish the first half with a 20-10 lead.

The second half saw continued pressure by the Harlequins. With a defensive schooling, the Harlequins extended their lead to at least four scores with a 32-10 margin.

However, the Black & White did not fold and attacked at every opportunity that presented itself and were rewarded with a 100 meter play that resulted in their third try. The successful conversion ended the ‘battle for Milwaukee’ with a 32-17 score and a redemption moment for the Harlequins.

Thanks goes out to all fans of both teams that attended the game. The Milwaukee rugby community has some unique opportunities ahead.

Mike Loader
Mike Loader
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