The Norfolk Blues improved to 4-0 in Mid-Atlantic League play with a 41-12 defeat of Schuylkill River Saturday, setting up an exciting clash with PAC after the DC-area club moved to 2-0 with a 15-0 shutout of NOVA.
Schuylkill battled hard early as they contested the Norfolk breakdown and tried to spin the ball wide at every opportunity. They hoped to set back Greg Ambrogi free, but Norfolk had some plans of their own.
“Greg’s a phenomenal runner,” said Norfolk Head Coach Chris Porter, “and it’s no surprise they wanted the ball in his hands.”
But Schuylkill’s commitment to the breakdown eventually cost them, because when Norfolk was able to get quick ball, their speedy forwards tested the backs on defense, opening up space for the Blues backline to punish the Philly-area club.
“Our forwards are athletic and started hitting space,” said Porter. “And that created more for the backs. I think our backline definitely took a step forward this week. We had a rough game last week against Media, but they stepped up their game and asserted themselves.
John Leo scored two tries and Michael Fussell, James Simpson and Ben Walence all touched down. Flyhalf John Cameron was outstanding kicking goals, adding five conversions and two penalties for 16 points, and making sure each try counted as much as possible.
Norfolk is now 4-0 and looks ahead to PAC, which edged NOVA in a muddy, contentious game 15-0.
“The positives are that we played the game, we won, and I’m really pleased that we kept them off the scoreboard,” said PAC prop and Director of Rugby Brian Olmes. “But it was a sloppy game, and I think both teams had a tough time adjusting to the ref, so we couldn’t get into a rhythm.”
NOVA’s defense was outstanding when it had to be in the first half, and they rebuffed PAC repeatedly. At halftime PAC’s only points came from a Steven Shapland penalty goal a few minutes before the break. Olmes said his team knew 3-0 wouldn’t be enough.
“We had more energy in the second half,” he said. “Which we needed.”
A well-taken team movement culminated in a try for Irak Herazo to make it 8-0. NOVA came back to threaten the PAC goal line on several occasions, but each time the PAC defense forced a turnover or a penalty to clear their lines.
Late in the match, NOVA pressed and sent a long skip pass out wide, where PAC’s Greg Suellentrop intercepted. Suellentrop had support and used it, before getting the ball back for an outstanding open-field score. Shapland’s conversion made it 15-0.
It wasn’t a bonus-point win, but it was enough, and Olmes was thrilled with his squad’s commitment to defense.
Now they look ahead to Norfolk.
“It was Norfolk and us last year, and losing to them put us in a more difficult position in the national playoffs,” said Olmes. “While you have to beat everybody to win whatever bracket you’re in, we are in a position to help ourselves with this game.”
Also in MARFU, Media recorded their first victory of the season with an impressive 45-26 defeat of Baltimore-Chesapeake. This was always going to be a tough game for B-C, as six of their Saturday starters returned from New Zealand, where they were following the USA, late this week.
As a result, they flagged late, and Media punished them. Baltimore did score four tries, two by Will Knipscher, and captain Ryan Burns said he expects the club to be much improved once the players shake off the jet lag and get fitter.