Last week wasn’t the best outing for the Cleveland Crusaders. The second side was stood up by their opposition for the weekend and the first side was unable to get one over on the Detroit Tradesmen. The players and coaches weren’t content to let a beautiful day go to waste, and they made the best of Bad Situation Saturday.
After discovering that the Pittsburgh Highlanders decided to bow out and forfeit their third consecutive match, the club came together to find a way to let the BlueSaders play without playing each other. With such short notice, it was difficult to find competition to come to the Metroparks Pitch and play. Many teams had matches already prepared, while others wanted the BlueSaders to abandon the home field to – maybe – get a full side to play against. Luckily, the boys from Cleveland State University came through in a clutch and fielded a team to take on the BlueSaders. The match was very back-and-forth and both teams had their highlights from the day. The BlueSaders got to sharpen their knives against the motley looking Vikings – they brought everything except the jerseys, apparently – before facing NCWV this weekend and the Vikings got to get an impromptu sweat in and enjoy some sun. Thank you Vikings.
After the Blue Boys and the Vikings played it was time for the Crusaders to take their second shot at the Detroit Tradesmen in an effort to secure the top of the league. The Crusaders knew it would be a tough day at the office and it certainly was.
There wasn’t much for the Crusaders to do in the opening of the match. About 20 minutes into the half Nick Viviani made the Tradesmen pay for poor discipline and put over a three-point penalty kick. Unfortunately, the penalty was bookended by pairs of tries for the Tradesmen. To say the first half was a grind would be an understatement. Both teams seemed to play deep in the other’s side of the field only to have the ball lost or taken and booted to a safe distance. All the work finally paid off when the Crusaders had a lineout deep in Detroit’s territory and the big boys from Cleveland decided to try its luck and make a drive at the line. Once the ball was secured the engine room kicked up the output and took the Tradesmen for a walk. After a strong group effort Justin Rutledge put the ball over the line. Unfortunately, the extra two points got left on the table – and the Tradesmen scored another rtry right before the stroke of halftime.
The Crusaders were a little busier in the second half and it showed on the scoreboard. Unfortunately, that activity started after another trio of tries by the Tradesmen. Following some personnel changes and strategy alterations, the Crusaders began to find their second half shape. David DiFrancisco scored the first try for the Crusaders, and Viviani put up the extra points. The Crusaders’ defense had one final lapse that led to a Tradesmen try and conversion but after that Cleveland took control of the match. Steve Fritsch, Trent Szente and Mike Pellagalli crossed the whitewash in the final moments of the match, and Viviani knocked over two of the three conversion attempts. Unfortunately, the late-game surge wasn’t enough to get the win. The Crusaders came up short, 57-34.
The result from the weekend is almost – literally – identical to the last time the two played. One conversion was the difference in the scoreboard between the two matches. The deciding factor in each result was execution. Despite the shortcomings during the day, there were still positive points to take away from the result.
“While we made progress in some areas, we lost our way in others,” said Donnie Harbert, head coach of the Cleveland Crusaders. “Detroit is a strong club, and at the end of the day, they made us pay for each and every mistake. In spite of the mistakes and missed opportunities, we played hard for 80 minutes and were still able to redeem a bonus point.”
The Crusaders are on the back end of the schedule now and find themselves on the road for two of the final three weeks playing against teams looking for some payback. The first team coming in search of some redemption is Pittsburgh. The Crusaders will travel to the eastern hinterlands on October 17 in order to deliver another decisive victory and escape the savage hills of Pennsylvania with everything intact. The BlueSaders will be on the road on October 17 as well. They will be traveling to a, possibly, even less civilized locale to face off against NCWV in a match that will count towards their league standings and be a reminder to the rest of the Fourth Division that the BlueSaders are truly the team to beat and a force with which to be reckoned.
By Justin Rutledge | 10.08.15
Last weekend was a strong performance for the Cleveland Crusaders, as they blew the Detroit RFC out of the water by a score of 116-0 in a shootout that had the Cleveland club on offense until the very last whistle.
This weekend, though, has big-match implications for the Crusaders and BlueSaders. The second side will host the Pittsburgh Highlanders and the first side will take on the league-leading Detroit Tradesmen.
When considering the BlueSaders’ match Saturday, there is good news and bad news. The bad news, for Pittsburgh, is that the last match resulted in a forfeit in favor of the BlueSaders. As a result, an intrasquad scrimmage took place so the day wasn’t a total waste. Now the Cleveland players are even hungrier for meaningful competition and ready to take the field and do some damage.
Expect the pack to tackle harder and run harder while the backs look to eat up meters with every run of the ball. Look for Jason Geanuracos to crack some sternums with his piston-like fends and Mike Pellagalli to exploit any half-gap or rushing defender and turn those mistakes into territory. If Scott Michaelis and Anthony Leeper can effectively and smoothly orchestrate the attack, the BlueSaders should have a high-scoring result against the visiting Highlanders.
The good news for the Crusaders is that after facing down stiff competition from the first side last weekend, the team should be more than prepared to answer the call of the Highlanders. New faces are coming into the BlueSaders’ ranks by the week and are getting better by the day. Mike Baratz is overdue for a standout day in the pack; as is Oliver Mooney, who is an added weapon for the BlueSaders back line.
If there was going to be any match for the Crusaders that was going to have big-match implications it was going to be this one, the second encounter of the Cleveland Crusaders against the Detroit Tradesmen – the unstoppable force meets the immovable object.
This is the battle for the top of the table. Currently, the Crusaders are ahead of the Tradesmen by a single point in the overall standings, having played one more match and a superior point differential. In order to build upon this lead and take an impressive scalp Saturday the Crusaders have to have a nearly perfect 80 minutes.
Offense needs to be crisp and clinical, and the defense needs to direct and decisive at the point of impact. Everyone will have to gel and execute assignments on offense and defense without pause; and fortunately for the Crusaders, the lineup going into Saturday has a lot of experience with one another from previous matches this season. The backs’ timing has gotten to be as such that the ball often comes within a razor’s edge of being forward as runners hunt down gaps; and the forwards’ set pieces have been solidified and simplified to a point where execution issues are minimal at most. It is a tall order to be certain, but it is possible.
Saturday, the Crusaders kick off against the Tradesmen at 1:00pm, followed by the BlueSaders and Highlanders. Both matches will be played on Cleveland’s grounds in the North Chagrin Reservation of the Cleveland Metroparks. #JoinTheCrusade
|October 10, 2015||2:30 PM||USA Rugby Men's Club Division 4||2015|
|Cleveland - Metroparks - Ox Bow Ln Chagrin River Rd|
|Chagrin River Road, Gates Mills, OH 44040, USA|