By Justin Rutledge
To say the Cleveland Crusaders’ Division IV contingent, the Bluesaders, closed out the first half of the season on a good note last weekend would be an understatement. To beat last year’s champions twice would be a good way to end an inaugural season, especially considering one of those wins was by almost 50 points. To end the season in first place would be a good way to end the season. To do all of this and more is probably an unheard of way for a first-year team to end its season. While there are still matches to be played in the spring, the Bluesaders are in the driver’s seat of the division, a position cemented after the team’s 67-18 win last week.
When the teams first met at the outset of the season, the Bluesaders got a narrow five-point win. The close result could have been a result of the champions being tougher than anticipated or just first-match jitters from Cleveland. One thing is for certain: it wasn’t a fluke. The Bluesaders put improved skills on display and put Canton to the sword throughout last weekend’s match.
From the first whistle, the Bluesaders found themselves on the board, Ryan Sands running in the first try for his team. After a bit of a scoring drought in the opening 40, the Bluesaders scored three more tries, courtesy of the forward pack. Moses Pahulu added five points to his team’s tally about a quarter of the way through the match. Doug Rawlings did Pahulu one better and put in a pair of tries, one right after Pahulu and the other just before the stroke of halftime. After successfully converting two of three conversion attempts, the Bluesaders went into the midway break with a 26-18 lead, a margin that was definitely too close for comfort.
The second half is where the Bluesaders opened up the match. The Cleveland offense put up try after try and the ball retention kept canton from sniffing the white paint again. Cleveland’s offense scored from every part of the paddock. Whether it was from a set piece, in open play or resulting from a counterattack after a kick, the Bluesaders’ offense was on point in the second half. The Bluesaders made penetrating run behind the Canton defense and let the ball finish off the attacking movements. Steve Wolnik was the beneficiary of this ball movement after a successful scrum and some ball movement across the field. After a ruck and some quick passes, Wolnik went in at the side. Pahulu put in a try of his own in similar fashion, taking advantage of an offense that generated from a successful lineout. A failed clearance kick kept Canton buried behind their own 22-meter line and allowed Cleveland to attack again. The back three sent the ball across the field and carried the egg into contact. Not wanting to be left out of the scoring action, Anthony Leeper dug the ball out of the ruck and dove over the whitewash for his five-pointer.
The scoring went on like this for the remainder of the half. When the dust settled Rawlings had completed his hat trick, the Three Steves – Wolnik, Anthony and Fritsch – had all scored and Andrew Little had one-upped David DiFrancisco and kicked three successful conversions.
To say this victory was a team effort would be an understatement and cliché. Every try resulted from the ball transferring between multiple players’ hands after drawing defenders and opening holes for runners to use. Moses “the Magician” Pahulu either created or exploited space with every touch of the ball. Fritsch spent his second half shucking defenders to enable his support runners to seal the breakdown and get quick ball out to the waiting runners.
With the winter on its way, the men from Cleveland have a few months until they have to defend their spot atop the table. Once the ground thaws, they’ll play Greensburg in the hopes of avenging their loss earlier in the season.
|October 31, 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|
|1||Canton D4 Player||Wing||2||1||2||0|
|3||Anthony Sessin 52||Prop||0||0||0||0|
|36||Scott Michaelis 22||Center||0||0||0||0|
|45||Ryan Sands 31||Wing||1||0||0||0|
|47||Michael Baratz 38||Flanker||0||0||0||0|
|52||Woods, William 3||Prop||0||0||0||0|
|22||Steven Wolnik 36||Full-back||1||0||0||0|
|23||Mark Staron II||Scrum-half||0||0||0||0|
|25||Miles Papa||Number Eight||0||0||0||0|
|31||Steven Anthony 45||Wing||2||0||0||0|
|38||Jason Geanuracos 47||Number Eight||0||0||0||0|