The Rocky Gorge rugby club took a big step toward repeating as Division II National Champions, earning a convincing victory over division rival Brandywine last weekend.
Rocky Gorge (Columbia/Laurel) parlayed an attack based on strong running by the forwards and dynamic back play with a team-wide aggressive defense to blank the visitors, 77-0. Brandywine (West Grove, PA) came out strong at the beginning of each half, but never managed to mount a sustained attack against a Gorge club that controlled the ball most of the match.
"We played pretty well. We moved the ball well and got it to space, which is the biggest key," said Rocky Gorge coach Chuck Moore. "The good thing is today we were able to utilize all of our subs and use them early in the game. We were able to take guys out before they were tired, before they had injuries. I think our team is going to be rather fresh going to Pittsburgh."
The win advances Rocky Gorge to play against the Lancaster Roses (PA) in the Middle Atlantic Rugby Football Union semifinals April 27 in Pittsburgh.
After a hard-fought opening 10 minutes, Rocky Gorge's athleticism on the back line began to tilt the match in its favor. Rocky Gorge would go on to amass 77 points on the strength of 12 tries (7 converted) and a penalty kick.
Despite the Gorge backline's dominance, it was prop forward Bryan Perez who opened the first half scoring in the 5th minute. He carried tacklers on his back as he dotted down a try in the corner.
Brandywine followed with an overload on the wing to march down to Rocky Gorge's try line, but the fierce efforts of forwards Perez, Will Miller (Reservoir High School), and Josh Brown (Long Reach High School) kept Brandywine out of the try zone.
Flyhalf Derek Chell (Mt. Hebron High School) got the backs into the action, weaving through the defense for a try in the 12th minute. Eightman Josh Brown followed quickly off a ruck to score in the 20th minute.
After another Gorge try line stand that included a brilliant fake kick by fullback Andrew Kendall, Derek Chell scored his second try of the day on a fake switch in the 38th minute. The half was capped off by a penalty kick by Andrew Kendall to put the score at 27-0 heading into the break.
Brandywine came out fighting in the second half; however, the day would remain firmly in the grasp of Rocky Gorge. Center Billy Trentzch (Perry Hall High School) scored in the 45th minute — set up by a quick ball off a ruck to the backs. This was followed by Josh Brown's second try straight up the middle in the 50th minute.
Brandywine employed some good tackling to generate a bit of turnover ball and carry the play for a short time, but missed an opportunity on a big overload out wide.
After the 63rd minute, Rocky Gorge scored almost at will with a total of six more tries. The late scores for Gorge included four by elusive wing Jay Beneditti and one each by second row Will Miller and flyhalf Peter Ressler.
"We played well for five minutes and not so well for 75 minutes. [Rocky Gorge] played well for 80 minutes," Brandywine coach Joe Cassidy said. "Rocky Gorge played well as a team. They played a good continuous style of flowing rugby."
While the big win is encouraging, Rocky Gorge captain Matt Carroll knows Rocky Gorge's ultimate objective still lies ahead.
"We [have] a goal. We reached the top of the mountain last year, but we can't rest on that," Carroll said. "Every game is a new game, every game is an independent event, every game can be won or lost. We need to realize that because if we get ahead of ourselves that's when we lose."
UMBC wins annual Gorge Cup
The Rocky Gorge-Brandywine contest was not the only rugby to be had at fields adjacent to the East Columbia Library in Columbia on Saturday.
The same venue served as the site for the 17th annual Gorge Cup, an invitational college tournament hosted by Rocky Gorge. Much like prior years, this edition was a resounding success, with nine teams from area universities competing for the title of Cup Champion.
Participants were Salisbury University, University of Mary Washington, Towson University, Frostburg University, University of Maryland Baltimore County, American University, Niagara University, George Mason University and George Washington University.