Wanderers vs. Worcester Match Report

A side – Hartford Wanderers 7, Worcester 36

Hartford entertained league leaders Worcester at the weekend, as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations. After a morning of excellent rugby between the Hartford Old Boys, the Connecticut Grey and the Worcester Old Boys, the Wanderers took the field looking to close the gap between themselves and Worcester in the league standings. However, the game couldn’t have started any worse for Hartford, as an errant lineout in the first few minutes resulted in Worcester gaining possession on the front foot and driving hard into the Wanderers’ midfield defense. Quick recycling of the ball enabled the Worcester scrum half to chip into the corner for their winger to win the race for a converted try. Five minutes later, Worcester were again driving hard into the Hartford 22 and a well executed inside pass from the scrum half enabled a forward to crash over for another converted try. 14-0 down within the first ten minutes was not what Hartford had anticipated and they desperately needed a response to halt the Worcester momentum and to get back into the game. That response in particular came from center Kurt Link, who lifted spirits with some bone-shaking tackles in midfield to drive the Worcester runners back and to start putting Hartford on the front foot. As Hartford started to gain more possession it became clear that their gameplan to keep changing the point of attack and to move the larger Worcester forwards around the field was starting to pay off, but too often the home side’s momentum was thwarted by unforced handling errors, giving the ball back cheaply to Worcester just when gaps were starting to appear. However, on one occasion when Hartford were able to put together a string of phases, the ball was switched down the weak side to exploit an overload and good handling from Will Ertel and Matt McPartland put prop Brian Nugent into space and “Nuggs” sprinted off to score the try, converted by Scott Truss, to close the gap to 14-7. That ended the scoring in the first half and, despite their slow start, Hartford were very much in the game and ready to exploit the slope of the field in the second half to get the victory. However, that was not to be the case, as handling errors continued to frustrate the home side and Worcester’s ability to maintain possession and apply pressure through their forward runners and scrum half’s boot, meant that Hartford spent the majority of the second 40 minutes in their own half, defending their try line. Credit to Worcester who played a very controlled game in the second half, looking after the ball and maintaining the pressure on Hartford’s defense. Having to defend phase after phase of Worcester’s attack eventually took it’s toll and the scoreboard was a very one-sided affair in the second half, with Worcester scoring four further tries and one conversion, to leave the final score at 7-36. However, the scoreline does not reflect Hartford’s outstanding efforts in defense for the majority of the game, with Man of the Match Kurt Link, Tom McAuley, Brian Sheridan, Pantcho, Will Ertel and Brian Grzelka all exceeding ten tackles individually and the team making over 130 tackles in total. Hartford’s limitations were more on the offensive side of the ball and when you’re playing a side as good as Worcester, with prudent decision making and patient, attritional attacks, it’s no surprise that Hartford suffered for their poor ball retention.

Lineup:

1. Brian Nugent
2. Matt McPartland
3. Tom McAuley (Jake Diltz)
4. Brian Sheridan
5. Mike Scanlon (Sam Giovaninni)
6. Will Ertel
7. Pantcho Stoyanov
8. Brian Grzelka
9. Mike Knowles (DJ Plis)
10. Scott Truss
11. Anthony Kaponis
12. Kurt Link
13. Frank Colaninno
14. Nick Vargas
15. Jeff Drogosek

B side – Hartford Wanderers 26, Worcester 12

In contrast to the first game, it was Hartford who started the stronger of the two teams in the B side game on Saturday. Defensively, Hartford never let Worcester settle, with Anton, Mike Patrizz and Jay Doll in particular putting in some heavy hits and refusing to concede ground. On offense, the accurate handling and running from depth continually put pressure on the Worcester defense until eventually Tackeem was able to use his pace to score out wide and a few minutes later Man of the Match Mike Patrizz stormed down the opposite wing to score. With Frank kicking both conversions, Hartford burst into a 14-0 lead. Midway through the half, they extended that lead when some sustained pressure enabled center DJ Plis to wriggle his way through a couple of tackles and crash over the line for another converted try. The scoring in the first half concluded 10 minutes later when some quick hands down the weak side enabled Jake Diltz to cruise over for an unconverted try in the corner, leaving the half time score at 26-0. With both sides making substitutions and Worcester now playing downhill, the momentum of the game in the second half swung to the away side. While a lot of the second half was spent in the middle third of the field, Worcester gradually began to maintain possession and exert pressure on the Hartford defense and it came as no surprise when that pressure eventually told and Worcester went over for a converted try. With Worcester now gaining in confidence and having the majority of the possession, it was left to Hartford’s resilient defense to work to maintain the lead, with the whole pack determined to keep out their larger opponents. However, in the latter stages of the half Worcester were able to crash over for their second try and keep the pressure on the home side, but the defense ultimately came through and Hartford ran out victorious in one of their best performances of the season.

Lineup:

1. Corey George
2. Sam Giovaninni (Joe Talbot)
3. Jake Diltz (Dillon Quadrato)
4. Ted Fisher
5. Chris Zagorski
6. Anton Goldblatt
7. Sam Brown
8. Mike Patrizz
9. Ryan Joanis
10. Frank Lionheart
11. Casey Rogan
12. Jay Doll
13. DJ Plis
14. Tackeem Creary (Ed Charamut)
15. Brad Sabean