Kenilworth Park– Washington, D.C. “Good teams win even when they play like [crap].” That was the message that head coach Owen Lentz delivered to the Potomac Exiles after their victory over the Washington Irish on a crisp fall Saturday in the District. Despite missing several players due to injury and battling limited practice time in the lead up to the match, PERC found a way to win 28-21 (and earn a bonus point) over a very capable Irish team.
The visiting Exiles came out of the gate flat in the early going. Despite enjoying territory and possession advantages in the opening minutes of the match, the Exiles were unable to convert the pressure into points. They paid for their early missed opportunities when the Irish found the scoreboard first in the 15th minute. The home side added the conversion to earn an early 7-0 lead. For much of the remainder of the first half, both teams traded possession in a back and forth contest; however, the Irish snuck in a second converted try in the 35th minute to extend their lead to 14-0 going into the break.
After a spirited halftime chat, the men from PERC began the second half with an intensity that had eluded them for much of the opening stanza. This intensity manifested itself in the form of a try five minutes into the half. The Exile forwards, including Dante Lopresti, Amin Aziz, and Pat Love, used a series of runs to march into the Irish 22 and shortly thereafter center Owen Lentz got the visitors on the board with a try from short range. Flyhalf Will Taylor added the conversion to narrow the gap to 14-7 in the 45th minute. Inspired by the score, the men from PERC kept the pressure on the Irish. The visitors used a long stretch of possession to grind down the opposition, and once again found themselves close to the Irish try line in the 55th minute. After hard work from the forwards, lock Brendan Porter spotted space several meters away from the breakdown. He called for the ball, received the pass from scrumhalf Jon Furman, and slid over for a try. Taylor converted the effort to tie the score.
Despite conceding two scores, the Irish showed that they would not give up. As the match entered the final twenty minutes, PERC was once again camped out close to the Irish line. The home side managed to absorb the tremendous pressure and capitalize on a PERC mistake to earn a turnover and try on a long run down the touchline. The Irish added the conversion to regain the lead 21-14 with just under twenty minutes to play.
With time winding down, the Exiles men knew that they needed to score quickly if they wanted a chance to steal victory in the match. They began their second comeback thanks to a close range try from prop Matt Flynn. Taylor added the conversion to once again level the score, this time at 21-21. After the ensuing restart, the Irish managed to secure possession, and put tremendous pressure on the PERC defense. The situation got increasingly tense when the Irish flyhalf dropped back into the pocket for an attempted drop goal. Luckily, thanks to a key turnover, the attempt never materialized. After regaining the ball, great interplay between forwards and backs led to a long run by center John Davis. Davis managed to reach the Irish 22 meter line before he was brought down by the home side’s tenacious scramble defense. From there, the forwards went to work. Thanks to a series of one-out runs and pick and go’s, PERC slowly inched closer to the Irish try line. The constant barrage earned the Exiles a penalty just five meters from the line, and, thanks to heads up situational awareness, impact reserve Kevin Kimble took a quick tap, dove for the line, and scored a try with no time remaining (the second time in a year that Kimble has scored at the death against the Irish). Will Taylor added the conversion for good measure, and the Exiles secured a dramatic 28-21 victory.
PERC’s forwards collectively earned Man of the Match honors on Saturday. The members of the pack were: Pat Love, Dante Lopresti, Matt Flynn, Mike Minchik (replaced by Kevin Kimble), Brendan Porter, Amin Aziz, Guy Lopresti (captain), and Bill Whalen. With the season on the line, the forwards showed their determination and strength with superior ball carrying skills. It was an inspirational effort that will certainly serve as motivation going into next year.
With the win on Saturday, PERC is very much still in the hunt for a playoff spot. The fall had highs and lows, but the boys are eager to make a final push towards the postseason when play resumes in the early spring. Looking ahead, the men from PERC will celebrate a successful fall with a gathering at Union Trust on Friday, December 7th. Stay tuned for more information about offseason workouts. We hope to see many new and returning faces after a brief holiday hiatus.