Heurich Field– Hyattsville, MD. The Potomac Exiles dropped a tightly contested match to the Norfolk Blues on Saturday, November 10th.
On a chilly and windy afternoon in Hyattsville, two of the top teams in the Mid-Atlantic Conference faced each other in a rematch of the early season clash down in Norfolk that resulted in a tie. Despite a four hour drive, the visitors came out of the gate firing on all cylinders. Thanks to tries in the 3rd and 12th minutes, Norfolk built up a 0-14 lead in the early going.
After the rude wakeup call, the Exiles recognized that it was their turn to apply pressure. Roughly twenty minutes into the match, the home side began to find its groove, using well-drilled offensive system to secure large amounts of possession and make inroads into the opposition 22. Although the Blues were initially able to turn the ball over and clear their lines, PERC’s back three reignited the attack from within their own half, and it wasn’t long before the home side was knocking at the door for their first score of the match. Ultimately, hooker Dante Lopresti got the Exiles on the board first with a rumbling run and try in the 26th minute to cut the deficit to 5-12. The Exiles found the score sheet again ten minutes later. After a series of impressive runs from forwards and backs alike, including flanker Harry Lee and flyhalf Will Taylor, PERC’s prop Pat Love dotted the ball down in the try zone. The Exiles added the conversion to narrow the gap to 12-14; however, with four minutes left to play in the half, Norfolk snuck in one more try to push the score to 12-19 at the half.
Unfortunately, the second half begin in a similar fashion to the first half when a breakdown in the PERC defensive structure allowed Norfolk to put in a converted try in the 43rd minute. With the score at 12-26, the men from the home side knew that they needed to score next if they were to have a chance at staging a comeback. They accomplished this task in the 47th minute. Strong defense and a penalty earned PERC excellent field position inside Norfolk’s 22. After a lineout win and drive, lock Brendan Porter eventually touched the ball down for PERC’s third try of the match. Although the home side could not add the sharp angle conversion, they still closed the gap to 17-26 in the 47th minute.
Norfolk managed to extend their lead to 17-31 in the 58th minute; however, the final twenty minutes belonged to Potomac. The comeback train started in the 63rd minute when the Exiles turned pressure into points. The Exiles used a well structured and patient attack, highlighted by long runs from fullback Jusitn Owens, reserve center Owen Lentz, and hooker Dante Lopresti, to grind into the opposition’s 22. Good field vision from center John Davis set up impact reserve Amin Aziz for a try in the corner to narrow the score to 22-31. The Exiles continued to apply pressure straight from the ensuing kickoff, using a well-worked exit strategy to pin Norfolk in its own half. Eventually, Potomac forced the visitors into an ill-advised kick and regathered possession in excellent field position. After a series strong runs earned the Exiles a penalty, the home team opted to take a scrum fifteen meters out from the try line. The forwards set a strong platform and the backs moved the ball through the hands, in large part due to a beautiful skip pass from center John Davis to wing Joenel Joseph. Once he was put into the space, Joseph did not hesitate. He pinned his ears back to finish off one of the most exciting tries of the season. Justin Owens added the conversion to bring the score to 27-31 with just under ten minutes to play.
The momentum of scoring two tries in rapid succession was not enough and, despite a heroic effort from PERC, the Blues were able to stifle the home side’s last minute attack to earn a well deserved victory by a score of 27-31. Although the loss was a tough pill to swallow, the Exiles did manage to earn two bonus points in the affair.
Lock, Mike Minchik, earned Man of the Match honors on Saturday. Minchik’s thumping runs and consistent work in the set piece were a boon to the Exiles for the full 80 minutes. The Exiles look forward to their final match of the fall against the Washington Irish. The match will be played at Kenilworth Park on Saturday, November 17th at 12pm.