The Potomac Exiles’ season started with the Division Three’s debut victory, followed up with a 33-10 D1 victory over a scrappy Raleigh club. The Potomac Exiles defended its home turf with two wins, each aided by huge second halves.
D3: 45-22 over D3 Washington Irish
While the home team dominated possession, it was the Washington Irish who struck first blood with a converted try at 15 minutes. Another squandered possession dug Potomac into a 14-0 hole ten minutes later. Irish would extend the lead to 17-0, and the Exiles headed into the break ready to regroup and rededicate themselves to the style of play they’d learned at training.
The second half was a different story, as a mixture of players in their first ever rugby match and guys with 20+ years of experience started to gel. The results were almost immediate, as hooker Bill Whalen crashed across the line seven minutes into the second period. Just three minutes later, winger Sebastian Taylor-Ebanks got his first score of the season, fly half J’Son Townes hit the conversion, and the hosts cut the deficit to just three points.
Lock Rob Black got his first score in his first ever rugby match, center Cory Pugh scored in his Exiles’ debut, J’son Townes crossed pay dirt, and Ballah Boakai scored on a long run—all done in 15 minutes of play— as Potomac put the Irish in the rearview, 38-17. Center Amin Azizi got in on the scoring after a series of cutbacks before Irish would finally respond with a score in the 72nd minute. Three minutes later, Townes dummied once, twice, three times before finding a friend in the 30+ club, offloading to Azizi for his second score to make the final margin, 45-22.
D1: 33-10 over Raleigh Vipers
The offseason brought mixed emotions for the Potomac Exiles as they were high from winning their first MAC title, but lost several starters due to a variety of factors over the summer. Judging from the 33-10 win over the Raleigh Vipers on Saturday in Bethesda, Md., Potomac looks to have found adequate replacements and will be the team to beat this season.
While pleased with the win, Potomac head coach Chris Mahony wasn’t happy with his team’s individualistic play in the first half. “At halftime, we brought everyone together and said that we were panicking a lot. When people got the ball, they were trying to make the miracle play rather than believing in the way we play as a team. We don’t need to make a break and score a try every single phase. We were playing like that in the first half. Once we came back to our own patterns, we started creating space and scoring points. It was difficult for them to chase us around when we were moving the ball like we are supposed to instead of people running off by themselves into a lot of defenders creating contested rucks.”
Captain and outside center Gareth Jones, clearly Raleigh’s best player and team catalyst, started the scoring with a penalty kick to give the Vipers an early 3-0 lead. Both teams exchanged tries back and forth with Potomac’s Jovilisi Fotofili and Josh Lewanituva and Raleigh’s Austin Willis scoring to make the tally 12-10, Potomac. Raleigh had the opportunity to take the lead before the half, but Jones missed two crucial penalty kicks.
The second half was all Potomac as substitutions made an impact and Raleigh tired out. A yellow card for a high tackle a minute into the half didn’t help Raleigh’s cause as flyhalf Chris Saint scored on a keeper in the 50th minute with the man advantage. The Exiles kept up with the pressure and Aaron Dann and Jake Sprang scored tries in the 65th and 75th minutes.
“It was tough,” Raleigh’s Jones said. “We started well, then we had two guys go out with injury and we were thin to begin with. We just tired out at the end and couldn’t quite put it together. We played with a lot of heart and effort and that kept us in the game. In the beginning, we kept our structure, but as the game went on, we tired out. The structure fell down, the fundamentals fell down, and they are a good team and were able to stay consistent for 80 minutes.”