This was the league match up that the EPRU and MAC had been hoping for. Last year, while the Doylestown Rugby Club made their way to 5th place in the nation, they didn’t spend too much time slowed by league opponents. The success of the Bucks County club was tremendous exposure for the league and yet, the lack of quality opponents in their region was palpable. As results this year have shown, the league is a much different animal now after each team was given a summer to consider their desires.
The key for DRFC, in the Spring of 2017, was that they decided to care. They decided to put their best foot forward, increase the professionalism of their club, and play with pride. This is an adjustment that it seems most of the league has started to make. The example was set, and the teams of the MAC North have followed suit. Games have been much closer and there is much less quit in the players the Dragons have faced. Pride will do that after a season of stunning defeats for everyone that Doylestown came up against.
The match against Philly Whitemarsh was played under ideal conditions in terms of the weather. A cool day but without very much breeze. Perfect rugby weather. The field, while it was not in great shape, was in a wonderful location as it sat at the base of Philadelphia’s famous Please Touch Museum in historic Fairmount Park.
The match started out with Doylestown’s trademark suffocating defense. Solid line discipline allowed the Dragons to comfortably force turnovers and transition into offense. They were moving the ball extremely well but were finding little room to break through. The first points came by way of a Dylan Hamilton penalty after a whistle for hands in the ruck at the Philly 5 meter line. Philadelphia would answer back shortly thereafter with a PK of their own. The only progress the Philly offense was enjoying was through well placed touch kicks after a few penalties. Overall, Doylestown did a great job of maintaining their discipline. That being said, Philly still did a great job of capitalizing on the handful of opportunities that they did get.
The first try of the game came through some lethal ball movement from Doylestown. Inside center Steve Kornock and captain Dave Kornock, in his return from a shoulder injury, displayed their quick hands as they fed the newest addition to the Dragons, Matt Hartwell, who unleashed his speed for the final 20 meters down the wing. 8-3 Doylestown after the Hamilton conversion bounces off the upright and goes wide.
The lead wouldn’t last long as a true battle of a half of rugby was winding down. With Doylestown on a yellow card advantage for the final 10 minutes of the half after a series of repeat offenses by Philly, they were still unable to extend the lead. In the closing moments, following an avoidable penalty and after a short goal line stand, Philly was able to score under similar circumstances, quick hands exploiting space wide. The halftime score was 8-8. The Doylestown Dragons were in their first battle in years outside of the MAC and National Playoffs of Spring 2018.
Again, in the second half, Doylestown started on the front foot. They were responsible with the ball and aggressive yet disciplined on defense. After an extended period of time in the Philly end, Eric French tapped and went quickly on a try just inside the 22. He rumbled close to the 5-meter line and Dylan Hamilton orchestrated a quick strike, again to Matt Hartwell, for another great try. This time the conversion was made, and Doylestown had retaken the lead at 15-8. The lead was relatively short lived as this seesaw match continued to thrill those in attendance. A skip past in the DRFC backline was intercepted and taken 60 yards for a Philly try to bring them right back into it. Tied up again at 15-15. Philadelphia kept up the pressure and managed to force a penalty in the Doylestown end which they converted to take a 3-point lead.
Doylestown found themselves trailing in the second half of a league game for the first time in almost 2 years. Despite the worry that may have been infecting the sidelines, the poise of the Dragons and the experience gained in their recent playoff run was fully on display in the last 15 minutes. First, when Max Compo took one of his fabled support lines and shot like a cannon through the Whitemarsh backline as he has done so many times in recent memory. Conversion good. 22-18 Doylestown. The final moments were punctuated with some bruising runs from Eric French and a well taken penalty kick for Dylan Hamilton.
Final score Doylestown 25-18 Philadelphia-Whitemarsh
What a game. The better team won with the vast amount of play having taken place in the Philadelphia end of the field. All in all, it was a great win against a talented team. With one game left in the fall season for Doylestown, 1st place in the league is looking like a likely scenario. The Dragons will take on the recently promoted Pheonixville Whitehorse side this weekend at home. Come out and support your Dragons as they look to wrap up their second consecutive undefeated fall.
Man of the Match: Eric French