Philadelphia Whitemarsh RFC (6-1) got 6 tries from their wings and weathered the storm that was the Reading RFC (5-2) pack to repeat as EPRU Champions 58-33 on Saturday. Tim Antoian acounted for 3 of the tries outside helping PW pull away after Reading got within 3 in the second half. The win gives PW the number one seed for the MARFU Chapionships in the spring.
It was cold and windy from start to finish, but that didn't stop either team from racking up points. Immediately after kick off it seemed, the score was already 3-3, with both sides cashing in on penalty kicks. Three minutes later, PW scrumhalf, Brian Oteri, scooped up a loose ball on a defensive ruck, used a stiff-arm to break through Reading's defense and raced the remaining 30 meters for the try. Outside Center Jim Rosato converted the try to put PW up 10-3. The scoring settled down for a bit as both sides put together multiple phases, but could not finish. At the 15 minute mark, Kurht Engle picked up the first try for the PW wings, finishing a backline play in the corner puting PW up 15-3. Two minutes later, Reading was penalized at midfield. PW flyhalf Conway Maraki looked as though he was going to kick to touch, but instead, tapped and flipped the pill to hooker Cesare Coscia who ran untouched through Reading's line. Coscia dished to #8 and PW captain Bob Haller who went untouched until passing to flanker Tim Foley who dotted down under the posts. Rosato's conversion gave PW a 22-3 lead midway through the first half. Reading did anything but roll over.
Instead, Reading took advantage of a slew of penalties commited by PW, hitting 3 penalty kicks over the next 7 mintues and cutting the lead to 10. During that period, Reading's forward pack was tough to stop, holding a significant size advantage over the PW pack. PW put themselves at a further disadvantage when Foley was given a yellow card for repeated team infractions. Even down a man, PW's speed outside was able to shine. PW attacked the weak side off a scrum, used simple hands to find Antoian on the wing for his first try of the game. Rosato's kick made it 29-12. Reading's forwards forced another penalty with 5 minutes left in the half, but the kick went wide. Undaunted, the Reading pack marched right back down the field and scored under the posts and converting to cut the lead to 29-19 at halftime.
PW started the second half back at full strength but again was unable to stop the Reading forward pack, who marched right down the field and scored a converted try just 3 mintues into the second half to cut the lead to 3 at 29-26. Reading's defense took center stage over the next ten minutes, thwarting PW as they tried to extend their lead. Finally though, Engle found paydirt for the second time. Rosato's kick went wide but PW had taken a 34-26 lead and never looked back. Four minutes later, PW fullback Luis Tulio returned a kick down to Reading's 5 meter line. Maraki muscled himself the rest of the way for the try. Rosato's kick was again affected by the strong winds, sailing wide. Rosato did hit his next conversion five minutes later after Brennan Conway, who came in for an injured Engle on the wing, scored in the corner. PW led 46-26 with 20 mintues remaining.
PW was forced to play a man down again after replacement second row Dan Walsh recieved a yellow card with 12 minutes remaining. Just like the first time, it was Antoian who followed the card with a try, taking a feed from Haller on the weak side of the scrum the last 30 meters for his second of the day. Rosato converted to put PW up 53-26. With under 5 minutes remaining, Reading intercepted PW on their own 22 and strided over the line to make it 53-33 with the conversion, marking only the second time PW has given up 33 points in a game in the last two seasons. The other time being last year's National Championship game, which they lost 36-20 to New Orleans RFC. In the final minute, Inside Center John Knab broke through Reading defense but was held up in the try zone. Antoian finished up his hat trick off of the ensuing srum to give PW a 58-33 lead just as the final whistle sounded to give PW back-to-back EPRU Championships.
PW will look to repeat as MARFU Champs this spring as the #1 seed. They will host the #3 team out of the Virginia Rugby Union in the MARFU Quarterfinals. As EPRU runner-up, Reading earns the #4 MARFU slot and will host the Potomac Rugby Union runner up in the MARFU Quarterfinals. Old Gaelic RFC (5-2) defeated North Penn RFC (5-2) in the EPRU Consolation Match to earn the #7 MARFU seed. They will travel to the VRU Champ in the MARFU Quarterfinals.