Don’t look now, but the Norfolk Blues are surging again.
While Schuylkill River and then Maryland Exiles flirted with 1st place in the Mid-Atlantic DI club league, it is the Blues who rule the roost at present.
They are first courtesy of an impressive 60-24 defeat of Maryland, who entered Saturday’s game in Virginia with a 4-1 record. But teams aren’t traveling well in MARFU this year, and with a short bench, the Exiles were run into the ground late.
Good news for Norfolk, bad news for Maryland.
“We’re still turning over the team from the one we had two years ago,” said Norfolk’s John Leo. “The young guys are starting to take on more responsibility. We’ve been playing the same style of play for as long as I can remember, and we’re playing it pretty well right now.”
Being in a military city, Norfolk gets experienced rugby players showing up all the time. They also have to deal with those players being deployed – spending six to eight months on a ship, usually. Leo, who is in the Coast Guard, has seen it happen many times. He hopes the Blues can keep this group together.
And it’s a good group. Scrumhalf Dutch Jones, who lives 90 minutes away and puts in a lot of time just to get to training, has been excellent at scrumhalf and scored five tries last weekend. James Simpson is a Navy man who scored two tries against Maryland. Inside center Nick Flynn, another Navy guy, has played well, while flyhalf John Cameron has added value with his leadership and his goalkicking.
These little pieces are coming together, and Norfolk is 5-1, including 2-1 on the road, and in 1st place.
“We know that traveling it’s tough to take a big squad, so we really work on fitness,” said Leo. “We know we should be able to last longer than other teams. The government shutdown was tough on us, and a lot of other teams in and around DC, because they were furloughed, they couldn’t afford to travel. Hopefully, it will be better now.”
Norfolk did lose 36-21 at Schuylkill River September 21 (oddly, Schulykill’s downfall has been at home, where they were upset by Baltimore).
Coming up the Blues game this weekend against Pittsburgh has been rescheduled for the spring, and after that they are at PAC, and at home against NOVA. Meanwhile Schuylkill River is at Baltimore-Chesapeake this weekend, not an easy trip, and then host Maryland in mid-November. The winner of that game will be happy, and Baltimore is right in there, too, but everyone knows now they have to chase Norfolk.
Mid-Atlantic Games this Weekend
Norfolk v Pittsburgh ppd
Schuylkill River (4-2) at Baltimore-Chesapeake (4-2)
Raleigh (1-5) at Maryland Exiles (3-2)
PAC (4-3) at NOVA (0-6)