Vipers again fail to find answers for Blues in Norfolk

In recent years the matchup with Norfolk has become somewhat of a house of horrors for Raleigh. The Vipers didn’t wake up from the nightmare Saturday in Norfolk, dropping a 50-30 decision made as close only by two late tries by Stephen Johnson and Gareth Jones that netted the Vipers a bonus point.

The Vipers have beaten or at least lost at the last minute to every other team in the league in the last few years, but its nearest geographical Mid Atlantic Conference rival has proven an enigma of sorts. Saturday, characteristically fit and well-drilled home side took advantage of several Raleigh ball-handling mistakes by the backline as well as punished the Viper pack in scrummages. After praising the effort at Patomac Exiles the week before, coaches were less thrilled by that of a traveling side relatively strong in numbers.

The loss drops the Vipers to 0-3 in league to start a schedule in which the first four games came against playoff squads from last season. Next Saturday the Vipers host defending MAC champion Schuylkill River.

The Blues took a 10-0 lead 11 minutes in after a pair of tries from winger David Paradiso. Raleigh initially appeared game to stay in the match, tightening the gap to 10-5 on a score from inside center Rob Grodinsky, and half-way through the first half it remained a one-score game.

But in the 21st minute Norfolk fly half Jacob Humphrey broke through and would convert his own try to make it 17-5, and Raleigh could never get within a score again. Jones, Raleigh’s outside center, converted a long penalty in the 24th minute that would bring it to 17-8, but scrum half Dutch Jones answered six minutes later with an unconverted try. The pattern repeated itself; Gareth Jones added another penalty before Dutch Jones responded with another try, making the score 29-11 at half.

Humphrey scored the second try in the 47th minute and though prop Abe Harman pounded in a try at the 57th minute, Blues answered three minutes later, this time eight-man Andrew Somplasky finishing the drive. Paradiso would later complete his hat trick in the 72nd minute to finish off the scoring for Norfolk.

Down 50-16, Raleigh still had a chance to pull out a point in the standings. Johnson flashed some speed on the wing for Raleigh to score in the 76th minute, and three minutes later Jones stretched across the line with the ball to net the team’s bonus point-earning fourth try.

While Norfolk proved why they have been playoff regulars in the past and have run their record to 3-0 this season, the Vipers coaches expressed frustration with the consistent barrage of mistakes.

During postgame festivities, Dave Buboltz was named Raleigh’s man of the match. The flanker flew all around the field, providing regular bursts of energy in rucks and tackles.

The 0-3 team looks to turn things around in the long 12-game season at home Saturday against the Schuylkill River Exiles.

Posted by: Mik Streicker

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