PHILADELPHIA, PA – In the end, we got the final minutes of Pro Rugby drama and suspense we were hoping for. However, San Diego looked frazzled for much of the final 20 minutes and ultimately, it was another deserved win for Denver, 22-16.
In the opening few minutes, it was clear that Denver was not going to give San Diego the space that Sacramento did last weekend. Still, it was all San Diego in the first 10 minutes. Kurt Morath made the territory advantage pay with a penalty goal to put San Diego up 3-0.
Denver’s first real attacking chance came following the Morath kick. However, the kick to touch from a penalty did not, in fact, find touch.
Unexpectedly, San Diego was able to win the first 3 scrums, which were all Denver put-ins.
Denver looked to gain territory via Will Magie’s boot. For much of the first half, the story was not Denver’s pack versus San Diego’s backs, it was Denver’s kick-chase v San Diego’s counter attack. Denver’s kick-chase was organized and effective. They were able to turn good defense and effective kicks into an attacking 5 meter lineout. It was their first trip into the 22, and they came away with 7 points. Zach Fenoglio scored from the back of the maul to put Denver in the lead. Magie made the tough conversion and it was Denver 7, San Diego 3 after 18 minutes.
San Diego had a long string of phases that started with Mike Te’o picking up a sloppy Denver pass. Te’o carried 5 times the possession before the whistle blew for a penalty to San Diego well inside the Denver 22. Morath made the kick to make it 7-6.
Magie added another 3 for Denver following first a scrum penalty (to give Denver the territory) and then a breakdown penalty (to give them the kickable chance). 10-6 with Denver in the lead after 31 minutes, and that was the score at halftime.
Denver started well in the second half. They created a huge overload, but then couldn’t execute the necessary passes. Shortly after that blown opportunity, Denver executed a lineout move with precision. The break came when Chad London was able to get an offload to Max de Achaval who was able to get the ball to Timana Tahu. Tahu didn’t have the pace, but the ball ended up being scooped up by Niku Kruger for the try. Denver up 15-6
Morath made another penalty goal to keep San Diego within a try, but it was Denver who scored that next try. The success that San Diego enjoyed at the set piece for much of the match deserted them.
From a lineout 25 meters out, Denver built pressure. Eventually, they were forced into touch. San Diego lost the lineout 5 meters from their own try line. Pedrie Wannenburg knocked on trying to reach across for the try. At the resulting scrum, Denver drove over the ball a made a mess for San Diego. The clearing kick was pressured but did find touch. Denver went quickly and the try came when Magie kicked across the field to Martin Knoetzee who tapped the ball down to London for the try.
22-9, Denver in the lead with 17 minutes to play. Denver seemed confident and comfortable while San Diego was scrambling. Eventually, that scrambling paid some dividends. Wannenburg made a poor pass attempt as he was being tackled in his own half. Te’o kicked the ball ahead, re-gathered, and crossed into the try zone. From the try zone, he passed to Phil Mackenzie so that the conversion would be easier. Kalei Konrad made the conversion and San Diego were down 6: 22-16.
In the final moments, Mackenzie again got close to the try line, but San Diego weren’t able to get across. Denver won a scrum, cleanly won possession, and kick into touch to end the game.
Denver were patient and when their opportunities arose, took them. A solid match by both sides.
San Diego: 1) Hubert Buydens 2) Mikey Sosene-Feagai 3) Epi Kalamani 4) David Dolinar 5) Nikola Bursic 6) Chris Turori 7) Cecil Garber 8) Sione Tuihalamaka 9) Charlie Purdon 10) Kurt Morath 11) Tim Stanfill 12) Phil Mackenzie 13) Ryan Matyas 14) Pono Haitsuka 15) Mikey Te’o 16) Tim Barford 17) Sam Taungakava 18) Kakalia Pule 19) Tai Tuisamoa 20) Arnold Meredith 21) Tom Bliss 22) Kalei Konrad 23) Ben Leatigaga
Denver: 1) Luke White 2) Zach Fenoglio 3) Ben Tarr 4) Christian Wiessing 5) Casey Rock 6) Logan Collins 7) Peter Dahl 8) Pedrie Wannenburg 9) Niku Kruger 10) Will Magie 11) Timana Tahu 12) Ata Malifa 13) Chad London 14) Martin Knoetzee 15) Max de Achaval 16) Nic Wallace 17) Jake Turnbull 18) Bobby Ipson 19) Brian Wanless 20) Chris Baumann 21) Mose Timoteo 22) Mike Garrity 23) Gannon Moore
Here is the updated League Table:
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