INFINITY PARK, CO – On a clear, slightly windy night, spectators here in Glendale witnessed one of the best Pro Rugby matches to date. In a rematch, San Fransisco traveled to Denver after having a bye the previous week. The beleaguered visitors from the City By The Bay, having gone 0-4 to start the season, arrived in Colorado looking to make a statement. And they did. However, their efforts would not prove enough to win and Denver improved to 5-0 as they go into a bye week, after the 41-37 victory.
From the very start this was going to be a physical game and San Fransisco seemed to be playing like a team who reinvented themselves in their bye week. They made this evident by working the ball quickly into Denver territory in the opening minutes earning a penalty, which Voulney Rouse converted for the match’s first points. (3-0 to SF).
The first part of the first half was plagued with many simple mistakes which lead to a multitude of line outs and scrums. Neither team seemed to get their structure flowing. Denver, however, earned a penalty for hands in the ruck by San Fran. A line out inside SF’s 22m would lead to a Denver driving maul and an eventual try by Hooker Zach Fenoglio. Will Magie would convert to give Denver the lead (7-3 to Den.).
Play would continue to be filled with penalties from both sides and SF received a warning after continually being offside at the breakdown. As the match progressed, SF would find themselves in Denver territory knocking on the door for their first try. That would come from number 12 Orene Ai’i, off a 5m scrum SF earned after Denver number 8 Pedrie Wannenburg got sin binned for being offside. Rouse would convert to give SF lead. (10-7 to SF).
On the preceding kickoff San Fransisco would knock on, continually struggling with the kick off, giving possession to Denver. Denver earned a penalty after another offside by SF. Magie would convert to tie the match up at 10-10.
The middle part of the first half would see play open up for both sides. Possession went back and forth and SF made the break down especially difficult with their physical counter rucks. One of these counter rucks deep in Denver territory resulted in a 5m scrum with the arm pointed in SF’s direction. Resting possession San Fran found the try zone again after a skip pass on the wing to number 11 Pila Longi. Rouse would yet again convert to give the lead back to San Fransisco who was making the most of being a man up. (17-10 to SF).
The preceding kick off SF would yet again knock on and give a scrum to Denver who was back at full strength with the return of Wannenburg after his sin bin. In loose play Denver’s Ata Malifa grubbed deep into SF territory which Denver collects and works to the opposite side of the field where Prop Luke White showed off some skill with a show and go, a broken tackle and finally finding the try zone. Magie converts to tie the match back up at 17 all.
San Fransisco continued to be a nuisance for Denver at the breakdown, making quick ball very difficult for Denver’s scrum half Mose Timoteo. Stealing a ball in the ruck from Denver SF earned themselves a penalty in front of the poles which Rouse who had yet to miss a kick continued his streak and taking the lead once again for SF. (20-17 to SF).
Finally collecting a kickoff SF worked the ball out to the backs where Rouse dummies his way through for a strong 25m gain. In the resulting ruck the ball would pop out and Denver’s Chad London would scoop it up for an easy try under the poles. Magie converts to give Denver their first lead. (24-20 toDen.).
In the closing minutes of the first half ,San Fran would find themselves with the majority of possession but unable to make anything happen. A strong tackle by London of a SF back out of bounds would conclude the first half.
As both teams returned to the pitch to begin the second half, it was apparent that San Fransisco was far from calling it a game; they were very fired up. Play would open up with a back and forth of kicks, giving neither side the edge. SF would finally retain possession, continually playing it to their forwards and would find some good breaks from number 5 David Tamielau. Denver would, however, steal the ball and Magie made a massive break after utilizing some quick footwork to eventually be tackled deep in SF territory. Earning a penalty from SF committing an offsides infraction Denver elected to kick for a line out, which they took inside SF’s 22m. Retaining possession, Timoteo dished to lock Casey Rock who would dive and find the try line. Magie converts to extend Denver’s lead. (31-20 to Den.).
Off of the preceding kickoff, Denver’s Timana Tahu would be sin-binned for a hitch tackle. Rouse launches a ball deep into Denver territory for a lSF line out. In loose play, Tamielau would pick and go from the ruck finding the try zone and cutting down on Denver’s lead. (31-27 to Den.).
SF committing too many infractions at the break-down would have their number 8 Bill Fukofuka binned and level the field at 14 player a piece each side. Electing to kick for a line out, Denver would yet again bring the ball down for a maul and drive it over for a try… this time seeing Christian Wiessing earning himself a try. Magie would miss his first kick. (36-27 to Den.).
After collecting the ball off of a Denver knock, SF earns a penalty in the following scrum from Denver barging in. Rouse would elect to kick and out it down the middle to cut down again on Denver’s lead. (36-30 to Den.).
Denver utilized it subs by bringing on Gremishuys, Bauman, and Orth. Baumann would make a big impact matching SF’s physicality at the breakdown and in the tackle.
Off of a set piece, Denver works the ball to the backs and Magie dishes to London who came down hard and broke the line. Breaking a tackle and fending off another, he finds the try zone. Magie would miss again. (41-30 to Den.).
After earning themselves a penalty, SF would quick tap and nearly make it over… but be stopped. Retaining possession San Fransisco’s number 2 Jay Finau would pick and go for the try. Rouse converts to bring SF within 4 and the chance to take the lead back with another try. (41-37 to Den.).
The rest of the match would be a back and forth of possession but at the final whistle Denver would continue their winning ways and be the victors, with the 41-37 final tally leaving all in attendance a bit out of breath.
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