April 17, 2016
PRO Rugby Launches League With Denver vs. Ohio
In a much anticipated launch of the PRO Rugby Leagues season, the first of two League matches was held in Glendale, Colorado pitting Denver against the Ohio team. The other PRO Rugby match was in Sacramento with the Sacramento team facing San Francisco. San Diego has a bye and starts their season next weekend.
The League, coaches and players having been actively promoting in the communities. On Friday, Infinity Park’s pitch was in pristine conditions and the Stadium crew worked hard to prepare for this event by removing the snow that covered the pitch with the Spring weekend snow that began Saturday.
PRO Rugby Denver vs. Ohio
Denver touched the ball first when they started play in kicking. Ohio cleared back to midfield. Denver spun the ball to Garrity, but the ball was lost on the tackle. Ohio quickly moved the ball to Suniula who offloaded to Harajly. This break was nullified due to a forward pass.
Early in the match, there seemed to be a pattern evolving of breaks, clearing ball and losing ball due to the ball being slick and from punishing tackles.
Denver appeared to be in position for Mike Garrity to touch down under the posts, but the offload was deemed forward. Shortly after, a no wrap tackle on Garrity had Niku Kruger taking a penalty shot at the posts, but it sailed wide left.
This seesaw battle was finally broken when “Spike” Davis broke down the pitch near touch reaching within 15 meters of the try line. Shaun Davies took the ball from the breakdown before offloading to Roland Suniula for PRO Rugby’s first try (and points). Davies then connected on the conversion and Ohio took a 7-0 lead seventeen minutes into the match.
Denver came right back attacking to the Ohio 22. JP Eloff cleared the ball on a penalty and then used the set play to set up an attack where the ball went wide to Alex Elkins who offloaded to Suniula to Davies. Shaun Davies dove in-goal and knocked on. Denver cleared and Ohio attacked again to Denver’s 22 before a diving over penalty at the breakdown resulted in a Shaun Davies penalty kick to increase Ohio’s lead to 10-0.
Ohio had the momentum and Taylor Howden went in-goal and touched down beyond in-goal denying another try.
Just prior to halftime, Roland Suniula was penalized at the breakdown and Niku Kruger slotted the ball through the posts to narrow the lead. The score was now Denver 3-10 Ohio.
Ohio answered back with another Davies penalty kick when an Ohio player was not released after the tackle. At halftime it was Denver 3 and Ohio 13.
PRO Rugby is trying to reach the youth market and what better way then to have two youth teams play against each other on both sides of the pitch and thus enjoying a brief game of rugby. After the match the players would be available for interviews and autographs, so young rugby spectators could take something tangible away from the match.
The second half began with a penalty to Denver. Malifa cleared to touch, but Denver was not able to take advantage of this attack. Ohio then moved the ball into Denver’s territory. A penalty resulted and Shaun Davies attempted to add to Ohio lead. His penalty kick was short and Denver had some relief.
Ata Malifa then kicked into space which resulted in an Ohio lineout. The ball was soon lost by Ohio and Denver used quick hands to the wing. It seemed as just as Denver had a chance to build momentum, that Ohio would launch effective attacks.
After a penalty to Ohio, JP Eloff kicked to touch, which resulted in an Ohio lineout within 5 meters of the try line. Taylor Howden found the gap a second time, but this time knocked on in-goal.
The scoring would stay the same until with about twelve minutes remaining in the match, Shaun Davies, who had switched to fullback to begin the second half, dove over the ball at the breakdown with Denver attacking deep into Ohio’s territory. The referee sent him to the sin bin and that was all that Denver needed to get themselves right back into the match.
From the penalty, Denver quick hands had the ball in Michael Al-Jiboori’s hands for a try in the corner. Kruger missed the conversion and the score was Denver 8-13 Ohio. The momentum had changed and Pedrei Wannenburg lead the squad as he pounded forward. Denver swung the ball wide. Logan Collins broke blind side and then Will Magie offloaded to Nick Wallace for the try. Just like that the match was tied at 13 all. Niku Kruger was in a position to win the match with the conversion, but it was missed and the match went into extra time.
In PRO Rugby there are no ties. Sudden death 10 minute periods would be played until a winner emerged.
Ohio elected to kick to begin extra time in an attempt to pin Denver deep into their territory. The ball went deep to Denver who quickly swung the ball wide. In some back and forth play by both teams, Denver launched an attack to within 5 meters of the try line. A penalty resulted near touch to Denver. Will Magie slotted the uprights and Denver came back to win 16-13 over Ohio in extra time.
Ohio seemed snake bit in this match as they missed four try opportunities and left this inaugural PRO Rugby match with knowledge that they squandered a win. Denver can take pride that they fought back and seized the momentum to claim the win.
Steve Lewis was very pleased to see that over 2000 fans were in attendance for match. That is remarkable considering the weather conditions.
Denver Squad: 1 Luke White 2 Zach Fenogolio 3 Ben Tarr 4 Brodie Orth 5 Christian Wiessing 6 Logan Collins 7 Peter Dahl 8 Pedrei Wannenburg (C) 9 Niku Kruger 10 Ata Malifa 11 Michael Al-Jiboori 12 Mike Garrity 13 Chad London 14 Martin Knoetze 15 Will Magie 16 Nick Wallace 17 Jake Turnbull 18 Soane Leger 19 Gannon Moore 20 Zac Pauga 21 Bobby Impson 22 Max de Achaval 23 Dustin Croy Coaches: Head Coach – Sean O’Leary, Assistant Coaches: Peter Borlase, David Williams Technical Advisor: Andre Snyman Manager: Kieran Browner
Ohio Squad: 1 Jamie Mackintosh 2 Peter Malcolm 3 Angus MacLellan 4 Pierce Dargan 5 Ryan McTiernan 6 Filippo Ferrarini 7 Matt Hughston 8 Sebastián Kalm 9 Shaun Davies 10 JP Eloff 11 Alex Elkins 12 Taylor Howden 13 Roland Suniula 14 Aaron “Spike” Davis 15 Ahmad Harajly 16 Demecus Beach 17 Cam Falcon 18 Anthony Parry 19 Dominic Pezzutti 20 Chad Joseph 21 Chris Schade 22 Robbie Shaw 23 Mason Baum Coaches: Head Coach-Paule Barford Assistant Coaches: Paul Homes, Eamonn Hogan Manager: Tom Rooney