Denver Stampede

Sacramento Express Withstand San Diego Breakers Comeback

July 23, 2016

Sacramento Express Withstand San Diego Breakers Comeback

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Photo: PRO Rugby

Doug Coil

The Sacramento Express took a 15-3 lead into halftime and withstood a San Diego Breakers comeback in a match that was decided with a minute remaining. The Express would emerge with a 35-27 win in one of the most thrilling matches of the PRO Rugby season.

Sacramento Express v San Diego Breakers Recap

San Diego fielded the kickoff and went through several phases. After a second penalty by Sacramento, Kurt Morath slotted a penalty kick for a 3-0 lead two minutes into the match..

Sacramento then took the restart and went through several phases before the Breakers committed an infraction inside their 40 meters. That allowed Mirco Bergamasco to tie the match at 3 all three minutes later.

The ensuing restart did not go 10 meters, so Sacramento had a scrum at midfield. After the a scrum collapsed, the the Breakers were penalized and Harry Bennett attempted a penalty kick at midfield, only to hit the right post.

There were then several attacks by both sides before Sacramento mounted a sustained attack inside the Breakers 22 meters. The Express then played to their strength in playing 10 man rugby with several picks. A penalty seven meters out seemed to stop their attack, but the Express were able to take advantage of a turnover and the end result was a try by Val Lee-Lo. With a Bergamasco conversion, the Express led 10-3  after 25 minutes.

The attacks were coming fast and furious by both teams. San Diego attacked right back after the restart, moving the ball inside the Express 22. The ball was turned over and Bennett cleared. Soon after, the ball was turned over to Sacramento and the Express made the Breakers pay when Nemia Qoro offloaded to John Quill for a try and a 15-3 lead.

It was the Breakers turn to attack as Phil Mackenzie found a gap and offloaded to Mikey Te’o before he lost the ball on contact. Another opportunity was missed for the Breakers, as the ball was cleared to midfield.

Sacramento also lost a golden opportunity to add points in the red zone just prior to halftime. They had three 5 meter scrums until a penalty allowed Morath to clear for the Breakers. At halftime the score was 15-3 in favor of the Express.

Sacramento had the first sustained attack of the second half when they reached about 15 meters from the line. After a San Diego infraction, Bergamasco added a penalty kick for a 18-3 lead after 45 minutes.

San Diego continued its pattern of attacking right back after an Express score. After several phases, the Express were penalized and Mikey Te’o took a quick tap for a try in the corner. The conversion was then missed from near touch by Morath, but the lead was narrowed to 18-8.

Sacramento then answered by moving the ball inside the Breakers 40, and were fortunate that a Breakers’ penalty negated an Express knock on. Bergamasco then added his third penalty kick for a 21-8 Express lead.

Both teams were playing playing roller coaster rugby. There was more action on the pitch then at the California State Fair in the background. That was until San Diego scored three consecutive tries before the Express answered back.

Andrew Suniula found a gap and off-loaded to Mikey Te’o for his second try. Kurt Morath slotted the conversion from touch and the score was 21-15. The Breakers then quickly scored again after taking the ball within 2 meters. The ball was spun wide and Taku Ngwenya had an easy try. With Morath’s conversion, San Diego regained the lead 22-21.

Keeping the ball in hand started to paid off for the Breakers. Cecil Garber streaked down the wing to within 10 meters. A few phases later, Ryan Matyas was in for a try. Morath missed the conversion, but the Breakers now led 27-21.

Then The Express answered back with ten minutes remaining. Garrett Brewer found a gap for a try which was converted by Bergamasco to regain the lead 28-27.

With time winding down, Sacramento mounted a last attack as Ray Barkwill moved the ball inside the Breakers 22 meters. The Breakers committed an infraction, but instead of electing an almost certain penalty kick that would have forced San Diego to score a try to win, the Express kicked for touch. A five meter lineout quickly became a maul before Kyle Sumsion slipped under a Cecil Garber and Pat Blair tackle for a try. Bergamasco then converted and the outcome of the match was determined as the Express took a 35-27 lead.

On the tackle Pat Blair and Cecil Garber’s heads collided. Blair sustained a head or neck injury on the play and was taken off the field, hopefully for precautionary reasons.

With 30 seconds on the clock, Sacramento was then penalized for coming in from the side of the breakdown. San Diego then attempted the only strategy that had a chance to win the match. Kalei Konrad attempted a penalty kick, but that it went wide left. Had he made the kick, the Breakers would have had an opportunity to take the restart and a try could have then won the match.

With the miss, the match ended 35-27 in favor of the Sacramento Express.

The Sacramento Express record now is 3 -8 and with 16 points. Ahtough they are in fifth place, they still have some hope to move to fourth after they conclude the season next Saturday.

They will be rooting for Denver to beat San Francisco tomorrow. Should that happen, they win against San Francisco at home next Saturday, they would then finish in fourth place.

The San Diego Breakers ended their season tonight as both teams were engaged in a thrilling offensive match. Despite the loss, they left all they had on the pitch and picked up a losing bonus point.

The Breakers end their season with a 4-8 record and 25 points. They will finish in third place for the first season of PRO Rugby unless San Francisco wins against Denver tomorrow and then against Sacramento next week. Then the Rush could finish in third place. The Rush currently have 17 points.

At the moment, the Express trail the Rush by one point and feel confident in playing them. They have already played against them twice, while winning both times. Winning is not a foregone conclusion as the Rush have been playing some excellent rugby recently.

A Denver win tomorrow sets up two interesting scenarios.It would set up a both a battle for fourth place between the Express and Rush, while the Denver Stampede and the Ohio Aviators play for first place in Ohio. That would be an exciting way for the final matches of the PRO Rugby season to end next weekend.

Mirco Bergamasco as named the Man of the Match with 15 points. He now has 100 points for the season and is in fourth place among League scoring leaders.

In a losing effort, Mikey Te’o had two tries. He would have liked his team to win, but it is still a good birthday present. Both he and his team should be proud of their accomplishments. It’s time to enjoy the camaraderie of their teammates and opposing players as they meet after the match.

Sacramento Express: 1 Eric Fry 2 Cam Falcon 3 Val Lee-Lo 4 Robert Meeson 5 Matt Doubek 6 Kali Tavake 7 John Quill 8 Kyle Sumsion 9 Chris Saint 10 Mirco Bergamasco 11 Garrett Bender 12 Nemia Qoro 13 Jope Motokana 14 Cody Jerabeck 15 Harry Bennett 16 Ray Barkwill 17 Olive Kilifi 18 Estephan Tuimasanga 19 Ryan Koewler 20 Sione Latu 21 Ronald Dwyer 22 Joeli Tikosuva 23 Shane Moore Coaches: Head Coach – Luke Gross Assistant Coaches: Kevin Battle, Fred Waititi

San Diego Breakers: 1 Mason Petersen 2 Joe Taufete’e 3 Jake Ilnicki 4 Nikola Bursic 5 Tai Tuisamoa 6 Derrick Broussard 7 Cecil Garber 8 Chris Turori 9 Charlie Purdon 10 Kurt Morath 11 Taku Ngwenya 12 Andrew Suniula 13 Ryan Matyas 14 Phil Mackenzie 15 Mikey Te’o 16 Mikey Sosene-Feagai 17 Epi Kalamani 18 Kakalea Pule 19 Pat Blair 20 Bruce Thomas 21  Zach Pangelinan 22 Kalei Konrad 23 Pono Haitsuka Coaches: Head Coach – Ray Egan Assistant Coaches: Matt Hawkins, Rob Hoadley Manager: Sean Lindersmith

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