Denver Stampede Win PRO Rugby Title; Ohio Aviators Win Match

July 31, 2016

Denver Stampede Win PRO Rugby Title; Ohio Aviators Win Match


Photo: PRO Rugby

Doug Coil

The Ohio Aviators defended the Fortress and beat the Denver Stampede  for the PRO Rugby Championship at Obetz, Ohio.

Ohio finished the season with a 9-3 record with 47 points, while the Denver Stampede was 10-2 with 46 points. The only losses by the Stampede were to the Aviators.

Both teams proved all season that they deserved to fight for the Championship. Not only were they exciting teams to watch on the pitch, they, like all the PRO Rugby teams, were involved with the community.

Ohio Aviators v Denver Stampede Match Recap

The Denver Stampede kicked off to begin the match and held the Aviators deep in Ohio territory after six phases before Ohio cleared just beyond midfield. Two Denver penalties later had Ohio opting for a scrum instead of a penalty kick in order to work towards a try. This strategy was not successful as the ball was turned over.

After Denver had a three consecutive lineout errors,  with two not going in straight, the Aviators secured the ball and swung the ball wide to Elkins whre he was met by Mike Garrity. Denver was penalized on the ball and Garrity needed to be assisted from the pitch and was replaced by Martin Knoetze. Ohio kicked for territory, executed a lineout, and the result was Jamie Mackintosh barrelling over for a try and an Aviator 5-0 lead at the 12th minute. Davies missed the kick as the cross wind created havoc for the kickers all day.

Denver then went on the attack getting the ball to the Ohio 22 meter line. A penalty to Denver had them win a lineout, but Wannenbrug was dragged down. The Stampede kicked to touch and a lineout created a scoring opportunity for Denver, as Magie executed a cross-kick in-goal to Croy. Spiket Davis used his reach and knocked the ball from Croy’s grasp saving a try. Ryan McTiernan however, was cited a yellow for a repeat infraction and sent to the bin. From a 5 meter scrum quick ball went left to Chad London for a try. It was now 5 all as the kick was missed.

Denver then lost a player, as Tamana Tahu was sent to the bin. Ohio opted for the penalty kick and slotted the ball between the posts for a 8-5 lead.

The restart was contested by both teams and Ohio emerged with the ball. Roland Suniula found a gap and crossed midfield. Several phases later, the ball was turned over just outside the Stampede 22 on a knock on. The Stampede and the Aviators then each had their attack opportunities, as the ball traded sides.

With five minutes prior to halftime, Ohio camped at the Denver 22 meter line. In an ensuing attack, Ohio moved the ball within 15 meters before turning the ball over again to Denver. The Stampede won the scrum and cleared. Elkins fielded the ball and shifted back on attack mode. A short while later, Elkins broke a tackle, but a pass was not handled deep in Stampede territory.

Neither team could mount a sustained attack that would result in points, so at halftime the lead remained 8-5 in Ohio’s favor.

Matt McCarthy, who was a sidelines as a guest commentator for TWC Sports Channel, asked the Aviators Head Coach Paul Barford about what his team needed to do the second half to obtain a bonus point four try win. Paul calmly indicated that “the team needed to be more clinical in their passing” and would need to account for forwards entering the back line.

The first half has shaped up with Ohio having more of the offensive opportunities and Denver defending well. With 40 minutes of rugby left to decide the PRO Rugby Champions, both teams are too talented not to see some second half offensive fireworks.

Denver’s Head Coach Sean O’Leary was asked by McCaarthy about their strategy. O’Leary indicated that it was a cracker of a first half and Denver was concentrating on winning the match. Bonus points were not discussed with the team.

Ohio kicked off to begin the second half and after going once into contact, cleared. That placed Ohio on the attack. After a few phases, the Stampede were penalized and Shaun Davies added 3 more points two minutes into the half. The score was now 11-5.

Denver came right back getting the 3 points back with a Will Magie penalty kick to narrow the score to 11-8. Denver then fielded the restart and cleared to Ohio and the Aviators were able to reach inside the Denver 22 before the Stampede created a turnover.

Ohio soon took advantage of a Denver penalty and kicked for touch. The Aviators won the lineout and the rolling maul was brought down illegally for a penalty try and after Davies conversion Ohio had 18-8 lead.

On the restart, Denver kicked deep and a handling error gave Denver a 5 meter scrum. Denver moved to within 2 meters of the line after several attacks and then elected a scrum after an Ohio penalty. Their effort paid off as they went blind with a quick flat pass for a Dustin Croy try. The crosswinds continued to be a problem for the kickers, but at the 58th minute the score was 18-13.

At the 51st minute, Jamie Mackintosh was sent to the bin with an infraction on Mose Timateo. Denver attacked and Spike Davis applied a crunching hit, but a penalty went Denver’s way for not rolling away. A kick to touch created a set play for the Stampede. This has been a strength all season, as the lineout turned into a maul ,set up Zach Fenoglio for a try. Magie slotted and Denver took a 20-18 lead.

The  fourth Denver try came after they cleared the ball and Ohio’s Allan Hanson offloaded to Spike Davis, who passed back prior to going into touch. That was all that was needed, as Denver took advantage and Hanco Germishuys went over for a try. It was now 25-18 in Denver’s favor. In the excitement many did not realize that Denver had earned a bonus point, from scoring their fourth try.

After the restart, Allan Hanson was cited for a third infraction and sent to the bin. Denver was on the verge of another try when Spike Davis intercepted the ball and raced down the pitch with Chad London saving a try by forcing Davis into touch at the Stampede 22 meters.

With being down two players, the Aviators stepped up their pace. Only seven minutes remained in the match and Ohio needed two tries to earn a much needed bonus point.

A penalty to Ohio and gave them a chance as they attacked from a 5 meter lineout. A maul quickly developed and Dylan Fawsitt went in for the try. Robbie Shaw then made a difficult conversion to tie the match at 25 all with three minutes remaining.

The action was then fast and furious to the match’s conclusion. Denver successfully took a lineout just outside their 22 meters and cleared the ball. Harajly fielded, but turned the ball over near midfield. Denver then did the same and Ohio won a scrum with no time left. Howden kicked for a lineout just outside Denver’s 22. Riekert Hattingh won the lineout and mauled the ball to within 10 meters. The Aviators then went through multiple attacks before Riekert Hattingh went over for the winning try. Robbie Shaw slotted and the final score was 32-25.

While Ohio won the match and remained unbeaten at “The Fortress”, Denver added 2 bonus points and claimed the PRO Rugby championship. Denver added one of the bonus points for scoring 4 tries and another for keeping the match to a 7 point or less loss. Ohio had a bonus point win with a four try effort.

Denver finished the season with a 10-2 record and 48 points. Both losses came from Ohio. The Aviators had a 9-3 record and had 47 points.

Rugby hindsight can always be discussed after the match. What ifs can’t change a result and are best discussed afterwards.

The match was a heavy weight fight between the two leading League teams. A winning try with no time certainly added to the excitement. Ohio end of the season is bitter-sweet, as in most cases winning in a positive. In a loss, Denver also gained the greater win in claiming the title.

The match will be viewed many times again in the future, but for now, the teams can reconvene later and enjoy each other company in sharing a meal together. What a great rugby tradition.

Douglas Schoninger, CEO of PRO Rugby, indicated that with the League’s success, that  USA rugby has gained worldwide acceptance as an almost equal rugby nation and has provided legitimacy for for USA rugby.

Schoninger continued to reinforce what Director of Rugby Operations, Steve Lewis said earlier, that the League would expand to 7-8 teams in 2017. The Northeast was mentioned, as was having a a League presence in Canada.

Final thoughts on both teams

Ohio Aviators

The Aviators had a outstanding coverage defense and were the leading offensive team in the League and having scored 476 points and scoring 69 tries. The team had the top two try scorers in Aaron ‘Spike’ Davis (14) and Sebastián Kalm (9) and two others, Filippo Ferrarini (6) and Dylan Fawsitt (6) tied for fourth. Dominic Waldoulk trailed the League leaders with 5 tries.

The kicking game was also a strength. Shaun Davies had 84 points, which placed him fifth among all point scorers, but with their potent offensive assault, Robbie Shaw often kicked late in matches (37).

The front row has been solid all season with the leadership of Jamie Mackintosh at prop and Dylan Fawsitt at Hooker. Both are also active at the breakdown and Fawsitt is one of the top try scorers.

Demecus Beach and Angus MacLellan both have performed well when they start at prop. Locks Kyle Baillie, the Canadian international, and Pierce Dargan give the tight five a solid presence.

The back row is one of the best in the League, with Filippo Ferrarini, Sebastián Kalm, and Riekert Hattingh. Both Hattingh and Kalm are leading lineout targets and Kalm and Ferrarini are also among the League’s top try scorers.

The backs are led by Shaun Davies at scrumhalf. He captained the side and was a field general for the team. He paired initially with JP Eloff, but he was injured early in the season and Taylor Howden stepped in and distributed the ball to both Dominic Waldouck and Roland Suniula, who were outstanding as centers.

Dom Waldouck, another scoring leader, will leave to play with the Newcastle Falcons in the Aviva Premiership after this match. Roland Suniula’s hits are legendary, but he is also an offensive force. He also has added instructor to his title as he joined Howden with the Tiger Rugby Academy.

The wings are a work in progress. Spike Davis and Alex Elkins are converted football players. Spike Davis is the leading try scorer and Elkins is also a try threat. Both players have the speed to turn on the jets, while they are a force to bring down.

Fullback has been a position that has been shared this season between Zac Mizell, Allan Hanson and Ahmad Harajly.

Then there is Robbie Shaw, who is one of the most versatile backs and has played where needed and is an intangible on the team.

Denver Stampede

Denver was an outstanding defensive team and their forwards were a force in scoring numerous tries off set lineout plays that were turned into mauls for tries. During the second half of the season their offense really became a cohesive attacking weapon.

The Denver Stampede had the third leading try scorer in Zach Fenoglio (8), while Pedrie Wannenburg (6) was tied for fourth.

The kicking game has been a strength for all the League teams. Will Magie was the fourth leading scorer with 108 points, trailing Volney Rouse (131), Kurt Morath (120) and Mirco Bergamasco  (114).

With an Eagles front row of Ben Tarr, Zach Fenoglio and Chris Bowman, they were a dominant force. Luke White was a versatile player for the Stampede playing both prop and lock. They are fortunate to have that versatility, as Benn Tarr was nursing a shoulder injury from last week and was not available for this week’s match. Jake Turnbull, Soane Leger and Nick Wallace have also had their minutes at prop, with Wallace also at Hooker.

Denver used a combination of Locks this season with Luke White, Logan Collins, Casey Rock and earlier in Christian Wiessing. They have helped to make the forwards formidable in set pieces.

The back row was one of the strongest in the League with Hanco Germishuys, Peter Dahl, and Pedrie Wannenberg, who captained the team. Wannenburg was clearly one of the team leaders. Zach Fenoglio also fit that category as a forward.

This week it was announced that Chris Baumann signed a contract with the Wellington Lions in New Zealand.

The backs have become an offensive force later in the season. With Niku Kruger’s knee injury, Mose Timoteo at scrumhalf, has paired with Will Magie at flyhalf in distributing the ball. Magie, who is one of the leading point scorers, and Ata Malifa are skilled players in their strategic tactical kicking.

Ata Malifa missed the match today, as he had an important life commitment and he’s to be congratulated. When normally found on the pitch, he is a versatile players who is comfortable and effective at flyhalf, center or fullback.

Chad London has been very effective player at center the entire season. He did miss some time during the International Test window, while playing for the Eagles. He generally was teamed with Malifa, but the elusive, yet physical, Timana Tahu was able to move from wing to center when needed.

On wing, a combination of Mike Garrity, Dustin Croy and Martin Knoetze was employed. They, along with fullback Max De Achaval, have seen instrumental in the offensive scheme and have been on several highlight videos.

Both Zac Pauga and Bobby Impson fit into the category of super-reserves. Their high energy are a welcome addition when they are on the pitch.

First hand observations

During this first PRO Rugby season, I had the opportunity to meet with both Denver and Ohio players in April for their first match and later in Ohio at the end of June when the Aviators played the San Francisco Rush.

Both hosting teams continued the rugby tradition of socializing after the match. In Denver it was at a team sponsored pub, while at Ohio it was at a dinner sponsored by City Barbeque for both teams.

Several hours prior to the Aviators matches the team also has met all season at Fádo Irish Pub for a pre-match team meal. After the match, coaches &/or players may return to socialize.

The intangible that can make or break a team is how they  bond together. This is a strength of both teams. Both are a team on and off the pitch.

Ohio Aviators: 1 Jamie Mackintosh 2 Dylan Fawsitt 3 Demecus Beach 4 Kyle Baillie 5 Pierce Dargan 6 Chad Joseph 7 Sebastián Kalm 8 Riekert Hattingh 9 Shaun Davies 10 Taylor Howden 11 Alex Elkins 12 Dominic Waldouck 13 Roland Suniula 14 Aaron “Spike” Davis 15 Zac Mizell 16 Peter Malcolm 17 Dominic Pezzutti 18 Angus MacLellan 19 Zachary Stryffeler 20 Ahmad Harajly 21 Robbie Shaw 22 Allan Hanson 23 Derrick Van Klein Coaches: Head Coach-Paule Barford Assistant Coaches: Paul Holmes, Eamonn Hogan Manager: Tom Rooney

Denver Stampede: 1 Luke White 2 Zach Fenoglio 3 Chris Baumann 4 Logan Collins  5 Casey Rock  6 Hanco Germishuys  7 Peter Dahl 8 Pedrei Wannenburg (C) 9 Mose Timateo 10 Will Magie 11 Dustin Croy 12 Timana Tahu 13 Chad London 14 Mike Garrity 15 Max De Achaval 16 Nick Wallace 17 Jake Turnbull 18 Soane Leger 19  Christian Wiessing 20 Zac Pauga 21 Bobby Impson 22 Kyle Hitt 23 Martin Knoetze Coaches: Head Coach – Sean O’Leary, Assistant Coaches: Peter Borlase, David Williams Manager: Kieran Browner


DJCoil Rugby Preview Ohio Aviators v Denver Stampede

 Ohio Aviators Play Denver Stampede For PRO Rugby Championship

Team Photos: Ohio Aviators & Denver Stampede by Katie Dahl




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North American Rugby News With A USA Slant