It has been a great inaugural season for PRO Rugby North America. But, all good things must come to an end. Don’t worry, that only means we are looking at a real PRO Rugby Championship weekend!
After getting the victory and bonus point over The Rush 31-24, the Denver Stampede have moved into first place, meaning the Ohio Aviators will now need the victory AND bonus point to claim champion’s bragging rights for the next year.
A sentiment that is well in the cards for the Midwestern powerhouses, as they have scored more tries (65) and bonus points (10) than any other team all season. However, that is next week.
This week saw the San Francisco rush fall just one try short of a top 3 finish in the standings this year, despite leading by more than two tries at one point. Orene Ai’i and team captain Volney Rouse were among a few of the standouts for the bay area team.
San Francisco came out of the gate looking to play the pass and run game, which suites them best. It wasn’t long into the first half that #11 Pila Iongi was able to shoot through several gaps and put the Rush on top early on.
Denver was able to parry the blow, however, with a fantastic leaping try by #12 Timana Tahu along the touch line. An unsuccessful conversion would keep The Rush in the lead 7-5.
The teams continued to trade tries, with the wind factoring in on several kick forcing them to go wide. Halftime came with the Rush leading the Stampede 17-12.
San Francisco came out of the gate in the second half with just as much fire as they did in the first, showcasing the speed and quick hands that helped get them through the latter half of the season. After a missed drop goal by Ai’I early on, Rouse was able to dip and dodge through Denver’s defenders to extend the lead to a commanding 24-12.
Not to be kept down, #11 Martin Knoetze for Denver was able to shorten the gap by taking it in for a try at the very edge of the try line after a pass-happy frenzy at the try line door. A few minutes later, the game was all tied up for a second time at 24 points.
San Francisco’s wings and forwards went into over drive, with their wings catching huge breakaways and scrumhalf Ferris pulling of his usual behind the back off loads. It wouldn’t be enough unfortunately, as the infamous Denver defense was able to hold it together.
Chad London was the one to pull the Stampede ahead one final time, getting the try after catching a long pass to the outside. Despite a final great effort by the Rush, the big men in purple were able to hold fast, eventually leading to a kick out of play to end the game at 80+ minutes, for a final score of 31-24.
Some people thought this game would be a cake walk for Denver, others thought this would be the upset of the season. No matter what many people believed prior, nobody can deny this was one of the most entertaining match ups of the season.
Despite many injuries to both the pack and wings, Denver still has a great chance of capturing the first ever PRO Rugby title, as they tout one of the few defenses that might be able to stop the relentless try-scorers of the Aviators. Tune into prorugby.org and One World Sports next week to see how it turns out!
In the second match of PRO Rugby week 14, we saw the Denver Stampede manhandle a deplorable Sacramento defense to the tune of 59-13. Denver and Ohio now are sure to duke it out for the honor of being the first ever PRO Rugby champions.
The Express seemed to come out with a pretty clear plan at first. Be aggressive on contesting the rucks, and use an array of well-placed kicks to keep the game play in Denver Territory. Neither of those tactics were able to come to fruition. For although Sacramento opened up the scoring with a Bergamasco kick early in the first half, Denver was able to score a total of five tries before half time came about.
Any kind of strategy employed by the NorCal squad would not last, or at least, wasn’t effective. Sacramento’s defense in the first half was practically nonexistent. The Express had to continually commit 2-3 men per tackle, leaving huge gaps open on the outside, allowing the Stampede to…well…stampede all over them with quick passing by the wings being followed up by punishing runs by the forwards .
The two squads would go into halftime with Denver leading 33-6.
Ata Malifia opened up the second half with a try for Denver, displaying some great footwork in between defenders. Plays like that continued to be Sacramento’s problem the entirety of the day. For although Sacramento’s defense would step it up a bit after this, it was at a minimal level. As they would periodically find themselves without enough support to counter the explosive runs by Denver’s athletic wings.
Many times in the second half, Sacramento found themselves inside the 22 or even inside the 5 meter line. Unfortunately, penalties by both sides would kill any momentum built up. And even when the penalty went Sacramento’s way, they wouldn’t be able to capitalize, as Denver’s consistently swarming defense would quell any attempts at a rolling maul or to spread the ball out wide.
Sacramento would eventually score one try in garbage time when fullback Hodgkinson hit his stride on a huge breakaway. However, the consolation try would only be made to seem more worthless, as Denver put it down for one more try right after, ending the game at 59-13.
Denver showed again today why they continue to be near the top of the PRO Rugby totem pole. Their defense would not allow Sacramento to get anywhere near their territory all day, thus taking away their two biggest weapons: The rolling maul, and captain Bergamasco’s kicking foot.
Sacramento’s forwards kept it physical all day, showing slight defensive improvement in the second half. Unfortunately, their inability to effectively cycle the ball to their runners, or get All-star Langhilanghi involved all day, led to their downfall. Sacramento might be looking at a bottom of the barrel finish in 2016, while Denver continues its quest for the top.
By Frozen One
Sacramento, CA- In a game that was supposed to be a one sided affair, many expectations were shattered. The Sacramento Express added another one to their loss column on Saturday versus the Ohio Aviators 41-31, but they damn sure went down fighting.
The first half featured a physical, defensively dominated contest that saw the Express suppress the deadly rolling maul of Ohio not once, but twice inside the 22-meter. They created offense of their own along the way to, as the team’s forwards, particularly recent standout Langhilanghi Haupeakui, were able to use their bulk to create openings for huge breaks by the wings.
Unfortunately for the Green and White, Ohio’s goal line defense remained solid, creating turnovers and forcing momentum killing penalties that kept Sacramento out of the try zone for all but one time of the first half.
As the second half got underway, Ohio seemed to be going through with their usual song and dance, by which I mean going on a try scoring frenzy on their way to another dominating victory. Alex Elkins was able to cash in after a huge break-away by Roland Suniula to open up the half, and many more tries followed after that, coming by way of Riekert Hattingh (2), Kyle Baillie and Spike Davis.
Sacramento could have rolled over and accepted the fact this game was far out of reach. This, ultimately, was not to be the case.
Down 41-10 in the last quarter of the second half, the reserves of Sacramento brought new life to their comrades on the pitch. Using a fast paced, pass first offense, the Express went on a 3 try frenzy, bringing them within striking distance of one of the greatest comebacks in PRO Rugby history.
The Ohio squad was able to double down in the last ten minutes though, as they were able to hold their line during one last crucial drive for Sacramento, eventually having a penalty go their way, allowing them to play the possession game as time wore down.
The final score as 80 minutes was reached was 41-31. Let’s say Ohio won the first half, while Sacramento ran away with the second. It’s a small consolation, but one thing is for sure. This league belongs to either Denver or Ohio in 2016, and we may have to wait till the season’s final match to find out who!
In this Sunday’s match up between the Ohio Aviators and the San Diego Breakers, Ohio once again showed why they are one of the most dominating forces in American Rugby, sealing a 44-21 victory over the SoCal squad.
The match began close, with the score being tied 3-3 more than ten minutes into the first half. Ohio then opened up door with one of their now infamous rolling mauls going in for the first try of the game.
Although the Breakers did a good job of controlling the pace and territory through the remainder of the first half, Ohio’s defense would not budge within the red zone. Ohio’s Waldouck was able to score another try before the half expired, putting the home team ahead 20-6 at 40 minutes.
With a not-so-impossible deficit to overcome, San Diego came into the second half (at first) with a rambunctious vigor to their speed and passing. Unfortunately, many of their big breaks and opportunities were quelled by either heart breaking turnovers or penalties.
That’s when the floodgates began to open. Ohio’s forwards such as Jamie Mackintosh and Demarcus Beach began creating gaps for their wings by plowing through tackles forcing more of San Diego’s men to commit to stopping them.
Not only that, but the ball control and passing today by the Aviator wings was on a much higher level than we have seen by any other team this season. With switches and off loads being given (most of the time) with pinpoint accuracy.
The Breakers refused to give in though. Despite trailing by more than 30 points at one time, and Ohio committing a HUGE amount of penalties when backed up against their own try line, they constantly suppressed efforts by the Aviators to run the score up even more, becoming the first team to hold them under 50 points in what has become known as The Fortress, in Obetz, Ohio.
San Diego’s season doesn’t get any easier, as they prepare to take on the Denver Stampede next week, who are looking to retake their former place at the top of the standings.
Ohio secured another bonus point in today’s effort after scoring 4+ tries.
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