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!
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