RUGBY SUPER LEAGUE - WEEK 2 RESULTS
DENVER BARBARIANS @ OLD PUGET SOUND BEACH
The pattern of close Rugby Super League games continued in the Pacific Northwest as Old Puget Sound Beach held off the challenge of the Denver Barbarians 31 – 29. In a game with several lead changes, OPSB survived a late charge by Denver to get off to a winning start. Last year’s matchup between these two came down to the final seconds, and this year would be no different.
The first half started with Denver in possession for multiple phases, probing OPSB's defense. The visitors were rewarded with a soft try under the posts by center Jake Humphrey, converted by outhalf Taylor Howden. OPSB prop forward Josh Osborn stole the ball in a ruck and it was quickly passed through the hands to Alipate Tuilevuka who was able to score in the corner. The difficult conversion was successful by OPSB fullback Evan Haigh. And the dye was cast for the majority of the first half, with Denver being methodical and going through the phases with some success and OPSB waiting to counter attack and unleash their speedy back line. OPSB playmaker Isimeli Daveta went down with a possible broken arm and Beach had to reshuffle their backline. Another turnover in the ruck by OPSB deep inside their own 22 was spread wide to winger Filimoni Botitu who danced his way to midfield and off loaded to winger Bobby Fitzpatrick who dotted down his first of three tries on the day. Converted by Haigh once again. Repeated mental mistakes by OPSB allowed Denver to set up their excellent rolling maul from a line out and the visitors were rewarded with their second try on the day from second row Tom Hewitt. At the half, OPSB 14 and Denver 12.
Denver came out in the second half with a strong push and after continued pressure inside OPSB's 22, the ball was spun wide from a quick ruck to Humphrey who scored his second try on the day. On the ensuing kick off, Denver knocked on the ball which OPSB quickly recycled to Haigh who split the gap between defenders and made a perfect pass to Botitu who raced into the corner and touched down under the posts. Conversion good by Haigh. In the 55th minute, Denver scored again from a quick tap by number 8 Tommy Pasque who was a solid runner all afternoon. Conversion missed from Howden. OPSB replied after Tuilevuka was able to break through the Denver defense and put the visitors on the back foot. After a quick recycle, the ball was spread wide to Fitzpatrick who scored his second try. Conversion missed by Haigh. Mike Mangan, Denver's second row speedster was able to scoop up a loose ball at the back of a ruck in midfield and ran over and ran away from three defenders. Mangan's size and speed continues to impress. Conversion good by Howden made the score Denver 29 and OPSB 26 with less than 10 minutes to play. The game's final try started deep inside OPSB's half as Botitu kicked ahead inside Denver's 22. The Denver player knocked the ball on and another Denver player scooped it up from an offside position, giving a penalty to the home side. Haigh decided to take a quick tap and barreled ahead within meters of the tryline. After a few failed attempts to push over from the mixed pile of desperate players, OPSB spun the ball wide to Fitzpatrick who scored his third try on the day. A collective sigh of relief went through the home crowd of 400 as it looked like Beach was going to pull off the victory. Denver had other intentions as they quickly recycled the ball and ran deep inside OPSB's 22. Desperate defense and several lunges by Denver's forwards to score the deciding try provided the audience with a nail biter finish. The final whistle blew as Denver was held up in the try zone. Final score OPSB 31-Denver 29.
Denver falls to the very unfamiliar position of no wins from their two outings thus far, and will have to wait two weeks to try to get their first win of the season. There is some consolation in the overall points total, as Denver has two points from their close losses.
DALLAS HARLEQUINS @ UTAH WARRIORS
Over in Utah, the only blowout on the day’s scoreboard came courtesy of the Utah Warriors, who saw off the challenge of the Dallas Harlequins by a score of 78-15. Ominous skies and strong winds throughout the day threatened this game with challenging weather conditions, but by the time kick off arrived the wind had diminished and the pitch was dry. In what has become a consistent pattern, Utah opened the game with several penalties, inviting Dallas to play the majority of the first 5 minutes in Utah territory, but the Warrior defense held firm, then gave way the Utah attack. Mike Palefau opened the game’s score card by dotting down under the posts after receiving a skillful off-load from Richard White who had achieved a nice line break off set-piece ball. Jason Pye converted, and with eight minutes off the clock Utah led 7-0.
Three minutes later, Palefau continued his scoring ways with another brilliant solo counter attack, and once again Jason Pye converted the straight-on kick. It was Pye who found points next, placing the ball down in the right corner on a 5th phase run as Utah started to find continuity and stretch the score to 19-0. Second rower, Mike Law, nimbly hauled in the high ball off a Warrior lineout and the ball was presented to a hard-charging winger Matt Byrd who scored Utah’s fourth try of the opening half which was converted by captain Jason Pye. A few moments later, Utah lapsed defensively and left a Harlequin right-side touch-line open and the visitors made them pay with a boot to the corner, scooped up by Dallas’ fleet-footed wing Scott Girling who took the ball in and put Dallas on the board. A yellow-card ensued for Utah for repeated infringements, but it didn’t seem to matter as Jason Pye ran in his second of the night after the Warriors spread the field effectively and created space up the middle. And in the 37th minute, front-row reserve, Kite Afeaki rambled in for his second short-handed try on the season following an excellent display of ball retention by Utah and the ability to burn through several phases of play very quickly. Pye converted, and at the break Utah held a commanding lead of 40 to 5.
In the second half, scrumhalf Ben Nicholls scored two successive tries, the first, an astute effort off a Dallas penalty, and the second a sneaky about-face off the back of the scrum after Dallas had closed down the strong side. Jason Pye converted both. In the 68th minute, forward reserve Isi Helu added another try with a ball taken from a lineout. Dallas countered with two unconverted tries of their own, Girling getting his second and scrumhalf Ryan Phillips adding the second, showing great sportsmanship and resolve. But Utah flanker and captain, Sa Palepoi, who played a brilliant game, halted any Harlequin momentum with a deftly intercepted Dallas backline ball, and raced in untouched. Ben Nicholls converted the try, as well as Utah’s next score which was run in by Joe Lomu in the 74th minute. In the closing moments, the energetic crowd was treated once more to a bit of Mike Palefau dazzle as the outstanding fullback ran through and around several defenders en route to his third try of the young season.
Dallas will regroup at home to Old Puget Beach next weekend, while a mouth watering clash is on the cards as the Warriors travel to take on San Francisco Golden Gate.
John Doody / Jon Law / Tim Zern
CHICAGO GRIFFINS @ NEW YORK ATHLETIC CLUB
In New York, a couple of close games suggested it may be a very competitive season in the 2011 Rugby Super League. On Travers Island, NYAC got their campaign to retain the Championship off to the best possible start, with a bonus point win over the Chicago Griffins. “No way through” reports NYAC’s Bruce McLane, praising a Griffins side that came to play. It was a very physical game, with everything hotly contested. Again this week, a strong wind played a factor in the game, with the Griffins taking advantage to move out to an 11-5 half-time lead. NYAC eventually took the lead in the second half, pushing the score to 17-16. NYAC added another score to make it a more comfortable 22-16, but the Griffins came storming back to score in the corner at the final whistle. The conversion attempt was no good, not surprising given the very difficult conditions.
Karl Harding had one of the tries for the visitors, and his teammate Pat Marek had a couple. Andrew Suniula completed the Griffins scoring with a pair of penalties. Both McLane and head coach Mike Tolkien praised the play of Griffins, in particular Suniula, outhalf Curtis MacLean and hard charging number 8 Viliami Fakatou. Try scorers for NYAC were winger Steve Annuziato, number 8 Paul Jesseman, strong running center BJ Hall, and newly returned scrumhalf Mike Petri, with Troy Hall adding the conversion to round out the NYAC scoring.
Also in New York, the Chicago Lions came away with a close win over Old Blue by a final score of 24-22. The Lions dominated much of the opening fifteen minutes, and were rewarded first with a try from scrumhalf Dave Selimos and later another through prop Dave Knab, Mark Roberts adding the conversion for the early twelve point lead. The Lions had several opportunities that were not capitalized upon, either through knock-ons or excellent defensive work that prevented the Lions from grounding the ball. Indeed Lions player representative Chris McClellan cannot recall a game where there were as many contested groundings, on both sides of the ball. While the Lions were not exerting their dominance on the scoreboard, Old Blue started clawing their way back into the game. Flanker John Hoehmann finished off a sustained period of forward pressure by scoring from close range, and the conversion was supplied by Elliot Rechtin for the half time score of 12-7.
The second half started much the same as the first, with the Lions again dominating proceedings. Old Blue coach noted the impressive play of Lions flanker Joey Chesak throughout the game. However it was Old Blue to score first in this half, narrowing the gap with a penalty kick. Lions hooker Phil Abraham extended the lead with his teams second try, before Hoehmann again finished off a forwards movement with his second try for Old Blue. With Old Blue pressing again, an interception and long break by Selimos was finished off by Mark Roberts to push the score to 24-17 in the Lions’ favor. However with the Lions down to 14 men apparently due to contesting some grounding decisions, Old Blue fullback Luke Hume ran in a try from 25 meters at full time to leave the score at 24-22 with the conversion to come. Controversy was to ensue, with Lions defenders charging the kick as the Old Blue kicker was addressing the ball. Old Blue maintained he had not begun to approach the ball, but now had to rush the kick with defenders approaching, and the kick was off target. Lions take the maximum points from their visit to New York, while Old Blue receives the consolation point for the close loss.
Sizzling temperatures in Marietta made it a classic day for fast-flowing rugby, as Life University took out Boston in their home opener on Saturday in Marietta, 30-18. The Running Eagles jumped on the board with a penalty kick by Aaron McMaster. Just moments later, a charge-down kick resulted in Life’s first try by Steve Petzel and a good conversion from McMaster. With 12 minutes remaining in the half, Life’s Tui Osborne made a great defensive tackle and picked it up give the walk-in try to Mark Aylor. McMaster followed with another good conversion. Boston fought back and pushed through Life’s goal-line defense for their try first try of the game by Marcus McAllister, 17-5. Life responded with a great phase play that resulted in a try in the corner by Clint Whittler with four minutes remaining. McAllister earned Boston’s final points of the half with a penalty kick as they trailed 22-8.
The second half started out quiet until Life’s McMaster made his second penalty kick of the game. Boston’s Kyle Marshall followed with two consecutive penalty kicks, staying close behind Life, 25-11. Life’s Whittler scored his second try mid way through the half. Boston closed the game with one final try from Hugh Galligan.
“We made a decent start in the first half, but made hard work of the win. We have to give credit to Boston for their physicality and ability to keep the ball in the tight areas, which provided some frustration for us. We’ll take an ugly win at this stage of the season,” said Life University Head Coach James Isaacson. “Next week will be another tough game, but I’m pleased that Boston raised some questions that we haven’t answered yet. We will be stronger next week from our experience today.”
“For the first game of the season I was disappointed with the amount of mistakes we made. Life maximized our mistakes into scoring opportunities,” Boston coach Mike Diamantopoulos said.
John Doody/Jennifer Bennett