BY LIAM MADIGAN-FRIED
The USA PRO league kicked off on Sunday – a first for America – with Denver and Sacramento getting their first wins in the new rugby competition.
Denver 16-13 Ohio
In what turned out to be a sudden death over-time thriller (that’s right, we do over-time in the States), Denver came away with the victory after a converted penalty kick from Will Magie ended the game.
The momentum through the first half was all Ohio, with the team using a series of well-placed kicks into the pocket to advance the ball up the field.
Roland Suniula scored the first try in PRO history to put Ohio up 7-0, which was followed by two more successful penalty kicks to help Ohio go into the half up 13-3.
However, the second half began to tell a different story. The first Try for Denver came when the former Oklahoma Sooner Michael Al-Jiboori (Wing) came barreling through Ohio’s defenders to put the ball down for 5-points, along with a successful kick after.
After that, it was all Denver, with the men and purple controlling the pace of the game via a good win percentage in the rucks as well as the ability to move the ball out to the wings gaining favorable numbers match ups.
Denver was able to tie the game up with a penalty conversion with only minutes remaining, and the rest will forever be remembered as PRO Rugby history.
Tries: Al-Jiboori, Wallace
Pens: Kruger, Magie
Pens: Davies 2
Yellow Card: Davies
Sacramento 37-25 San Francisco
In what was easily the most exciting game of the day, Sacramento came away with the victory over the previously favored San Fran squad.
San Francisco, who is a fast, hard-hitting team in their own right, were not able to quell the continued advancements up the field of the Sacramento boys, who used the power of their maul to full advantage.
Sacramento got on the board first, choosing to kick for points to give themselves the early lead.
San Francisco then parried the blow by putting the ball into the try zone when Alec Gletzer (flanker) plowed through the arm tackles of Sacramento’s defenders like an All-Black through a U-14 team.
The game continued as a back and forth contest, with four lead changes throughout.
San Francisco used their wings and quick passes to get the ball down the field, which when not resulting in a Try, often resulted in a poor pass getting dropped on intercepted by Sacramento’s quick thinking defenders.
Sacramento’s size in the scrum and physicality in the rucks was ultimately too much for San Francisco to try and shut down.
With the seconds in the game dwindling and San Fran down by only 5 points, the team from the Bay Area committed a costly turnover which resulted in a Sacramento try to put the final nail in the coffin.
Tries: Penalty Try, Motokana, Brewer, Kilifi, Koewler
Cons: Bergamasco 3
Drop Goal: Bennett
For San Francisco:
Tries: Gletzer, Rouse, Sakalia
Cons: Rouse 2
Pens: Rouse, Talapusi
Yellow Cards: Grass, Coolican
Things We Learned
- Ohio is a team to take seriously. The forwards have size and the wings know how to move the ball, but the squad has to learn how to finish and get the ball in the try-zone.
- Denver’s wings are going to be one of their best and most dangerous assets in scoring points (despite some sloppy second-half play)
- Watching Ray Barkwill play is like watching a honey badger on the hunt. When he wasn’t putting hits on in the rucks, the bearded man from Canada was following tight behind Sacramento’s mauls, which San Francisco found nearly impossible to stop before they reached the 22.
- San Francisco caught a tough break against what is looking like one of the best squads in PRO Rugby. They showed they have the ability to put points on the board and to move the ball fluidly. Don’t be surprised to see them bring the frustration from Sunday’s loss into the Denver game next week as extra motivation