It’s the mid-point of what you could consider “phase one” of the season: a five week period where each team is taking on the other for the first time, giving everyone a chance to see how they measure up to the opposition before heading into the next set of matches against each team. This weekend gave us two matches that were entertaining in very different ways. In Ohio, we saw a team firing on all cylinders and putting on a clinical performance. In San Diego, we saw a clash of two contenders in the first of what should be three very entertaining matches between the sides.
Ohio 51-17 San Francisco
The home opener in Obetz was a success in just about every way imaginable for PROhio. The no-frills venue hosted what appears to be the new league’s first sell-out, and that crowd witnessed what was easily the most complete attacking performance of any match so far. Ohio started off strong, with Spike Davis scoring in the first five minutes and additional tries from Pierce Dargan and Sebastian Kalm before San Francisco could even get on the board. After exchanging penalty goals, Kalm added his second try of the match. San Francisco finally got the ball rolling in the dying moments of the first half when Robbie Shaw was sent to the sin bin. They capitalized on the advantage with a try under the posts from Jacob Finau that put the halftime score at 27-10.
San Francisco could have clawed their way back into the game in the second half with the man advantage, but Finau would be given a yellow card not long after the game re-started. Being undermanned did slow Ohio down a bit, as Italian import Filippo Ferrarini scored Ohio’s only try between Shaw’s yellow card and Ohio going back to fifteen players after Kyle Baillie’s 53rd minute yellow card expired. If the game wasn’t already out of reach, Spike Davis’s second try in the 67th minute made certain that it was. JP Eloff would add two tries in garbage time to run the score up to 51 points.
It wasn’t all bad for San Francisco, as newcomer Pila Iongi was able to spark the attack at times and the scrums weren’t nearly as woeful as they were in the weeks prior, but the side still feels very much like a work in progress. In particular, their lack of support at times meant that breakaway runs led to nothing and their attack was thwarted with turnovers at the breakdown. Ohio looked like they had the better athletes thanks to that Tiger Rugby conditioning, but their ability to do the basic things right had much more to do with the disparity between the quality of the two sides in this match.
San Diego 16-22 Denver
This is a match where I admittedly didn’t take too many notes because I enjoyed the sparring between the two sides. The defenses of both sides were strong in the first half, and that may be more impressive for Denver considering the back line on the other half of the field. Zach Fenoglio scored from a maul for the only try of the first half, and Will Magie added a conversion and a penalty to give Denver a 10-6 halftime lead. Denver would start pulling away in the second half on the strength of two well-worked tries. The first came from Niku “Pedrie Wannenburg” Kruger, who was set up by strong runs from Max de Achaval and Timana Tahu. The second came shortly after an effort from the real Pedrie Wannenburg came up just short after being knocked away by Tom Bliss. And we should be thankful for that, because it led to this beauty:
San Diego’s attack finally came to life after Mike Te’o pounced a loose ball and ran about forty meters to the goal line, where he would get the ball to Phil Mackenzie for a more manageable conversion. Down 22-16, San Diego kept the pressure on for the last few minutes of the match but the Denver defense held strong for the victory.
Both San Francisco and San Diego will be looking to bounce back next week when the two face off at Boxer Stadium in what should be a fun clash of two teams who will be looking to unleash their back lines after being bottled up this week. Meanwhile, Ohio travels to the Golden State to meet Sacramento, who will be coming off of the bye. Denver has the bye for this week before they make their trip to Bonney Field to claim their final scalp.