This weekend featured the first set of rematches for PRO Rugby, as Denver hosted San Francisco in a rare Friday night game and Ohio hosted Sacramento on Sunday. The favorites would earn the results they were looking for, but both matches featured a few surprises.
Ohio 50-17 Sacramento
Sacramento continued an odd trend of disappearing for an entire half in their blowout loss to Ohio. The home team dominated the first half on the strength of the attacking prowess of their forward pack, as Matt Hughston, Filippo Ferrarini, Dylan Fawsitt, Sebastián Kalm, and Jamie Mackintosh all crossed the goal line to put Ohio ahead 33-3 at the halftime break.
The visitors had an easier time at the beginning of the second half against an Ohio squad that let up a bit – until Sacramento scored, anyways. After Nemia Qoro scored the Californians’ first try, Ohio responded quickly with two tries, the second try of Matt Hughston’s brace and the first try of Spike Davis’s. Kyle Sumsion would also score for Sacramento later in the second half and Spike Davis added his second try to push Ohio to 50 points for the second time in their first five matches.
Ohio’s clinical play in the first half seemed more indicative of the true strength of the squad. There was a noticeable difference in the speed of the attacking play between the two sides and Ohio was able to make quick work of Sacramento any time they found a gap. Sacramento’s attacking play wasn’t nearly as crisp, and they made the work of the opposition easier by losing the ball as often as they did. The potential of the squad showed in the second half but it does seem like other teams are gelling a little more quickly and there is still work to do in order to get up to speed.
Denver 41-37 San Francisco
Unfortunately the match on Friday night was not broadcast, and I haven’t had a chance to see the video of this match so I can’t give a detailed account of the game at this moment. The battle between first place Denver and last place San Francisco was much closer than most had predicted. It was a back and forth fight between the two teams – the only consecutive scores by either team were a pair of tries from Denver that came right before and after halftime. The scoring kept up until Jacob Finau scored San Francisco’s fourth try to bring the margin down to four, when the match suddenly turned into a defensive stalemate. Although San Francisco fell to 0-5, they picked up two bonus points and played another close match against one of the league’s leading contenders. It seems like the Bay Area squad really turned the corner in their match against San Diego, even if the results don’t quite reflect that.
Today we found out that this would be Denver’s last match at Infinity Park for the season, as the league announced that they are moving the remainder of Denver’s matches to CIBER Field at the University of Denver. The league will broadcast Denver’s remaining matches, something that may have been an issue with playing at Infinity Park.
The Glendale stadium’s current broadcasting agreement had reportedly kept the league from being able to broadcast matches at the venue, but details of why exactly that’s the case aren’t clear. (Ed. note: According to a statement from the folks at Infinity Park, this was in fact not the case. From all of the information available, it is unclear why the league did not broadcast games from the venue.) Given how late in the off-season Denver was announced, even after being one of the first locations rumored to get a team, you could assume that this is something the league has been working towards since before the season began. CIBER Field naturally holds 1,915 people, which is a bit less than the number of fans that showed up for the first two games, but there is enough room to add seating on the other side if it is deemed necessary.