PRO Rugby Weekend Review: Big Victories for Ohio, Sacramento

Week 12 of PRO Rugby’s 2016 season is now in the books, and a few explosive performances are the story of the 4th of July weekend. Ohio’s win against San Diego pushes the Breakers to the edge of elimination while bolstering their own run at the title. Meanwhile, the Northern California derby was taken over by a dominant showing from USA’s fastest rising star, Langilangi Haupeakui.

Ohio 44-21 San Diego

The match between the Ohio Aviators and the San Diego Breakers was the only one with title implications this past weekend. The Breakers went into the match knowing that their fate wasn’t entirely in their own hands, but winning out with maximum bonus points would give them a good chance at ending the season on top of the standings. It’s a simpler situation for the Aviators: winning this match and next week’s against Sacramento with bonus points means they’ll go into the final match against Denver with a chance at claiming the title no matter what the Stampede does.

San Diego controlled the match early on, but they couldn’t find the try line and Kurt Morath had to contend with the wind on his early penalty attempts. Shaun Davies put the Aviators on the scoreboard first with a penalty, and San Diego leveled the score on Morath’s third attempt. Ohio went into the half with a 20-6 edge thanks to two tries from Dylan Fawsitt, the first from a rolling maul and the second from open play.

While a two try lead certainly isn’t impossible to overcome, the Aviators have seemingly done everything but letting up in the second halves of their past few matches. This was no exception. Ohio stretched their lead further when Riekert Hattingh scored his first PRO Rugby try in the 49th minute. The Breakers were only able to score another penalty before the Aviators next flurry of scores. Spike Davis scored a brace that showed off a little bit of everything: the first by muscling through a few tacklers to dot it down, and the second coming from a fifty-five meter run after an interception. Sebastián Kalm crossed the try line minutes later to put the score at 44-9 with thirteen minutes remaining.

Similar to their last match in Obetz, the Breakers added a few tries towards the end to make the final margin a bit closer at 44-21. Perhaps the greater consolation was holding the Aviators to under fifty points, the first time that has happened in one of their home matches.

San Francisco 19-43 Sacramento

The emergence of Langilangi Haupeakui has been one of the biggest stories of the PRO Rugby season. He went from an unheralded club player with the East Palo Alto Razorbacks to a USA Eagles call-up over the span of half a season with the Sacramento Express. He’s looked like a promising prospect all season long but he took his game to another level on Sunday against the San Francisco Rush.

Haupeakui’s first big play came as the Rush were threatening to score and even up the score after Cam Falcon’s early try. An errant line-out throw from the Rush ended up in Haupeakui’s arms and he squeezed through a few defenders and made a big run to the ten meter line in the other half. The run helped set up a score for Cody Jerabek. Haupeakui made another big run of about sixty meters for his own score.

Sacramento earned the bonus point when Kyle Sumsion scored the Express’s fourth try to give them a 26-0 lead, and it was starting to look like another listless performance for San Francisco. But the Rush attack finally came to life in the last ten minutes of the half. David Tameilau, Orene Ai’i, and Bill Fukofuka all scored in a nineteen point burst for the home team to whittle the lead down to seven at halftime.

But the Rush would disappear again in the second half, unable to sustain good attacking play after the game restarted. A few minutes into the half, Sacramento won a scrum against the feed and Haupeakui picked up the ball and fended off a few defenders on his way to his second try of the match. Bergamasco’s conversion made it a fourteen point lead at that point and a penalty from his boot in the 57th minute would make it a three score game at 36-19. The final blow was a penalty try on a collapsed scrum that came after a few minutes of pressure from the Rush. The conversion made it 43-19, which would stand as the final score.

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