Denver Highlanders v Queen City Rams
Warm with a breezy crosswind at times for kickoff of the front-running Highlanders and second on-the-table Rams derby that would determine the current standard in the league. StoveTop at Infinity well-heated and each XV looked sharp in their respective pre-match run-ups. All-on, all-in and racing straightaway each XV’s forwards to first-contact at referee Stuart Geiger’s opening whistle.
The visiting Rams collected the starter and worked three, tidy pick-and-go phases before ball was provided their pivot, Alex Moore, who booted downfield for touch, though that sideline was not achieved. The lengthy aerial was gathered by Highlander fullback, Brooks Pinnick, who found touch at City’s ten-meter line.
Rams were employing multiple brief bashes from breakdown distributed by scrumhalf, Jake Wilson, to Alexander for the long rangers off his toe to which Highlanders back-three-backs responded effectively in the early goings.
City first onboard with penalty conversion struck by outside center, Charlie Keener, and 3-nil for Rams in the 10th minute.
|Highlanders numbers guy, Sean Welfare, and the lineout take|
Handling errors from both sides were made by the feisty wind, though they were largely due the intense defensive play shown by each side in the lively, see-saw battle.
Highlanders got up after a multi-phase movement into Queen City’s 22 had breakdown four meters from goal. Backrow lock Clinton Camp snared the ball from that loose piece and he drove into goal for a touch down converted by second row, Sean Welfare, and it was 7-3 for Highlanders after 20 minutes.
Home team would add a try five minutes later, on the counter, when Pinnick chipped a popper beyond the defense, collected same smoothly at pace and dotted in the corner: 12-3 for ‘Landers just then.
A fine bit of communication between Highlanders players along the East Terrace touch line with flyer, Aaron Osheroff, Pinnick and the hard charging openside flanker, Derek Smith; Smith offloaded to loosehead, Jeff Westbrook, who finished for the score: conversion by Welfare and 19-3 at 30 minutes.
Queen City worked the pill into the Highlanders 22, when a knock forward gave the scrum-put to the defenders. Wonscrum, yet poorly cleaned and a desperation clearance was driven on a low trajectory, not into the intended touch, but straight down pitch into the basket of onrushing fullback, Grant Fabian. Fabian dipped and slipped through the defense as a ghost on his 50-meter cutter to goal for touch down turned-to-seven by Keener and 19-10 with five minutes left in the first forty.
Highlanders would have the final shout of the period when Smith broke to space and offloaded to flyer, Pete Gray, who closed the last five for the try that made the scoreline Highlanders 24, Queen City Rams 10 at Geiger’s midpoint whistle.
Queen City’s pattern of pick-and-go bashes subsequent to lengthy territorial kicks was somewhat confounded by the efficient reply of the Highlanders defensive back-three, who worked the coordinated counter well, which became Denver’s potent offense.
Keener struck a booming three-pointer from 44 meters outside the left post in the 45th minute and it was 24-13.
With tension mounting on the pitch and the action getting a bit scrappy, Geiger had occasion to chat with the captains for a moment, and then the lads got back to rugby.
Highlanders scrum shoved Rams off the ball in a pair of early, second stanza set pieces that boded well for Denver in that final forty.
Tighthead Kevin Howes crossed-and-dotted for Welfare’s additional deuce: 31-13 at the 55th minute.
City would send breakaway, Hayden Kinnear, across for a grounding to bring the tallies to 31 and 18 by the 76th minute of play, but Highlanders would have the last shout with a try by replacement wing, Tim Phillips, and its conversion by Welfare for a record of 38-18 at the end of the day.
Highlanders – Try: Camp, Pinnick, Westbrook, Gray, Howes, Phillips; Con: Welfare (4);
Rams - Try: Grant, Kinnear; Con: Keener; Pen: Keener (2)
Match Officials: Stu Geiger (Referee); Bill Cook, Mark Huff (RAs)