Sunday, June 18, 2017

Rocky Mountain Rugby Challenge

Rugby action under Colorado Skies

The 18th Annual Rocky Mountain Rugby Challenge, a showcase of America’s emergent men’s and women’s talent, got underway yesterday at the Aurora Sports Park with 35 matches in 5 divisions from middle school through girls’ and boys’ varsity brackets. It will culminate today after an additional 35 matches. Today’s competition begins at 8am and concludes with an awards ceremony at 5pm.

Elite sides of student-athletes from the Midwest to the West Coast get after the rugby under scrutiny of USA Rugby scouts, college recruiters, friends, family and fans of the game. Within the continuum of rugby, this weekend is an interval packed with promise, rife with opportunities for transience and transcendence. Five, quick-hit profile from the Varsity Emerging Men’s competition:

Joey Sharron: Colorado All Star; 2nd year player; explosive from the midfield and on the wing; looking at a number of college offers, including a full rugby ride;

Isaac Good: Eagle Impact Rugby Academy (EIRA) - Midwest; 6th year veteran; two-year High School All-American at outside center; bound for Purdue University this fall to apply himself to an engineering discipline;

Patrick Madden: EIRA - Southern California; 11 year vet; captain of the side excels at either standoff or fullback; a 3-year High School All-American with one year on the Men’s Junior All-American squad; looks to continue his academic and athletic success at Cal Poly - San Luis Obispo;

Tyson Lucas: Rugby Texas; 4th year on the pitch out of Allen High School; began on the wing, then scrumhalf, then current slot at 10 where Mr. Lucas is fast, elusive and a fine string-puller at the pivot; college opportunities yet under consideration include University of Oklahoma and University of Arkansas;

Robert ‘Beto’ Lui: West Valley Warriors; 4th year vet and vice-captain of the Utah club from his position at fullback; sees his spot on the premier XV as a “very humbling experience”; Beto is awaiting word on where his upcoming LDS mission will transport him.

A common thread expressed by these eminent examples of our game is one of humility and appreciation for their teammates; recognition of the criticality of collaboration in the truly team effort that is our sport. 
University of Wyoming head coach Dave Finnoff, (in black w/clipboard), chats with West Valley Warriors coaching staff

Friday, June 16, 2017

RMRC: Rugby Colorado. Rugby Texas

Rocky Mountain Rugby Challenge

Colorado, Texas: preliminary skirmish

Rugby Texas lock, Callum Anderson (scrumcap, British School of Houston), vies for lineout ball with Rugby Colorado second row, Thomas Kleynhans (airborne, Dicovery Canyon Campus), in the JV match   

Rugby Texas All Stars, a 50-player contingent comprising varsity and junior varsity XVs, squared off against the Rugby Colorado All Stars on campus at Regis Jesuit in a workup to this weekend’s Rocky Mountain Rugby Challenge tournament at Aurora Sports Park. The squad from the Lone Star State are made up largely of players from the Austin-Dallas-Houston region. The group rendezvoused in Dallas Wednesday evening for the nighttime bus ride to Denver, had a walk-through Thursday morning, and showed sharp and sure at the scrimmage that kicked off at 7:00 last night.

Both junior varsity and varsity sides worked a pair of 20-minute halves in the leadup to the elite play on the upcomer. Colorado play Arizona Bobcats and it's Texas v Oklahoma Selects in their respective opening fixtures at the Sports Park tomorrow, Saturday, at 9:30 in the morning.

Texas 10, Tyson Lucas, an Allen High School product bound for University of Arkansas in the fall, will be one to watch this weekend: shifty, with impressive pace and deceptive power

Colorado 13, Joey Sharron, from the Right of Passage Rugby Club, strong in the midfield

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

High School Boys & Girls Rugby upcomes

Regional All Star Cup Rugby

Rocky Mountain Rugby Challenge

The 2017 RMRC takes place this upcoming weekend, June 17th and 18th, at the Aurora Sports Park. Emergent men’s and women’s Rugby All Star sides from regions west of the Mississippi converge on the playing fields in Aurora for the highest-level, age-grade rugby that can be had this season Opening ceremonies begin at 8:30am on Saturday.

The tournament is divided into boy’s and girls sections, which are further portioned into varsity, junior varsity and middle school brackets. Competition begins on Saturday at 9:30 with SoCal taking on Utah and Colorado versus Texas in the varsity boy’s division, while Colorado hosts Wisconsin in varsity girl’s action at their opening match.

The Rocky Mountain Challenge has been designated a Regional Cup Tournament by USA Rugby, the national governing body in America, and as such will have national selectors on hand to view the talent with an eye towards invitation to the High School All-American camps, an integral stage on the developmental pathway of our national rugby squads.

Colorado Rugby All Stars breaking it down on Cook Park, home of  Denver Harlequins RFC 

The Colorado and Texas elite XVs will square off in a preliminary fixture Thursday, June 15, 6pm at Regis Jesuit High School. Regis, home of 2016 Colorado State Champion Jesuit Raiders, is located just north of the intersection of Arapahoe and Parker Roads. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Colorado High School Championships and EuroPro Playoffs

Rugby Colorado High School Championships

Premier Division – the 2017 title match pits multi-year winners, Denver East High Angels, against relative newcomer, Monarch Rugby, on Saturday May 20 at North Stadium. In their 30-year history, the Angels have won the championship five times, most recently in 2015, while Monarch have not taken the title once and are new to Rugby Colorado Premier Division, having been promoted this season to the top flight.

Both XVs were in the finals of their respective divisions in 2016, East dropping a heartbreaker on the last play of the match to Regis and Monarch beaten by Terrors; and both obtained a measure of satisfaction, one should think, by topping last year’s nemeses in their respective semifinal matches.
Each team’s cumulative margin of victory during league play over the 2017 semifinal field (Palmer Terrors and Regis Raiders) were 12 points, East having lost to Terrors on the trot and Monarch losing to East at home.

Monarch exemplifies the basics, fitness and fundamentals, which manifests in direct go-forward pick-and-marches from breakdown interspersed with near-channel queries from its midfield. Denver East, meanwhile, expresses the rugby with a bit more flair, combining halfback misdirectives with electric service from the in-half to spread the field for incursive action by its dangerous and talented three-quartersline.

To say this one is too close to call would be a grievous understatement, so you must come out and spectate to view the finest emergent men’s clubside competition North of the Pecos and West of the Mississippi – be there, Saturday at 6pm, North Stadium on the top end of the Denver Metroplex.

Premier Championship will be preceded by:

·        Division 2 Championship - Arapahoe Warriors v Dakota Ridge Eagles, 4:30pm;
       Premier Division 3rd place – Palmer High Terrors v Regis Jesuit Raiders, 3:15pm;

·        Division 2, 3rd place – Boulder Rugby v Northside Dragons, 2pm

EPCR Champions Cup Final, 5.13.17: Clermont v Saracens

Saracens ran out to a 12-nil advantage just after the midpoint of the first forty on trys by flyer Chris Ashton and second row George Kruis, the latter converted by 13-point (2-cs, 3ps) Owen Farrell, to record the Champions Cup Double. No stroll down the esplanade for the Anglos at Murrayfield though, as a grounding by Clermont Auvergne inside center RĂ©mi Lamerat in the 26th minute, and its conversion by scrumhalf Morgan Parra, made for a 12-7 scoreline at referee Nigel Owens’ halftime signal.

Farrell’s first penalty goal of the evening, followed by a dot by the French XV’s flying Englishman, Nick Abendanon, made seven by Parra, had the tallies at 15 and 14 yet to Saracens by minute 53; penalties exchanged for a score of 18-17 Sarries by the 70th minute, but 10 points by Saracens in the final 10 minutes meant a record of 28-17 and the European Double for Mark McCall’s mixers in Edinburg, Scotland.  

Aviva Premiership * semifinals *

Exeter Chiefs v Saracens (5.20.17) – Saracens tuned up Chiefs last September at Sandy Park in league play, but the sides drew at the beginning of this year, 13-all. However, Sarries were without Owen Farrell and a 15th player in the tie after they lost a man to a red card in the 10th minute of the match. Saracens easily on Saturday, 35-14.

Wasps v Leicester Tigers (5.20.17) – this is promoted as Australian Wallaby Kurtley Beale’s final run of play in the Northern Hemisphere as he’s expected back down under for Super Rugby action next year. Beale will have a try at his national side once more as well. Tigers have had a fine handful of match results to finish their season, with four wins and a loss, though the wins were against clubs from the bottom of the table and the loss came against Bath Rugby, whose final position in the AP league was right on the Leicester hind. This’ll be a cracker with Tigers upsetting the table-toppers, 21-20.

French Top 14 (Orange) * semifinals *

Toulon v Castres (5.19.17) – homeboys had best win or owner, “Mad Mourad” Boudjellal, will be way beside himself. The clubs split their league fixtures, each winning at home. Toulon are chockful of marquee players and should triumph to keep their fricative proprietor one happy chappy. Toulon, 25-21.

Montpellier v Racing 92 (5.20.17) – these competitors, too, split their matches with each winning at home. Going to be a difficult ask for the defending champions to win on the trot, but with the likes of Dan Carter pulling the strings behind his forward pack, that upset is a distinct possibility. t-c, t-c

Guinness Pro12 *semifinals *

Leinster v Scarlets (5.19.17) - the Irish are working a full head of steam despite dropping their final match of the season. Scarlets are on a fine run of joys, but it’ll be happiness for the home crowd at the RDS at the end of this day’s fiery match. Leinster, 42-20.

Munster v Ospreys (5.20.17) – Munster get the wins when they need it; Ospreys have lost four from five of their final handful of fixtures. Thomond Park will resound with the Irish Province’s victory this day. Munster, 32-10.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Colorado HS Semifinals: East v Jesuit

Rugby Colorado: Semifinals of State, Premier Division

Denver East High Angels v Regis Jesuit Raiders

Warm with a gusting, crossfield blow at Dick’s Rugby Sports Grounds Field #18 for the first Premier Division semifinal that featured last year’s finalists, Angels and Raiders, on Saturday afternoon. Regis were looking to maintain their quest for the Rugby Colorado Premier Division (RCPD) double, while the East Avenging Angels sought redress of last season’s RCDP title match loss, and aimed to book a berth in next week’s championship.

Opening stages saw the Raiders implement the pick-and-go from breakdown in brief gains, while Angels spread the field wide with swift service by scrumhalf Theo Bennett and canny distribution by the pivot, Sam Adix, to his hungry three-quartersline. Adix’ mixture of movements, lengthy skip-passes interspersed with inside switches and querying kicks, meant pulsing pressure constantly as East tested the Jesuit defensive resolve.

Denver opened scoring after their lineout leaper collected ball and Bennett’s sling to Adix was followed by the standoff’s pass, which put streaking fullback Luke Neureiter through the crease for 15 meters and the touch down that, along with wing Max Gottesfeld’s conversion, made it 7-0 in the seventh minute.

East extended the lead to a dozen when backrow lock Kilauea Tora burst into space and Regis territory to set flyer Blake Pullen free for his try in minute 13.

Outside center Holden Kjerland-Nicoletti began and ended the next Angels scoring drive as he broke a tackle at his own ten-meter line on the eastern sideline and set the sweep across the pitch that brought action into the Raiders business district, 10 meters from goal. Possession maintained at breakdown and distribution to Kjerland-Nicoletti, who powered into goal for a 17-0 scoreline after 17 ticks off referee Tom Coburn’s timepiece.

Regis were into East territory with a lineout 30 meters from goal. That set piece won and carried to breakdown, an inside offload proved successful and Raiders were on the march and mauling steady before knock-on at contact reversed possession.

The Jesuit got onboard near time in the half when the Raiders 8man gathered the pill from the loose piece, fended off a would-be stopper, and angled into goal on the arcing sweeper to touch down; 17-5 for Denver East as Coburn whistled up the midpoint break.

Raiders opened the second stanza strong, turning ball over and bringing action to the Denver 22 before a penalty by Angels at breakdown afforded the opportunity for the three-pointer. The Jesuit numbers man struck a shot that drifted wide in the wind.

Angels immediately back on the front foot as the pack took a Jesuit scrum-put against its head and inside center, Yanni Stavropoulos, broke to space and fed Adix, who made 20 meters before offloading to Kjerland-Nicoletti, who finished fifteen fast for five and it was 22-5 seven minutes into the second stanza.

Adix began hoisting the Garryowen and booming the long rangers that the back-three defenders were unable to collect on the fly, which allowed East chasers to contain and win precious front-foot turnover ball inside Regis territory.

The Denver forwards began to establish their presence, poaching a pair of lineouts and shoving the Raiders pack off the ball at the set scrum, winning thrice against the head in the last half.
East advanced over the 50 via a Tora straight slicer to the Raiders 22 before the 8man handed off to Adix, who wove a wavy loping transit to goal and his grounding made it 27-5 in the 15th minute of the second half.

Bit of an aerial battle as lofts between the 22s were gathered and hoisted back and forth. A long range strike by the Jesuit ran to goal and was brought out by Denver for the 22 drop.  East collected that re-start and flyer Pullen was set to burn the touchline for 50 and the corner try that made tallies of 32 and 5 just into the last 10 minutes.

Angels would touch down a last try through Tora, who’d been cracking all day long, and Denver added a final three points by Neureiter with a sticksplitter that made for the result of 40-5 for East at Coburn’s last blast.

               East - Try: Neureiter, Pullen (2), Kjerland-Nicoletti (2), Adix, Tora; Con: Gottesfeld; Pen: Neureiter
               Regis - Try: 8man

Match Officials:  Tom Coburn (Referee); Rey Hernandez, Brighton Khumalo (RAs); Derek Summers (Crew Chief)

in blue (l-r): Coburn, Khumalo and Hernandez; seated: Summers

Denver East High Angels v Monarch Rugby in the premier championship next Saturday, May20, at the Aurora Sports Park

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Playoffs: Raptors Women, Raiders, advance

Raiders v Grizzlies

penalty, or no?

Rugby Colorado defending Premier Division champions, Regis Jesuit Raiders, defeated Colorado Spring Grizzlies on Saturday morning at Lambeth Field on the Jesuit campus.

Regis took a 19-5 halftime lead into the break and each team doubled their scores in the second stanza with the Bear converting its try for a result of 38-12.

Regis will face Palmers Terrors in the semifinal round next weekend. Denver East High Angels v Monarch, seeds 2 and 3 seeds resp., fill the other side of next weekend's splendid, age-grade, rugby card.

Semifinal matches go at 4pm and 5:15 pm for both Premier and Division-2 at The Dick's Sporting Goods Park, aka "The Huge".

Raptors Women v Black Ice

Glendale Raptors Women topped Black Ice, 31-19, uptop at Infinity on the Saturday morning. Glendale advance to the next round of playoffs at Kino Rugby Complex in Tucson, on the weekend of May 20 and 21.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Rugby Colorado Boys High School Quarterfinals: Denver East v Chaparral

Rugby Colorado Premier Division Quarterfinals:

Denver East High Angels v Chaparral Wolverines

Warm with a spotless sky and a gusty, breezy crosswind from the east at kickoff of Angels versus Wolverines quarterfinals match at Angels campus homeground, Heaven. Each side looking keen for it in their respective, preparatory workups and both looking to advance to the RC semifinals of the Premier Division next weekend.

Chaparral captured the kickoff and showed strong pack industry initially with tight fivers banging away from breakdown for 4- and 5-meter gains at a momentarily rear-legged Denver defense, before ball spilled forward exchanged possession; scrum to hosts. Won and worked upfield steadily with short-gainers out of breakdown by openside Zak Jacobs and 8man Kilauea Tora complemented by shifty, backline maneuverings orchestrated by the inimitable East standoff, Sam Adix.

Penalty on Wolverines for hands-in enabled Denver numbers man, Max Gottesfeld, a shot on goal 18 meters out at the exterior hashmark; a sticksplitting strike for the fullback and 3-0 for East in the 1st minute.

Adix struck a long ranger deep into Chaparral territory from his 10-meter line that the Chaparral back-three had trouble corralling in the face of the containing swarm of red jerseys.  East scrum, 13 meters out. Feed by scrumhalf, Theo Bennett; hook by the number two, Aiden Rocchio, followed by impeccable channeling through the tight five. Swift service by Bennett on out to Adix who spied the gap and accelerated through it for 20 meters and five points-made-seven surely by fullback Gottesfeld and 10-nil for East after five ticks off referee Chris Brewer’s timer.

Denver back straightaway into Wolverine territory and Chaparral clearance blocked in goal for inside center Yanni Stavropoulos’ alert pouncing; with Gottesfeld cleaving the posts once more, tallies of 17 and 0 in the 7th minute of the lively, fast-paced competition.

First chance for the travelers with a failure to roll away at breakdown assessed and touch made at the East 22; lineout for Wolverines won and mauled forward initially before breakdown and channel distribution to inside center, Cole Williams, who displayed a quick-step before being brought to ground, 15 meters from the Denver goaline. Turnover won by Angels, slung by Bennett to Adix, who banged clearance beyond the defense and the fast chasing choir pressured turnover and East had the scrum-put, 22 meters out, center of the pitch. Won and weak side gallop by Adix and his timely offload to second row, DeShawn Burks, followed by Burks’ own physical closing and Gottesfeld’s plus two, and it was 24-0 at minute 25.

Home team would ground twice more as Adix and Stavropoulos got their braces and 38-0 as Brewer whistled up the half.

East flyhalf Adix shooting sparks from his boot and Rocchio, Jacobs and Tora speedy and physical into contact making for much front foot action by the homeside, while Chaparral successful in the direct, tightly-woven, repeating pulses from breakdown.

Bennett would join the suspenders club by the 10th minute of the second stanza behind his credible work rate to breakdown and savvy action thereafter in blinding pick-step-and-dots, each converted by Gottesfeld for a 52-0 scoreline.
Adix’ looping skip pass found outside center Nico Read at pace to turn the corner for a try and an uncharacteristic miss on the completion by Gottesfeld, and 57-0 in the 20th minute.

Chaparral got onboard after an East penalty for offsides had the lineout inside the East 22. Won and spun and patient multiple phases worked inside the Angels business district, 10 meters from goal, until Wolverines flyhalf Christian Woodward gathered the pill and crashed over to touch down for Williams’ conversion, and it was 57-7, 25 minutes into the period.

East would see one final crossing by replacement forward, Skee Springman, converted by Gottesfeld before Brewer’s last blast and 64-7 the record.

In another quarterfinal Friday evening, Palmer Terrors topped Aurora Saracens 37-10 at Garry Berry in Colorado Springs.

The fourth quarterfinal is on this morning at Kellogg Stadium on campus of Regis Jesuit High School as the Raiders host Colorado Springs Grizzlies, 11 am kickoff. I’m going, you going?


                Angels – Try: Adix (2), Stavropoulos (2), Burks, Bennett (2), Read, Springman; Con: Gottesfeld (8); Pen: Gottesfeld;
                Wolverines - Try: Woodward; Con: Williams

Match Officials: Chris Brewer (Referee); Cam Pettit, Bill Fallt (RAs)