Monday, March 9, 2015

Pinkelman Leads Colorado State Over Air Force

Photo: Bob Lyon

By Bernie Decker

On a cooling late-winter evening with a subtly chill wind evident, numbers 11 and 7 on Canterbury’s College Poll got down to the business of rugby at Glendale’s StoveTop turf pitch.  CSU was looking to correct a fall loss to Air Force, while the Zoomies sought to maintain their undefeated league status. End of the evening saw a 5:1 try ratio after 80 minutes of bruising, rapid-fire sport.

Rams got onboard in the 10th minute as CSU flyhalf, Lance Eberhard, stroked a penalty through the uprights from 20 meters out in front of goal and 3-nil the early scoreline.

The squads traded possessions frequently in the next 20 minutes as minor (and maddening) infractions stymied advances and the major penalties, laying about the loose, offsides and side entry to the maul caused referee Mike Kelly to halt play and direct ball exchange.

Take the jump to read more.

A penalty awarded CSU on attack enabled Eberhard to pin Air Force in their corner five meters from goal with a towering hoist to touch. Lineout won and spun, half dozen crashes from the breakdown later, and Rams captain Ben “Pink” Pinkelman snaked across the paint for the touch down and CSU had increased their advantage by a fiver: CSU 8, AFA 0 after 31 ticks.

With time running away in the period and Zoomies on the hard-charging offense inside Rams 22, a CSU lock was cited for conduct unbecoming and seated for a tenner. Air Force had a number of opportunities from both lineouts and scrums in frantic final minutes of the half, but CSU’s defensive scheme of sag-and-contain worked sufficient to effect turnover and fullback Liam Wynne’s clearance to touch, followed by Kelly’s halftime signal, had the lads to lockers for instruction and the scoreline at 8-0 in CSU’s favor.

Air Force kicked off the second stanza up a man and swiftly used that numerical fortune to close the gap:  the Zoomies were able to turn the ball over at the initial breakdown and spent a fast three-minutes pounding away at CSU’s defensive alignment. And the high-flyers would realize their first points of the match as rapidly slung ball along the backline found wing Will Maschmeyer, who gained the corner to dot down for a tightening of tallies at 8-5 in the 43rd minute.

But CSU came back quickly. A lineout seven meters from the Air Force goaline was won and spun and a maul formed in the centers pushing slowly toward the Zoomies goal. Captain Ben Pinkelman snatched ball from the loose piece. Two lightning-quick steps on and Pink’s grounding followed by Eberhard’s added deuce, and the Rams had stretched the lead out to 15-5 after 48 minutes of play.

Air Force showed solid, decisive movement through subsequent action, but each forward incursion into Rams territory was wasted by the niggling knock-on or poorly-placed pass, and possession reversed game flow.

Pink, whose warmup consisted of 40+ minutes onfield for Denver Barbarians in the Men in Green’s earlier Pacific Rugby Premiership derby,  grounded his third try of the match at the hour mark with his now patented snatch-step-and-dive-over from inclose and, with Eberhard’s conversion from near touch, Rams ahead 22-5 after 60.

CSU continued their offensive onslaught with 8-man Evan Geist dotting a try converted by Eberhard at ’67 (29-5), and the Rams closed out the scoring when flyer Jack O’Connor finished fast his searing, slicing race to goal in the 76th minute for a record of 34-5 at Kelly’s last blast.

Next up for Air Force is a trip to New Mexico, 3.14, while the Rams are in Boulder for a derby with the Buffs at CU on that day.


Colorado State University - Try: Pinkelman (3), Geist, O’Connor; Con: Eberhard (3); Pen: Eberhard;

Air Force Academy - Try: Maschmeyer

Match Officials: Mike Kelly (referee); Gary Hartzell, Anthony Nguyen (RAs)

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