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Monday, March 14, 2016

Men's D-2: Boulder Rugby v Park City Haggis

Cooling spring weather, a bit of overcast and a gusty breeze blowing diagonally out of the west at Monarch K-8 Rugby Oval on Sunday afternoon. Park City Haggis, Rabbie's Finest, sitting in the show position at table after a five-point, 74-7, hiding of Denver Barbarians D-2 XV on the StoveTop at Infinity, Saturday, would look to close out the weekend with the win; first-place Boulder, after their dramatic victory at Provo Steelers the previous weekend, had a decidedly different outcome in mind. Add one of the best officiating crews in the business with Stu Geiger on the pitch, Chris Hanson and AJ Smith along either touch, and coached by the venerable Joe Zevin = hot rugby on the Sunday!

Straight from the initial kick one could tell this would be a match for the ages as high ball received, but the crash of havoc-minded chasers and the ensuing lively, hard-hitting action laid the groundwork for a full 80 minutes of exciting, upper-grade rugby. The crowd in attendance anticipated a derby; they would not be disappointed.

Boulder into Haggis territory and one sweeping backline movement brought homeboys well into the guest 22. Half dozen hammering pick-and-goes from breakdown and swift ball spun saw flyer Ralo Wheeler across in the corner for the touch down and it was 5-nil Boulder in the 10th minute.
Each sides' forwards well-covered the field and the fierce competition at breakdown meant play between the 22s for the next ten minutes until a traveler was shown yellow, Boulder kick for touch and a lineout at the visiting 22. 

Lineout taken and quick service by Boulder #9, Zach Hendrix, and speedy hands along the threequartersline and Boulder were over the gainline and down into Haggis' business district, within 10 meters of goal. Offside penalty against Haggis, quickly tapped and Hendrix sniped over for the grounding converted by flyhalf Colin Johnson and Boulder had stretched their advantage to a dozen at minute 23.

Shorthanded Haggis showed good gains running the pill right up the center of the pitch and settled in for a scrum 30 meters from goal. Set piece won and 8man, Nick Varnell, picked up from the back of the scrum and tore around the near flank, shredding the defense on his way for five and the scoreline tightened, 12-5, in the 28th minute.

Haggis picked up a second yellow just prior to the half, and Boulder promptly capitalized, with outside center, Zach Savage, snatching from the loose to dive across for Johnson's conversion and it was 19-5 for the home side as referee Geiger signaled the midpoint break.

Boulder's containment of Haggis' outside backs was steady and productive; work rate of the Utahns tighthead, Kitiona Faamausili, lock Shon Curtis and openside Tucker Francis estimable.

With a man advantage Boulder looked to open the second stanza in convincing fashion, but it was the visitors who sagged yet contained and, with Boulder threatening inside the 22, Francis turned ball over at breakdown and hightailed 60 meters before being brought to ground; three phases on and wing Rob Sirstins banged across for halfback Elrod McDaniel's added deuce, and 19-12 after 48.

Haggis 8, Varnell, on the canter and headed for the Promised Land
Haggis pressure eight meters from goal enabled the wonscrum and 8man pick for a couple before hooker, Odie Cheeks, finished the movement for a try completed by 8man Varnell and Haggis had drawn level, 19-for-everyone at 55.

Boulder would regain the lead with a touch down just past the hour mark and 24-19 the significant figures just then.

A forwards try by Haggis, jointly touched down by Francis and Curtis, and the added two by Varnell made for tallies of 26-24 and initial Park City lead of the match at minute 71.

Haggis widened their margin with a rock 'n rolla pack try grounded by second row,  Villi Kotobalauu, and with an additional deuce by replacement front row, Rodger Hutchinson, it was 33-24 in the 76th minute.

Fast hands along the Boulder threequartersline had Wheeler across for his brace and Johnson's conversion made it 33-31 with time near gone.

A furious and frenetic last tick or two, but no further scoring and a record of 33-31 for Park City was recorded at Geiger's last blast.

Scoring

Boulder - Try: Wheeler (2), Hendrix (2), Savage; Con: Johnson (3)

Park City - Try: Varnell, Sirstins, Cheeks, Francis/Curtis, Kotobalauu; Con: McDaniel, Varnell (2), Hutchinson

Match Officials: Stu Geiger (referee), Chris Hanson and AJ Smith (ras), Joe Zevin (coach)
   



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