Sunday, April 24, 2016

High School Boys

Angels-Saracens Blockbuster!

Breezy and hazily overcast with temperatures approaching the 80-degree mark as Denver East High Angels and Aurora Saracens squared off to compete the pill at Heaven on Saturday. In a seesaw battle that saw each XV lead at times, it was a try at the death that proved decisive in the fiercely-fought contest. The Angels were seeking to maintain their undefeated season campaign, while Sarries sought to end that Denver series in the return of USA Men's Junior All American and Aurora Saracens sparkplug, Will Fifita, to their three-quartersline; Fifita slotting in at the #10 pivot. 

East managed the turnover shortly after kicking off. Patient and steady was their progress upfield in short, one- and two-step pick-and-goes from breakdown by the forwards and near channel work from the backs as they set about establishing their pattern. A penalty assessed for failure to roll away from tackle provided Angels flyhalf Sam Addix the opportunity to drill the ball to touch ten meters from the Aurora goal line. Lineout ball was won and spun out to the three-quarterline with inside center Adam Leonard cutting the gap to space for 20 meters and the touch down; an Addix conversion, and it was 7-nil for homeboys after three minutes.

Aurora subsequently got on the wrong side of the penalty ratio, infringing at the breakdown, which the Angels exploited with a determined, exacting grace. 

Yanni Stavropoulos, partner to Leonard in the explosive Angels center pairing, provided the next numbers, zipping along touch, banging over and through would-be stoppers en route to a twenty-meter grounding, and it became an even dozen point advantage for the home team after 13 minutes of action as East owned the first quarter of the match.

Not so the following fifteen as Saracens backrow exploded onto the scene: 8man Steve Fifita (Will's twin) was demonic from both set piece and breakdown, picking up and powering to space repeatedly assisted by well-employed stiff arms to earn heaps of space before being brought to ground where support Sarries gained and maintained forward momentum. East managed to hold up Sarries in goal, thus the visitors were denied the try, but the ensuing wonscrum left a bobbler in no-man's land on the ground sweetly scooped, crossed and touched down by Will Fifita, and with the added deuce well struck by inside center, D'Heaven Domena, it was 12-7 in the 23rd minute amidst a freshening, swirling wind.

Aurora was in the East 22 on the front foot when time expired and referee Karen Fong-Donoghue signaled an end to a fine first period of footie, and it was lads to lockers for hydration and evaluative assessment.

Angels were the true beasts in the early innings with possibly the best center pairing the state, Leonard and Stavropoulos, providing points in classic finishes and Addix masterfully sorting the strings at standoff; the latter stages of the first period were dominated by the Saracens short, stabbing pick-and goes from Steve Fifita supported by blindside Tyrel Nelsen and the slick service to the backline of the third Fifita, younger brother and scrumhalf, Deion.  

East opened the last half with  possession and long rangers by Addix that pinned Aurora in their own territory, but ensuing lineouts-won and progress by the lively Sarries XV expressed by second row Kanon Heyn all the Fifitas and Nelsen, made for exciting competition.

It was Aurora who struck gold in the seventh minute of the second stanza with a blinder by #18 along touch and the offload to Domena, who closed with a grounding that, with his own conversion, put the travelers in front, 14-12, and palpable tension in the air now.

Domena extended the Sarries lead with a try touched down after scything through a disordered defense for 20 meters: Aurora 19, Denver 17 in the 10th minute, last half.

At this stage the breakdown was so ferociously contested there seemed to be smoke emanating from its origin; intensity well-managed by Fong-Donoghue.

Unforced errors in the form of knock-ons and fumble-forwards at tackle hampering the Aurora effort and Angels capitalistic with fast hands, their three-quartersline probing.  

East closed the gap when blindside flanker Kiluaea Tora blocked a somewhat lazily-orchestrated clearance kick and snatched the jouncing pill off the turf, pounding to breakdown scant meters from goal... where replacement wing, Deshawn Burks, took the offload to the big house for a try and it was a shortened margin of 2 at 19-17 now for Aurora.

Angels were quick into their guests business district, ten meters from goal, and employing the stacking offense from breakdown to settle a platform from which East beasts in the backline feasted, but Saracens defensive function sufficient. 

Aurora with the pill and time running fastest, but turnover in the form of strippage by Nelsen at tackle, followed by stackable advancement closeby the Aurora line, and the finish by Angels lock Ramsey Carter at the death. With the two-point completion by Addix, a record of 24-19 for East was recorded at Fong-Donoghue's last blast.


Angels  -  Try: Leonard, Stavropoulos, Burks, Carter; Con: Addix (2);
Saracens - Try: W Fifita, Domena (2); Con: Domena (2)

Kudos to the officiating crew of: Karen Fong-Donoghue (referee); Kayla Wiggins, Lucy Zugschwert (referee assistants) - well done!

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