Sunday, May 15, 2016

State Division 1 Semifinals

Raiders, Angels through to Grand Championship
from the Infinity Park Rugby Complex, Glendale, CO, May 14, 2016

Regis three-quarters snapping that corner

#1 seeded Regis Jesuit Raiders and #2 Denver East High Angels will reprise their 2015 Championship acts after their wins this weekend on the StoveTop at Infinity yesterday over Aurora Saracens and Colorado Springs Grizzlies respectively. Last year, the Angels denial “D” held off a furious, 5-minute Raiders assault on the East goal line at the death: that feverish action was rife with penalty infringements, crunching stoppages, slick transfers,  swift communications, rampant desperation and determination, and at the end… a Champion in the form and function of East High Angels Rugby. This season, after a convincing league victory over the Angels at home, the Jesuit earned a bonus-point win in their final league fixture over Littleton before their victory past Saracens.

Chilly overcast in perfect pack conditions for the first semifinal of the Rugby Colorado Divisions 1 and 2 playoff weekend as referee Rick Goldammer whistled the first kick, and Saracens flyhalf Will Fifita lofted the initial drop into Regis territory. Action between the 22s in the early stages with each side attempting to establish their patterns: Raiders with short pick-and-goes followed by flares out to the three-quartersline, while the Sarries worked the pick-and-goes as well, but backline service meant near channel work. Saracens on the wrong end of the penalty ratio in the first 10 minutes.

Regis got aboard after a lineout won and spun from ten meters out of Aurora’s goal had flyhalf Ryan Maxfield  identifying and exploiting a seam in the defensive alignment for a try and wing Lou Vera’s conversion: 7-nil  Raiders in the 10th minute.

Aurora made it quickly inside the Regis 22 and were looking the business before a penalty at breakdown reversed possession and the Jesuit marched upfield behind Maxfield’s boot to touch. Saracens managed the turnover at breakdown, but at the ensuing scrumdown, Raiders hooker Dylan Able took one against the head
and Regis went to breakdown heavily on the front foot. Rapid service to the backline and left wing, Drew Schlegel, crashed into space and finished fifteen rapidly for five and it was 12-0 midway through the first period.

Regis extended their advantage after 8man Matt Peppercorn snatched the pill from the base of a wonscrum fifteen meters out, and sliced open a crease for a try followed by Vera’s additional deuce: 19-0 in the 20th, and those were the tallies as Goldammer sounded the midpoint break.

Aurora were experiencing difficulty with ball retention, while Regis were sharp and keen to capitalize on every offer put by their table.

Saracens opened the second stanza hard with standoff and USA Men’s Junior All American, Will Fifita, punching into space inside the Raiders 22, shedding tackles while spinning and fending his way into goal to touch down: 19-5, five minutes into the last half.

Aurora got another in the form of inside center Jamaal Fitch’s dive over the line and grounding from inclose: conversion by wing Tyrel Nelson and 19-12 with 20 minutes to go and it was game very much on!

Regis returned fire on a swervy, jinky counter by Vera for 65 meters and his own conversion: 26-12 in the 12th minute of the second period of play.

As in any good matchup of heavyweights, Aurora struck back immediately, sending powerful 8man, Deion Fifita,  across the line to dot for a 26-17 scoreline at the midpoint of the interval.

Sarries would draw closer still with three minutes to go after a score by scrumhalf Sel Funaki made it 26-22, but that was the end of the count at Goldammer’s last blast and a result of 26-22 for Regis was recorded.

                Aurora – Try: W Fifita, Fitch, D Fifita, Funaki; Con: Nelson;
                Regis – Try: Maxfield, Schlegel, Peppercorn, Vera; Con: Vera (3);
Match Officials:  Rick Goldammer (Referee); Chris Huff, Joe Zevin (RAs);
Match Officials: Goldammer, Huff and Zevin

Grizzlies on the front foot

Bit of a drop in temperature and an increase in breeze by kickoff of the second RC semifinal between reigning champion Denver East High Angels and Colorado Springs Grizzlies.  During the season, Colorado Springs came up to Denver and nearly returned south in victory, but a late Bears surge ended in 3-point defeat at the Angels homegrounds of Heaven.

East onboard first after inside center Adam Leonard bowled over a would-be stopper, racing for forty before being brought to ground five meters from goal; then the offload to wing Holden Kjerland-Nicoletti, who finished for a handful: 5-nil the Angels in the eighth minute.

Good stuff from both ends as each XV demonstrated facility in the short, stabbing pick-and-go from breakdown, occasionally each were being undone by frustrating handling errors.

Colorado Springs claimed the lead when a penalty try was awarded the Grizzlies after East were judged to have dangerously impeded a sure score: with conversion by fullback, Cal Robeson, a new leader in the Bear at 7-5 in the 21st minute.

East would regain the lead at the period’s end when fullback Blake Pullen split the centers and broke to space at midfield to put Leonard away; the powerful Angels inside center fought his way into goal for five-point finish, and it was 10-7 for East as referee Paul Knowles signaled the halftime break.

A fine derby of well-matched XVs with similar methods of operation; Grizzlies would have to contain Denver’s Leonard in the second stanza as the young gun ran riot through Colorado Springs defensive alignment in the initial thirty minutes of play.

Grizzlies knotted things up early in the last half on a sticksplitter by Robeson, and then grabbed the lead with a try by 8man, Nick Warman; 17-10 for the Springs, seven minutes into it. 

And that’s when the wheels fell off the Grizzlies wagon and East exploded for 45 unanswered points on trys by: wing Abdul Neville (12’); Leonard (13’); lock, SirMiles (sic) Lewis (18’); Pullen (23’); a brace by outside center, Yanni Stavropoulos (43’ and time) on either side of blindside Kilauea Tora’s grounding (29’) for a record of 55-17 at Knowles’ last blast.

                Grizzlies – Try: Penalty Try, Warman; Con: Robeson (2); Pen: Robeson;
                Angels – Try: Kjerland-Nicoletti, Leonard (2), Neville, Lewis, Pullen, Stavropoulos (2), Tora; Con: Addix (4);
Match Officials: Paul Knowles (Referee); Stu Geiger, Dan Hattrup (RAs)  
Match Officials: Hattrup, Knowles and Geiger


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