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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

USA Rugby MD-3 Territorials: Denver Highlanders v St. Louis Royals

Highlanders wing, Cody Blake, cuts to space on the counter
In a contest that saw four lead changes and an instance of drawn scores, Kansas City Royals stepped on the gas near the hour mark to outpace hometown favorite Denver Highlanders to claim advancement. Fair weather with a vagrant wind made for near-ideal conditions on Infinity’s StoveTop artificial turf pitch on Sunday last for the USA Rugby Men’s Division-3 determinant.
Highlanders onboard behind a strong, slashing run by inside center Mike “Bilbo” Backens that was finished by outside center Paea Kaivelata for the try. Conversion by flyhalf Adam Price and it was 7-nil in the 10th minute.
St. Louis drove into Denver territory for a lineout at Highlanders 10 meter line. That won, the Royals advanced in a tight, four-phase pick-and-go movement capped by a penalty judgment by referee Steve Gore, 30 meters out and directly in front of the sticks. St Louis fullback Stephen Duff struck truly and split the posts perfectly and it was 7-3 after 15 ticks off Gore’s chronometer.
Highlanders jumped back in front on a successful penalty by Price: 10-3 at 21 minutes. The sides were mixing things up well with short, stinging pick-and-goes from breakdown, hard-charging mid-channel industry and querying Garryowens from their respective standoffs.
Royals drew level on a quickly tapped penalty inside Highlanders 22. Swift and slick, St. Louis drove into Highlanders business district and sent flyer, Mike Compton, across for the grounding converted by Duff and everywhere, everyone had a dime in the 26th minute.
Denver returned fire immediately in the form of 20 meters of driving pick-and-goes followed by a Royals penalty at breakdown, then a second Price penalty; 13-10 for Highlanders at 28’.
Highlanders would extend their lead by ball retention within the 10 meter lines that led to a breakdown penalty. Tap-and-go service to flyer, Cody Blake, and a corner turned for a fast forty meter scoot to goal for the winger’s touch down; 18-10 for Highlanders with time in the half ebbing.
St Louis took immediate advantage of a Highlanders cover defense at sixes and sevens to spread the field and put wing Phil Powell in space to close for a nickel and it was 18-15 in favor of Denver yet.
A penalty attempt struck by Duff in the 40th minute sailed wide of the uprights and lads to lockers at Gore’s halftime whistle. Lively at times, and free-flowing and entertaining the rugby from both ends with scintillating counters by both XV’s 15s, Stephen Duff for the Royals and Taylor Utt for Highlanders, on display.
A yellow ticket issued the Royals outside center had them down a man, but it was St. Louis who profited via a grounding by replacement three-quarters Chris Chita in the corner and we had a new leader in the 49th minute, 20-18 for the Majestics.
Now a lead exchange for Highlanders as Price nailed his third sticksplitter from just outside the right post and inside the 22; scoreline became 21-20 in the 52nd minute.
Duff made it a St Louis lead with a long range penalty from the 10 meter line on the right post: 23-21 at 56’.
St Louis extended its margin after blindside flanker, Trevor Locke, spun to space inside the 22, and finished fast for tallies of 28 and 21 at the hour mark.
Denver were guilty of unforced handling errors and were the worse for it just now, with knock-ons meaning possession switches.
From a set piece gone to breakdown five meters from joy, St Louis hooker Toma Ghattas snatched the pill and dove low into the try zone for a fiver made seven by Duff and 35-21 for Royals in the 72nd minute.
Highlanders got a last dot by their own #2, Tucker English, but that ended the scoring on the day and a result of 35-26 went into the record books at Gore’s final tweet.
Scoring
                Highlanders - Try: Kaivelata, Blake, English; Con: Price; Pen: Price (3);
                Royals - Try: Compton, Powell, Locke, Ghattas; Con: Duff (3); Pen: Duff (3);

Match Officials: Steve Gore (Referee); John Kenney, Brighton Khumalo (RAs); Jim Russell, Joe Zevin (Coaches); Gary Hartzell, Bob Lesnanskey (Stats and Evaluation)

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