Sunday, October 1, 2017

RMR: MD2 - Glendale Merlins v Denver Highlanders

Merls pressure v 'Landers resilience

Warm sun with an overcast incoming on a bit of crossfield westwind at the first whistle and kick of the match that would see about the early points lead in Rocky Mountain Rugby division-2 men's table on the StoveTop at Infinity between first place Merlins and first place Highlanders, each with a handful of match digits and each looking to prove  their mettle at the expense of the other. Glendale were looking to keep their momentum ongoing after their comprehensive defeat of Boulder Rugby last weekend, while the Highlanders sought similar circumstance and identical outcome; sides were all locked and loaded awaiting referee Brighton Khumalo's starting signal.

Highlanders 10, Adam Price, hoisted the high, hanging drop and his cohort swarmed the receiving Merlins forward, their determined effort making for turnover in the Glendale half just outside the 22. A couple of banging, crabbing  pick-and-goes with minimal forward movement before breakdown and penalty awarded to the visitors at a failure to release infraction; opportunity for the shot on goal wayward in the second minute and Glendale restarted from their 22 with the dropout.

Denver remained in the Merlins half, however, making slow yet certain progress toward goal, well aided and abetted by the occasional Merlins penalty until a sweeping movement wide saw outside center Matt Soderman across in the corner for a try that put Highlanders with the 5-nil lead in the 5th minute of action.

Denver were enjoying the great majority of territory and possession due their speed to and intensity at breakdown in the first 20 minutes and they were rewarded as loosehead prop, Mike "Bilbo" Backens executed a thundering, lumbering, jinking scoot through the hosts defense to touch down 'neath the posts for Price's conversion and it was 12-0 for Denver on 20 minutes.

Highlanders kept pressure on in short, probing pick-and-goes from breakdown and questions posed in the midfield, but slowly the "effect" pendulum began to favor the home squad as it was Highlanders who were getting pinged and Merlins who were making the gainline+.

Glendale with the put just inside Highlanders 10 meter line. Won and distributed to flyhalf, Thomas Gumbley, who dead-legged to space and made ideal communication with scrumhalf Trevor Wilder, who finished fast for five and 12-5 yet for Denver, but Glendale had announced themselves well in the 36th minute.

Highlanders and the quickly-tapped penalty from 25 meters out caught Merlins napping and the inside handoff to Price saw him cross unscathed for his own conversion and the lads went to lockers for hydration, inspiration and instruction with tallies at 19 and 5 after Khumalo sounded the halftime break. Highlanders won the first 40 showing better fitness, determination and fashion at breakdown with Merlins looking a bit slow and sluggish as reaction. Glendale were sniffing the paint at the conclusion of the opening innings, so the competition a bit closer than the Highlander's two converted goals lead may have indicated.

Second stanza got underway with each side seeking to substantiate their own pattern: Highlanders with the bang-bang from breakdown before cycling to their thus far impressive threequarters, and Merlins keeping the pill tight and close and working the maul inexorably upfield with purpose.

Glendale with the wonscrum at Highlanders 22 setting to goal before gaining the penalty and the kick to touch for a lineout on the edge of Highlanders business district, 10 meters from goal. Toss captured by Merlins leaper and maul angling powerful into the Promised Land with blindside flanker George Bristow and his drop-down touch for five-made-seven by Wilder, and 19-12 in the 51st minute - StoveTop's burner on high just then.

Highlanders stretched the lead back to 14 with a try scored by hard-charging inside center, Ahron Osheroff, and Price with the added deuce: 26-12 at 55'.

The final 10 minutes and IT were like a raucous, heavyweight battle with both XVs slugging away and counter-punching desperate: Denver's flyhalf slotted a penalty to make it 29-12 before Gross touched down for Highlanders and 36-12 the scoreline in the 69th minute.

Glendale struck back on inside center Dennis Papike's grounding and own conversion: 36-19 at 73'; Gross got his brace with Price's +two and 43-19 the numbers; a further touch down for the homeside by Gumbley, with Papike's +two made it 43-26 in injury time; and a last five for Denver as replacement back Rocco Petramala intercepted a pass and scampered to goal for the 48-26 result at Field Master K's last blast.


Glendale - Try: Wilder, Bristow, Gumbley, Papike; Con: Wilder (3);
Highlanders - Try: Soderman, Backens, Price, Osheroff, Gross (2), Petramala;                            Con: Price (4); Pen: Price

Match Official: Brighton Khumalo


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