Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
Another week of Super League action is in the books and the race in the Blue and Red Conference now officially have their leaders. San Francisco Golden Gate and Life brought home vital wins this past weekend and now remain as the only two unbeaten teams in the Super League after four weeks of play.
Life Running Eagles at Chicago Griffins
In the Blue Conference, Life University (3-0) took sole possession of first place after a hard fought 25-16 win over the Chicago Griffins (0-3). Life’s coach James Isaacson had predicted the Griffins would be making a fast start out of the blocks.
“It was a real tough game,” Isaacson said.
“We went behind in the first half and deservedly so, as the Griffins played superbly.”
First half penalties were exchanged by Griffins Andrew Suniula and Life’s Aaron McMaster, before Griffins flanker Brian McBride touched down for his side’s first try. Near the end of the half, Life’s wing Steve Petzel tied up the score with a try of his own, before Suniula regained the lead with another penalty to make the half time score 11-8 in the Griffins’ favor.
Fifteen minutes into the second half and playing against the wind, the Griffins extended their advantage with another try to go 16-8 ahead. Moving into the final quarter of the game, Life’s center Tui Osborne notched a try and the McMaster conversion brought Life within a point. Petzel added another try with less than ten minutes on the clock to push Life into the lead and McMaster added a difficult conversion. Minutes later McMaster added another penalty to push the lead to nine points, and Life held on for the win.
Griffins coach Wez Parkes said, “We had a lot of things to correct after last week, which we did to a large extent, but we still came second.”
Parkes mentioned a few defensive lapses that were costly and credits McMaster with pinning the Griffins deep in their own half for long periods, especially in the second half.
In an interesting side note, the win marks Life’s first time in the last couple of years where the team has mounted a late comeback to take the win. They are not often in a position to have to make a comeback, but it is certainly a positive step in the development of the team.
The loss continues a very unlucky run for the Griffins who have now lost three close contests.
Old Blue at New York Athletic Club
With USA Eagles Head Coach Eddie O’Sullivan in attendance in New York, NYAC got the better of Old Blue, taking a 41-25 win and city-wide bragging rights.
Playing with a strong wind in the first half, Old Blue moved out to a 15-10 halftime lead. NYAC (2-1) lost backs Troy Hall and Tim Ryland to injury early on, but Old Blue (0-3) experienced similar injuries to their team. Given the windy condition, NYAC decided to implement a simple game plan, focusing on territory and playing to their strengths, but it was Old Blue who had the better of the early exchanges, with John Hoehmann and Fitzjames Adams scoring tries. Steve Annuziato and Glenn Fox crossed for NYAC.
NYAC began to take advantage of the wind in the second half, with Peter O’Brien marshaling a good game from the flyhalf position. NYAC reeled off 31 unanswered points, with Paul Jesseman, Seth Cohen, Brian Doyle, Tim LeNevez and BJ Hall all scoring tries, three of which were converted by O’Brien.
Fortune favored NYAC on the day, with a few of the tries coming from charged down kicks or turnover ball. Old Blue got some reward for their continued efforts, with Elliot Rechtin finishing off a long break by Hoehmann to provide some highlights, but the spoils went to NYAC on the day.
Boston at Chicago Lions
In Chicago, the visiting Boston club knocked some of the wind out of the sails of the Chicago Lions by taking a 24-22 win. A thrilled Boston coach Mike Diamantopoulos reported a real back and forth type of game.
Diamantopoulos was very happy with Boston’s set piece play, especially the scrums. Boston’s defense was also good, with a key focus on limiting the effectiveness of Lions center Matt Kelly.
Boston used the wind advantage to move out to a 17-8 halftime lead. Duran Vota and Marcus McAllister were try-scorers for Boston with conversions and a penalty added by Nick Elrick.
With the strong wind promising a second half surge by the Lions, Boston made life harder for themselves by conceding a red card for persistent team infringements, second row Dave Prell taking the early shower before the first half was over.
The Lions indeed mounted a challenge in the second half, scoring 14 points, but a final try from Derick Wovumba was enough to put Boston over the top.
“When you go on the road and put yourself under the pressure that we did against a really good team, we are happy with the win,” said Diamantopoulos.
The win was much needed for Boston who is in a position where they may need to win the remainder of their games to reach the playoffs. On the other hand, the loss may be devastating to the Lions as they still have to face Life and NYAC in conference play.
Denver Barbarians at Dallas Harlequins
In the West conference, the Dallas Harlequins entertained the Denver Barbarians, with the Harlequins celebrating the 40th anniversary of the founding of the club. In front of a large local crowd, Dallas (0-4) had several bright spots in the first half, notably Jimmy Jewison’s try, but Dallas also conceded a couple of soft tries that got Denver moving.
The Barbarians (1-2) took control of the game in the second half and cruised to a 63-22 victory. The win was the Barbarians first of the season and keeps their slim playoff hopes alive.
San Francisco Golden Gate at Old Puget Sound Beach
In Seattle, Old Puget Sound Beach played host to San Francisco Golden Gate in another game of undefeated teams with huge playoff implications.
SFGG overcame a slow start to come away with a 34-14 victory.
First half tries were scored by SFGG (3-0), with Saimone Lauaupaleau and Folau Moleloa crossing the try line. OPSB countered with three penalty kicks by fullback Evan Haigh. OPSB’s Tim Zern considered it a pretty even first half, with several unforced errors on both sides that probably cost both teams some points. SFGG coach Paul Keeler agreed, citing a slow start, missed passes and trying to force the plays as the common problems in the first forty.
In the second half, a rejuvenated SFGG team began to click, directed by the efficient play of scrumhalf Mose Timoteo. Number 8, Samuela Manoa, was again very effective, contributing several hard runs and gain line breaks as the OPSB tackles started to fall off a little. SFGG wing Hector Quiles added a try and hooker Chris Biller added two more.
OPSB (2-1) countered with a try through Filimoni Botitu, but it was to be SFGG’s day. OPSB have a pivotal game next week in Utah, while SFGG will host Denver in another important Red Conference clash.
Super League Week 5 Schedule- April 9, 2011