Ohio continues good PRO form in win over Sacramento; San Diego outduels San Francisco

LAFAYETTE, Colo. - Ohio and San Diego played the part of spoiler by beating hosts Sacramento and San Francisco, respectively, in PRO Rugby's Week 4 doubleheader in the Golden State Sunday, May 8. The team hailing from Obetz surrendered zero second half points in its 31-11 handling of Sacramento. In the Bay Area, San Diego had to work extremely hard in order to orchestrate a 46-33 victory against an improved, but still winless, San Francisco side.

San Diego headed north to the Bay Area with a 2-1 record after starting the inaugural PRO Rugby season with a bye, falling only to undefeated Denver at home. Conversely, winless San Francisco was reeling from a heavy defeat at Ohio in Week 3, and looked to give the receptive crowd at Boxer Stadium a proud performance before taking its first bye in Week 5.

While 'City' brought the crowd to a roar with the match's first possession, Tongan fly half Kurt Morath kicked San Diego into a third-minute lead from the 10. At the end of a four-week slate of matches, San Francisco dealt with banged-up bodies in the worst way, substituting Alex Bowman off with an injury in the fifth minute.

The early San Francisco onslaught in the attacking half forced Morath and San Diego to kick for territory often throughout the first 40 minutes. One such kick set up San Francisco with a lineout 20 meters from its own try line, but Jacob Finau was unable to keep his throw straight. The error proved costly, as Men's Eagles scrum half Tom Bliss took the ball from his team's scrum win and attempted a grubber kick. The first attempt was blocked, but a second poke from the San Diegan was enough to free the ball for a 10-0 lead after eight minutes.

The San Francisco forwards had come under criticism in recent weeks with a perceived lack of fitness in giving up a league-worst 123 points, but they came to play at Boxer Stadium Sunday, led by capped Eagle David Tameilau. The No. 8 broke the gain line to bring his side within scoring distance, and successive penalties to the visitors led to Michael Reid tapping from 10 meters out for the 10-7 try.

Morath increased the lead to 16-7 with two penalty goals five minutes apart, with San Diego taking the opportunities for points rather than get into a battle of attrition a quarter into the match. Sione Tu'ihalamaka set up a potential five- to seven-point scoring play with a blustering run through San Francisco defenders to pass the 22, but hooker Tim Barford lost the ball forward as it was worked through backs' hands towards the touch line.

Match official Kurt Weaver had earlier warned San Diego for repeated infringements at the breakdown, and lock Tai Tuisamoa paid the price in the 32nd minute, being sent to the bin for an infraction at midfield. Volney Rouse, back in the No. 10 jersey following a carousel of roster shifts by Paul Keeler in recent weeks, set up a five-meter lineout for his team, and Tameilau took it over the line to bring the score to 16-14.

The celebrations at Boxer Stadium did not last long, however, as San Diego full back Mike Te'o benefitted from his teammates' running rugby with a try in the corner. His team's lead stood at 23-14 going into halftime with another couple of minutes remaining on Tuisamoa's sinning.

One last charge from the home team with the man-advantage went unrewarded, and Canadian wing Phil MacKenzie swung the momentum in San Diego's favor when he grabbed the ball from a San Francisco ruck at midfield in the 45th minute. He sprinted away from two defenders before cutting inside the sweeper at the 22, where Cecil Garber offered his support and received the offload to score.

While San Diego had taken the safer options earlier in the match to kick for points, San Francisco went for the crowd-pleaser all day long to varying degrees of success. The San Diego backs - also featuring capped Eagles Ryan Matyas, Taku Ngwenya, and Andrew Suniula - lost possession along the touch line at midfield when Te'o looked for an offload in contact. San Francisco took the ball forward, and Codi Jones broke the gain line to free space for Rouse's 30-meter try.

San Francisco tied the match at 28-28 minutes later when Martini Talapusi caught a chip kick and stepped Te'o to get near the try line. Support rushed in, and all it took was the go-forward running ability of Tameilau to get over for the score.

Morath restored San Diego's lead with a penalty goal before Nikola Bursic saved Joe Taufete'e's five-meter lineout and dove over the line for a 36-28 advantage. Not out of it by any means, San Francisco continued forward and switched the play with 10 minutes remaining for Pila Iongi to score on an overlap. The conversion was not the toughest, but Rouse was unable to send the ball through the uprights, keeping San Diego's lead at 36-33.

Breathing space was won by San Diego when the fly half, 20 meters from the posts, sent a chip kick high for Ngwenya to chase where the try line and touch line met. Despite being hounded by two defenders, Ngwenya came down with the ball, and San Diego recycled quickly for Canadian international Hubert Buydens to score. Morath sealed the win with a penalty goal a minute from time for the 46-33 final.

With five tries at Boxer Stadium, San Francisco earned its first point in the inaugural PRO Rugby standings. San Diego sits level in third on points with Ohio, with the team based in Obetz, Ohio, holding a superior point differential.

PRO's second game of the May 8 action opened with an exchange of penalty kicks within the five-minute mark. Eagle scrum half Shaun Davies missed Ohio's first attempt at points, while Sacramento midfielder Mirco Bergamasco slotted his. The Azzurri stalwart connected on another penalty five minutes later to give Sacramento an early, 6-0, advantage.

Ohio took a lead it would not relinquish when Davies put wing Mason Baum away for the game's first try. The No. 11 from Davenport University had plenty of work to do before he was able to maneuver his way over the line from seven meters out.

Assisted by an undisciplined Sacramento defense that eventually led to a yellow card for eight man Langi Haupeakui, Ohio sustained its share of pressure before another wing, Aaron 'Spike' Davis, went beyond the end line.

Trailing by six points, the home team answered Ohio's 12-point run when scum half Chris Saint, making his first start of the season, scored a try before half's end. The ensuing conversion attempt failed, and Sacramento went into the locker room down just 12-11.

Playing against a team that proved very fit in last week's win over San Francisco, Sacramento did not do itself any favors when team captain John Quill was sent off due to a yellow card. It was the third card referee Scott Green pulled from his pocket, and the second issued to Sacramento. The one-man advantage made it easy for former All Black prop Jamie Mackintosh to spot a try-scoring gap for eventual Man of the Match and Italian professional Filippo Ferrarini.

After a two-try performance against San Francisco, Ohio eight man Sebastian Kalm scored off of a quick tap reminiscent of one of his scores from last week to extend its lead, 24-11.

Baum earned his second try thanks to a well-timed draw-and-pass by hooker Dylan Fawsitt, who was on debut. JP Eloff made good on a second conversion, this time from just within the touch line, to conclude the scoring, 31-11. Sacramento left the fans in attendance proud by battling until the final minute; however, its last-second attack fell just short of the try line.


Injuries to a pair of Eagles - an apparent ankle ailment for Quill and an unfortunate and more severe upper body injury to Davies - were the only dampers to an otherwise exciting and physical 80 minutes of rugby at Bonney Field.

Ohio has recovered nicely from a disappointing sudden-death overtime loss to Denver in PRO Rugby's opening weekend to win two consecutive games by a combined 54 points. The men in blue and red kit have every intention of making it three in a row when they visit San Diego May 15.

Sacramento, which has not tasted victory since Week 1 when it came from behind to defeat San Francisco, will look to make amends next weekend at home against a Denver squad coming off of a bye.

Advanced tickets for Sunday's match at the University of San Diego's Torero Stadium can be purchased here, and tickets for those interested in watching Sacramento attempt to hand Denver its first defeat are available through TicketMaster.