San Diego shocks Ohio at full time; Denver stays perfect

LAFAYETTE, Colo. - Ohio appeared to be on its way to a third consecutive victory before San Diego scrum half Charlie Purdon scored a try with no time remaining to bring the crowd at Terrero Stadium to a wild uproar, and keep San Diego within three standings points of a Denver team that proved too strong for Sacramento, 35-13, Sunday.

PRO Rugby's leading point scorer, Kurt Morath, slotted a penalty to give San Diego an early lead. Powerful Ohio prop Jamie Mackintosh, who gave his side a steady dose of go-forward ball all evening, rumbled over the line for a try which JP Eloff would convert for Ohio's first lead, 7-3.

San Diego would retain the advantage through its forwards when big No. 8 Sione Tu'ihalamaka crashed beyond the end line for the team's first try. Morath would connect on each of his three conversion attempts, and the home team clung to a three-point lead.

A lower-leg injury to Eloff put a wrinkle in Ohio's game plan midway through the opening half. After losing scrum half Shaun Davies to injury the week prior, the Midwest squad was not quite as sharp on attack with the loss of its latest Eagle who had been valuable to his team through the first-third of the season.

Fortunately for Ohio, it does not have a lack of half backs who have suited up for the Eagles, and 12-time capped international Robbie Shaw made good on a penalty to equalize the score just before halftime, 10-10.

After 50 minutes of rugby in which neither team could execute much of a game plan, Ohio began to play with the continuity fans have been accustomed to seeing, while San Diego's back line flashed glimpses of electric play it has built a reputation for in just a short period of time.

A second Shaw penalty produced a three-point lead for Ohio just before the 55th minute. The match endured its fourth lead change when San Diego's Tai Tuisamoa carried the ball ahead of the Ohio five-meter line, producing the quick ball needed to put Canadian try-scorer Phil Mackenzie away, who raced past the corner of the try zone. Morath's conversion put San Diego ahead, 17-13.

Proving it can win on the road during Week 4 in Sacramento, Ohio remained poised as consistent pressure deep in San Diego territory eventually sent Sebastian Kalm over for his competition-leading fourth try of the season.

Ohio had thoughts of a celebratory return to Columbus before conceding a penalty that allowed Morath to send a touch-finder into the stands, and give San Diego one last platform off of which to attack. With internationally-proven players littering the San Diego back line and occupying Ohio's attention, reserve scrum half Charlie Purdon spied space on the weak side of the ruck, and used that space to scamper eight meters ahead for the game-winning try. Morath's conversion concluded that match in favor of San Diego, 24-20.

Denver improved to 4-0 after handling Sacramento in the California State capital. The home team received a first-half try from prop Olive Kilifi and only trailed 18-13 at intermission. However, Denver's defense dominated the second period, and the first-place team returned to Colorado with a 35-13 victory.

May 20 marks PRO Rugby's first Friday night game when Denver welcomes San Francisco to Infinity Park. Two days later, Ohio and Sacramento close PRO's sixth week of competition in Obetz. Tickets for Friday's game under the lights can be purchased here, and fans able to attend the May 22 fixture at Memorial Park can find advanced tickets here.