San Francisco earns first PRO win; San Diego captures third in a row

LAFAYETTE, Colo. - A 35-20 win over Ohio earned San Francisco its first-ever PRO Rugby win Sunday, May 29, and San Diego improved to 4-1 with its 34-23 defeat of Sacramento a day earlier in southern California.

An improved Week 6 performance against Denver, in which San Francisco pushed the competition's lone undefeated side until the match's final minute, gave indication that the team from the Bay was nearing its first victory. However, the opening exchanges against Ohio were more reminiscent of San Francisco's first month of the season, as Ohio's Sebastian Kalm scored his league-leading seventh try to open the game in the 11th minute.

100-test New Zealand All Black Mils Muliana, appearing for the struggling San Francisco team like a knight in shining armor, made his PRO debut and immediately impacted the game by taking Volney Rouse's offload for a try. Rouse's successful conversion put San Francisco ahead, 7-5.

Recently recalled Men's Eagle Shaun Davies put Ohio back in the lead for a brief moment with a penalty kick, but San Francisco's forwards bullied their way to a pair of scores before halftime. The first try came after a lot of hard work allowed Bill Fukofuka to dive over from a couple meters out. Five minutes later, front row reserve Jacob Finau took advantage of an unmanned post around a ruck, and ran to the line untouched.

Rouse padded San Francisco's 21-8 halftime lead with another penalty kick, but Ohio struck back when a strong run from Matt Hughston put the opposition on the back foot, and Filippo Ferrarini eventually stretched over the end line to cut San Francisco's lead to nine points.

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Equipped with years of kicking duties playing for San Francisco Golden Gate, Rouse was plenty accustomed to the gusting winds at Boxer Stadium and slotted two more penalties to push the home team's lead to 30-15.

Both teams added tries in the match's final 15 minutes - San Francisco's through the hands of Tongan national team player Pila Iongo, and Dylan Fawsitt scored his second try in as many weeks for Ohio. In the end, it was a milestone win for San Francisco, and a well-deserved victory at that.

Fans in attendance at Torero Stadium witnessed San Diego win its third consecutive match against a scuffling Sacramento side. After the two teams exchanged successful penalty kicks in the game's opening exchanges, dynamic San Diego utility back Mike Te'o sparked the first try with a spectacular counter attack that ended with a kick-and-chase Tim Stanfill was able to run down for a score.

Sacramento's Mirco Bergamasco knocked through a second penalty before San Diego's Charlie Purdon had little work to do to score the home team's second try. The scrum half picked up the ball just a meter from the line thanks to a successful series of phases by San Diego's bigger units and snuck over for the score.

A dramatic succession of plays closed the opening half when San Diego's quick lineout resulted in a positive territorial gain off the boot. Sacramento, however, returned the favor with its own quick throw in from the touch line, and a trio of internationals produced a try from within their own half. Italian Bergamasco drew the defense's attention with ball in hand, and offloaded to Canada's Ray Barkwill who fed a hard-charging John Quill for Sacramento's try.

The visitors' momentum grew with a third Bergamasco penalty kick, cutting San Diego's lead to a single point, but the wind in Sacramento's sails waned when Quill was red-carded shortly before the halftime whistle.

Playing short-handed, Sacramento still managed to keep the ball deep in San Diego's half to open the second period. Mistakes prevented the one-win team from California's capital from scoring on multiple occasions that begged for a try.

Instead of Sacramento taking the lead, Tongan fly half and PRO Rugby point-scoring leader Kurt Morath nailed his first of two successful penalty strikes after coming on as a replacement for Kalei Konrad.

A pair of Eagle veterans kept San Diego's scoreboard ticking when Taku Ngwenya danced past a few defenders for a try, and Andrew Suniula dotted down for the first time in the teal and white kit.

Olive Kilifi powered through for a Sacramento try in the 68th minute, but the damage had already been done by San Diego, and the Southern California outfit celebrated its fourth win and second place standing in PRO Rugby's competition table.

San Diego stays home this week for a June 5 contest against Denver in PRO Rugby's lone Week 9 matchup. The two squads met in PRO's Week Three, when Denver outlasted the home side in southern California to become the league's sole unbeaten team. The rematch pitting the two best records in PRO Rugby will kick off at 5 p.m. PT, with tickets available for purchase here.