Eight tries fly Aviators past San Diego, into second place

LAFAYETTE, Colo. - Ohio moved into second place in PRO Rugby's standings as a product if its comprehensive, 55-31, win over San Diego.

The June 12 victory in Obetz, Ohio, was the first PRO match played since the league's five franchises received fan-chosen names, and also the first week since teams said goodbye to internationals representing their country during the June test window. National team duty left the Aviators forward pack without Angus MacLellan, who is battling for a spot on USA's front row, and Canadian flanker Kyle Baillie, while San Diego was absent of Eagles Takudzwa Ngwenya, Joe Taufete'e, and Mike Te'o, as well as Canadian props Hubert Buydens and Jake Ilnicki.

The summer's international rugby calendar is sure to test PRO teams' depth, but should unearth incredibly talented players - like Ohio's Alex Elkins. The former Oklahoma State University linebacker was given a chance on the wing, and responded with a pair of tries.

Elkins' first score came after the Aviators already built a 10-3 lead thanks to a Dominic Waldouck try and five points off the boot of Robbie Shaw. Using a scrum to set an offensive platform deep in San Diego's half, a series of quickly-moved passes put the ball into the 6-foot-4, 230-pound winger's hands, who plowed his way beyond the end line.

The pace from both teams quickened as the game went on, and San Diego had no trouble answering Ohio's scores in the first half. The Breakers earned their first try by working the ball short to one side with their forwards, before Kurt Morath skipped a pass to Kalei Konrad, who dotted down a week after notching his first PRO try.

Crisp passing along an Ohio counterattack fed Elkins the ball for his second try, and extended the Aviators' lead to 22-10. After displaying his strength during his first try-scoring run, Elkins showed off his speed and agility by beating the defense to the corner and racing down the sideline for his second five-pointer.

San Diego quickly silenced the home crowd when Ben Leatigaga touched down. Fresh off performing for the Eagles at HSBC London Sevens, the former West Point athlete chased down a kick stabbed through the defense by Morath. The Tongan fly half's successful conversion had San Diego in position to sway the lead, trailing just 22-17. The Breakers, though, would not head into the locker room trailing just one try. Ohio's relentless attack mustered one more scoring opportunity, and converted it by putting Aaron Davis into the try zone.

Leading, 27-17, Ohio made a statement by opening the second half with an immediate try. Eight man Riekert Hattingh broke the gain line and fed Ahmad Harajly, who pinned the last defender before offloading to Waldouck for the former London Wasp center's second try.

Terrific goal line defense by the Aviators made it difficult for San Diego to cut into Ohio's lead. Meanwhile, the home team refused to slow down its attack. Fly half Taylor Howden, taking over at first receiver for the injured JP Eloff, found a seam thanks to a well-timed dummy pass, and ran under the posts.

Ohio was brimming with confidence when it received the ensuing kickoff and quickly shifted the ball wide where Harajly again dropped the ball off to Waldock, who sprinted to a hat trick and a 48-17 Aviators advantage.

Within the closing five minutes of the Week 9 fixture, Davis added his second try of the game and seventh of the season before San Diego's Leatigaga scored his second and Zach Pangelinan got over the line to shrink the final scoring margin.

The 14-point win marks Ohio's third consecutive victory at home, and leapfrogs the Aviators ahead of the Breakers in PRO Rugby's standings. Ohio now sits at 22 points - five behind the undefeated Denver Stampede.

The loss drops San Diego to a record of 4-3 and left waiting to build on the 22 points it has collected on the season.

Four teams will be in action over two days during PRO's tenth week of action. First, San Diego hopes to get back to its winning ways when the Breakers host San Francisco Saturday, June 18. The following day, Denver will put its perfect record on the line against Ohio. Tickets for the Stampede's first match at the University of Denver's CIBER Field are available for purchase here, and tickets to see the Breakers take on the Rush can be ordered in advance here.