Upsets aplenty as Ohio topples Denver, San Francisco earns its first PRO road win

LAFAYETTE, Colo. - A pair of upsets marked PRO Rugby's 10th week of action, as Ohio and San Francisco went on the road and earned victories over Denver and San Diego, respectively.

Coming off of its first win of the season three weeks ago against Ohio, the Rush traveled south and picked up its first victory away from San Francisco's Boxer Stadium when it handed the Breakers a third consecutive loss.

San Francisco opened with a lead that it would not relinquish when Orene Ai'i's fancy footwork created the space for debutant lock Jeremy Lenaerts to take an offload from the All Blacks Sevens star and score under the posts.

San Diego cut into the Rush's 7-0 lead when Kurt Morath slotted his 100th point of the season with a penalty kick. Soon after the Breakers got on the scoreboard, however, the home team would lose scrum half Charlie Purdon to injury. Already missing Eagle No. 9 Tom Bliss to an injury of his own, the loss of Purdon forced a shakeup in the San Diego back line that played a hand in the team's inability to break out in attack.

Further complicating San Diego's situation at scrum half was the absence of Mike Te'o, who was selected by the Eagles to face Italy and Russia.

San Francisco increased its lead to 14-3 when full back Martini Talapusi straightened a counter-attacking run before dishing off to Michael Haley, who dotted down.

Rush fly half Volney Rouse would connect on a penalty between two more successful three-point kicks by Morath before half's end, giving San Francisco a surprising, 17-9, lead at the break.

Following a two-try performance last week against Ohio, winger Ben Leatigaga brought his Breakers to within three points of San Francisco's lead with a try 10 minutes into the second frame. San Diego looked to be on its way to building its own lead, but substitutes from the Rush's bench made an immense impact, re-working the momentum into their own hands.

Already having softened the San Diego defense with a hard-charging run, reserve forward David Tameilau took an offload from Bill Fukofuka for the Eagle eight man's third try of the season.

Down 10 points, the Breakers opted not to kick for touch rather than take the safe three points, and the risk paid off when former Men's Eagle Sevens flyer Pono Haitsuka raced past the end line for a try with just three minutes remaining in the match. The five points from Haitsuka would be the match's last, and San Francisco improved to 2-5, while dropping San Diego to an even 4-4 on the season with a 24-19 win.

The Stampede broke ground at their new home at the University of Denver's CIBER Field, but was forced to host Ohio without two-thirds of its starting front row in Chris Baumann and Ben Tarr, as well as outside center Chad London. The trio of Denver stars are currently with the Men's Eagles for their two-match test series in California.

Aviator scrum half Shaun Davies scored the first three points of his 18 on the day with a penalty kick 10 minutes into the match. Ohio would do well to keep the ball inside Denver's half, and was rewarded for its efforts when flanker Filippo Ferrarini snuck under the posts from six meters out for his fifth try of the year.

A try-saving tackle forcing Denver's Logan Collins into touch prevented the Rush from getting on the scoreboard, and the Aviators quickly reversed the field. Aaron Davis then found the ball in his hand and did what the big winger does best - run through defenders on his way to a competition-leading eighth try.

Already trailing by 17 points in the first half, Denver was comfortable kicking for points rather than seeking tries, and did so successfully with two Will Magie penalties in the 27th and 30th minutes to cut into Ohio's lead.

The Aviators applied a crutch to the Stampede's plans to get back in the game when All Black Jamie Mackintosh scored on a crash ball from the base of a ruck, and Davies added five more points via his right boot in the half's closing six minutes.

Denver looked strong coming out of the halftime gates, but multiple miscues inside the red zone squandered scoring opportunities. The Stampede finally made good on a five-meter lineout when it sent Martin Knoetze in for a try in the 48th minute.

Former Oklahoma State footballer and Ohio winger Alex Elkins, who bagged a pair of tries last week, bulldozed over the line for his third try of the season shortly after Knoetze's score to push the Aviators' lead back up to 32-13 following Davies' conversion.

Steaming Denver temperatures and wholesale changes from both teams' benches gave way to four more tries, two by each side, in the match's closing 25 minutes.

First, Ohio's Dominic Waldouck and Ahmad Harajly went over the line to build the Aviators' advantage to 41-13, before the Stampede's Zach Fenoglio and captain Pedrie Wannenburg added scores to make a more respectively finish to Denver's first loss, 48-27.

The Stampede's first PRO Rugby defeat did not remove Denver from the top of the standings table, but did inch Ohio closer to first place as the Aviators improved to 5-3.

Two more matches are on tap for the 11th weekend in PRO Rugby's historic first season. On Sunday, June 26, Ohio returns home to take on San Francisco, while the Stampede will look to get back to its winning ways at home against a Sacramento Express squad that has been away from action since a May 28 loss to San Diego.