Denver inches closer to Ohio in PRO standings; San Francisco adds to San Diego's losing streak

LAFAYETTE, Colo. - San Francisco earned its first victory since June 18 by dropping San Diego, 50-26, while Denver was awarded the bonus-point victory it needed against Sacramento Sunday to move within one point of PRO Rugby standings leaders Ohio Aviators.

On a windy afternoon in San Francisco's Boxer Stadium, the Rush scored the game's first 17 points, beginning with an intercepted pass by Orene Ai'I, which the former All Blacks Sevens star ran back for a try.

Volney Rouse added three more points with a penalty kick five minutes after Ai'i's try, and the one-time New Zealand star had a hand in the next try when his flat pass hit Martini Talapusi in stride and the full back fed Devereaux Ferris, who started the try-scoring phase with quick ball from the base of a ruck for the scrum half's first try of the season.

Trailing, 17-0, San Diego momentarily stopped the bleeding when Takudzwa Ngwenya's strong run got San Francisco's feet backpedaling, and Charlie Purdon chose the right option in a hard-charging Tai Tuisamoa, who ran in for the Breakers' first points.

Tuisamoa's triumphant play was followed by a miscue when the big lock forward could not handle the ensuing kickoff, and Rouse's convenient placement made for an easy try for San Francisco's fly half. Rouse's third successful conversion moved the Rush ahead, 24-7.

Playing inside San Francisco's half, San Diego found its offense moving backwards before Andrew Suniula straightened the attack and passed to Cecil Garber. The openside flanker brushed off one defender and closed the Rush's lead to just 10 points thanks to Kalei Konrad's conversion. The Breakers built plenty of pressure in the closing minutes of the opening half, but were not able to cut further into San Francisco's lead - which would prove costly to the visiting side.

Just as they took control to open the first half, the Rush was in charge of the second half's opening moments. Winger Michael Haley's determined run got the scoring underway, then San Francisco center and Canadian international Nick Blevins charged down Mike Teo's kick and seamlessly gathered the ball for his own try.

San Diego's first points of the second half were 100 meters in the making. Following a stolen scrum, Ngwenya ran the ball out from his own goal line. Luckily for the Breakers, Ryan Matyas fended off two defenders and dropped a pass off to Te'o, who did the rest of the work for the try. Konrad's conversion would miss, and San Diego trailed, 36-19.

There was little magic left in San Diego's back line after Te'o's score, and although Derrick Broussard would pick up a try, Life West teammates Ferris and Ai'i would bag their second scores on the day for San Francisco, and the Rush cruised to a 24-point victory.

Three weeks after a undermanned and out-of-form Denver team beat Sacramento, 29-13, the Stampede put together a performance they can be much prouder of in their 59-13 win over the Express.

Mirco Bergamasco gave Sacramento a brief lead with a penalty kick in the fourth minute. The home side took its own lead soon after when fly half Will Magie showed he is not just a distributor by instead using his quick feet to cut through the defense on a counterattack. Before being dragged down, the former AIG Men's Junior All-American captain handed off to Chad London, who went over 50 meters for the five-point score.

Australian flyer Timana Tahu scored his first of two tries when Ata Malifa's dummy pass created a two-on-one between he and the former Wallaby. Malifa made the right decision to pass off to Tahu, who went over for a try and 12-3 lead.

Bergamasco, who missed on his second attempt at goal, added a second penalty in the 16th minute.

The Stampede confidently went back on the offense, however. A 10-phase attack worked both sidelines and showed off the team's offloading ability before Zach Fenoglio reached over the line. Denver's next try came in a similar fashion as one witnessed in last week's win over San Diego when Magie toed a perfectly placed ball behind the aggressive defense. This week it was Maximo de Achaval who was the beneficiary of Magie's precisely placed grubber, and the full back eased into the try zone for his fifth score of the season.

Malifa's dancing shoes were on display again during Denver's final score of the first half. In the final minute of the opening period, the four-time capped Eagle left the Express in their place and zig-zagged to the end line. Magie's fourth conversion gave his side a 33-6 lead at the break.

Forced to play down to 14 players once hooker Cameron Falcon was sent off with a yellow card, Sacramento had no answer for Denver's quickly spun ball from the base of the scrum that put Tahu effortlessly into the try zone.

Sacramento would get its lone try through the hands of Alex Hodgkinson, but also saw Denver run in three more, including scores from Americas Rugby Championship participants Hanco Germishuys and Mike Garrity, producing the impressive, 59-13 win.

This coming weekend marks PRO Rugby's penultimate week of action before a July 31 match in Obetz, Ohio, between the Aviators and Stampede, will decide the champion of the competition. Both of the Week 15 games will be held in Northern California when San Diego makes its final appearance of the season in hopes of ending a six-match losing streak in Sacramento Saturday, July 23. A day later, San Francisco plays its last home game of the season as it welcomes Denver to Boxer Stadium.