Denver, Ohio win in bonus-point fashion in Week 13 of PRO action

LAFAYETTE, Colo. - PRO Rugby's top-two standings leaders picked up wins over the weekend when Ohio beat Sacramento, 41-31, in California for the second time this season and Denver extended San Diego's losing streak to five games with a 59-23 victory in the Mile High City.

Ohio, which has not lost a match since a surprising May 29 defeat to San Francisco, went over the 40-point mark for the seventh time this season in its 41-31win over the Express. A maul from seven meters out drove Aviator captain Jamie Mackintosh beyond the line, and Shaun Davies' successful conversion created a quick seven-point separation between the two sides. Sacramento, however, answered when successive penalties helped the Express get deep into Ohio's half. Following an array of pick-and-drives from the forwards, newly-capped Eagle Langilangi Haupeakui - fresh from a Man of the Match performance a week earlier - muscled over for the score and the conversion tied the match at seven-all.

Ohio wing Spike Davis, who has made a name for himself with his physical running style, displayed his quickly developing skills when he pinned his defender and offloaded to Riekert Hattingh, who raced to the try zone to regain the lead for the Aviators.

Davis also scored two tries of his own. His first came when Ohio sucked in Sacramento's defense with slowly-worked ball around the fringes before spinning the ball wide, where the large winger patiently waited and jogged to his 13th try of the season.

Trailing, 19-7, Sacramento was able to go into the locker room for halftime facing a one-digit deficit thanks to Mirco Bergamasco's penalty kick. Unfortunately for the fans at Bonney Field, the Express could not close the gap any further as Ohio put in four second-half tries. The first came when Roland Suniula burst through the line to bring the ball all the way to Sacramento's five-meter line. A phase later, Alex Elkins dotted the ball down in the corner.

Five minutes later, Hattingh got his second, and the floodgates officially opened when Davis again used a nifty offload to put another teammate away for a try - this time lock Kyle Baillie was the beneficiary of Davis' growing skill set.

Circumstances only got worse for the Express when the team's biggest strength, its back row, took a hit. Haupeakui and flanker John Quill left the pitch midway through the second half; Haupeakui was sent off with a yellow card for a dangerous tackle, while Quill was forced off with an injury.

Davis scored his second to bump Ohio's lead to 41-10, but that was when Sacramento began a scoring frenzy to close the match. Shane Moore dotted down in the 64th minute, and was soon followed by fellow reserves Kali Tavake and Toki Kefu. Bergamasco nailed each of the three conversion attempts to bring the final score to a more respectable, 41-31, final.

In Denver, the Stampede won its second consecutive game after being dealt its first and only loss of the season June 19 to Ohio. The Breakers, who have struggled to regain their footing even after the return of their Eagles from international duty, stayed within striking distance of second-place Denver for the first 40 minutes, before the Stampede exerted its will on the visitors in the second half.

An in-form Maximo de Achaval scored the game's initial points when he received a pass from Denver Barbarian teammate Ata Malifa, and breezed beyond the end line. Flanker Peter Dahl was awarded the second try when the 12-time capped Eagle went in from short distance. After missing his first conversion attempt, Will Magie was good on his second to give Denver a 12-0 lead.

San Diego's first points came from Kalei Konrad's boot. The fly half, standing in for PRO's leading point-scorer, Kurt Morath, slotted a penalty kick in the 15th minute. Pressure produced by lock Tai Tuisamoa's long run forced another penalty out of the Stampede, which Konrad used to tee up another three-pointer.

Denver got back on the front foot when Timana Tahu made something out of nothing, slicing through the defense at will. Hanco Germishuys' excellent support was rewarded with an offload from Tahu, and the AIG Men's Junior All-American captain did the rest, racing to the try zone and a 19-6 lead.

The Breakers got their first try thanks to big Joe Taufete'e. The Eagle hooker picked up the ball from short range, where no one was going to stop the Belmont Shore man from getting over the line.

Tahu was heavily involved in Denver's next score, again stepping defenders on his way to a long run. When the former Australian Wallaby's pass did not go to hand due to a cynical play by Andrew Suniula, the Eagle center was sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes, and the Stampede elected to kick for the corner rather than take the easy three points with no time remaining in the first half. The risk paid off because hooker and hometown favorite Zach Fenoglio muscled his way to Denver's fourth try of the opening period.

Entering the second half with a healthy, 26-11, lead, Magie showed great awareness when he spotted spaced behind the San Diego defense, and his perfectly-placed grubber found the arms of Mike Garrity, who had little left to do than dot the ball down.

Former Men's Eagles Sevens standouts Zach Pangelinan and Ryan Matyas were able to get through for San Diego tries. However, Germishuys, Fenoglio, and Garrity bagged their second tries, and Tahu scored his first to break the game open and lead the Stampede to the 59-23 win.

Two more games are on tap for next weekend, the 14th week of PRO Rugby's historic inaugural season. The San Francisco Rush get back on the pitch to host San Diego Saturday, July 16, at Boxer Stadium, while Denver will remain at home to take on Sacramento at CIBER Field on the campus of the University of Denver.