Saturday, April 23, 2016

San Diego Make A Statement In Win Over Sacramento

PRO Rugby may have a new favorite team to win the whole competition after San Diego made their debut in a 37-24 win over Sacramento. Utilizing a backline that has caps in either 7s or 15s San Diego were able to run out to an early lead. Sacramento found their own footing in the match at times, especially among their forwards, but in the end simple errors would come back to haunt them as they gave up one opportunity after another.

Outside of the pitch lines a healthy crowd was on hand to witness professional rugby's debut in San Diego. Similar to what was seen in Sacramento and Denver there were plenty of fans decked out in the gear of the hometown team and were knowledgeable about their rugby. In addition to the rugby they were also treated to a warm, sunny afternoon in perfect conditions for rugby.

Straight from the outset San Diego made their intentions known to attack. The combination of Phil Mackenzie, Tim Stanfill, and Ryan Matyas was particularly effective at attacking Sacramento and disrupting their play. At the same time, San Diego deserve credit for their defensive intensity that saw them limit opportunities for Sacramento.

Take the jump to read more.
The scoring started just three minutes into the match as Kurt Morath would make a penalty to put San Diego up 3-0. That would soon be erased by an effort from Harry Bennett to level the match at 3-3. That's when San Diego went on a run. Sacramento couldn't stay on the right side of the whistle and soon Morath was able to add two more to his tally to bring the score to 9-3.

What was unexpected but exciting to see from a fans perspective was how personally each team was taking the match. On several occasions there were handbags without it going over too much. It was the kind of frostiness that could grow throughout a season and develop into a real rivalry.

The first try in the match came around the 20th minute mark. Matyas, who was extremely active in the match, eluded several defenders to work his way down the pitch. Before being pushed into touch he made an athletic offload to the supporting Mikey Te'o for the try and a 14-3 lead. San Diego only stepped it up from that point and when Matyas charged down a kick a few minutes later Mackenzie was there to scoop it up for the try. Morath would hit this conversion to give San Diego a 21-3 lead. Morath would ad a fourth penalty soon afterward to make it 24-3 at the break.

Credit to Sacramento for fighting back. Similar to last week against San Francisco they found success with their forwards in this match. In the second half they wasted no time using their forwards to push a scrum over where Kyle Sumsion was able to score a try. Harry Bennett hit the conversion and Sacramento were only down by two tries.

However, any momentum for Sacramento was snuffed out a few minutes later when a try was controversially awarded. Breaking loose again Mackenzie made it meters to the line before being tackled by Bennett. He had teammates in support but it looked like the ball was knocked on. Still, a try was awarded and San Diego led 29-10 with 30 minutes left.
Not going away Sacramento used their maul to see Ray Barkwill push over. They had further opportunities to get closer than their 29-17 deficit but simple errors and a lack of execution cost them and when Te'o scored his second off patient play with about ten minutes to go and Morath would add a penalty it was a hole that Sacramento could escape from. Robert Meeson did score a late try for Sacramento.

San Diego sent a clear signal to the rest of the league that they can score in bunches and will look to attack and any opportunity. They have great interplay in their backs and when Taku Ngwenya joins the team in a few weeks they are going to be even more lethal. Still, it wasn't all perfect for San Diego. Sacramento had the momentum in the scrum and on set pieces and both teams had handling errors. Still, with each week both continue to improve.

San Diego hosts Denver next week while Sacramento gets a break.

San Diego

Tries: Te'o (2), Mackenzie, Garber
Conversions: Morath
Penalties: Morath (5)


Tries: Sumsion, Barkwill, Meeson
Conversions: Bennett (2), Bergamasco
Penalties: Bennett

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