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Monday, May 23, 2016

Denver Hold On To Beat San Francisco

Photo: Broadfoot Photography
By Derek Sagehorn

Denver came out winners 41-37 over San Francisco last Friday. While the result was the same as their previous meeting the deficit between the teams had shrunk as San Francisco pushed Denver till the end. The visitors from California opened scoring in the third minute after several phases of quick San Francisco ball found Denver creeping offsides. Rouse drew opening points with a penalty kick just outside the 22.

Zach Fenoglio opened the scoring for Denver and then after several penalties, Denver’s efforts to maul over from the right corner turn into a try for Luke White. Will Magie dutifully converted the try. Several minutes of sloppy play followed as both teams struggled to bring ball to hand. Denver played with a lot of possession and territory in this first quarter but couldn’t crack San Francisco’s line early. San Francisco earned a penalty on their own five meter and worked their way up the field eventually getting into Denver’s 22. A quick tap off yet another Denver offsides saw San Francisco camp out deep in opposition territory. 

San Francisco displayed a newfound patience and care for the ball in the red zone. Off of a five meter scrum, Pila Iongi took the ball at first receiver, drew Magie and dished a back-handed pass to Orene Ai’i on a hard, inward line under the posts for the visitor’s first try--Rouse converted. Shortly after the restart, San Francisco was pinged for not rolling away and Magie leveled the score 10-10.

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Both teams were penalized early and often by a referee laying down a tight interpretation of the laws. While Denver opted for the corner, San Francisco tended to tap quickly and play with tempo. After one such foray, San Francisco attacked the blind after quick ball. Ai’i returned the favor and threw a cut out pass to Iongi for a try--converted by Rouse. 

Denver responded next by stringing several phases together in San Francisco’s 22. Denver’s forwards did well to hold their width and Luke White collected a flat, long pass in space and broke a covering tackle to score—Magie converted from the corner. Presumably exhausted from this effort, White couldn’t be bothered to roll away from a tackle a minute later on his own 22 and Rouse kicked an easy penalty in response. Energized, San Francisco started to sling the ball around only to have Chad London snatch a floater and score to round out the half. Half score 24-20 Denver.

Denver opened up the second half scoring when Casey Rock ripped a ball off Pedrie Wannenburg and churned his legs over the line. Several minutes later, Denver recovered an errant San Francisco line out throw and passed wide to Chad London. The center broke the line but was isolated in the tackle. David Tameilau stepped over, collected and raced 50 meters to score. Off the ensuing possession, San Francisco were pinged for slowing the ball down several times and eventually debutante Bill Fukofuka was binned for their sins. Denver kicked for the corner, produced a maul and Christian Wiessing scored. 

Denver added another score when a surging maul put San Francisco’s defenders on the back foot; Chad London took a flat pass and split the gap off two weak tackles to score. San Francisco answered back after a long, patient set of phases in Denver red zone. Maka Tameilau picked a ball off the deck and sliced threw to score under the posts of an exhausted Denver side. Denver almost scored again after using their surging maul, but a desperate tackle into touch saw them denied. The visitors, down one score, had one more chance in Denver’s 22, but a promising possession was bundled into touch. From there, Denver did well to slow the pace of the game and pin San Francisco. The home side milked the clock for the final ten minutes, earning a 41-37 victory.

Denver’s maul was the difference; the tight platform lead to multiple tries in the backs and forwards. San Francisco had no answer for it. But for their part, the Bay Area team was much improved. Their patience in attack yielded more scores and they acquitted themselves fairly well in the loose. Those strides fell short, however, of what they needed for the first win. San Francisco will try again this weekend as they play Ohio at home. Denver goes into their bye with a commanding 5-0 record.

Denver

Tries: Fenoglio, White, London (2), Rock, Wiessing
Conversions: Magie (4)
Penalties: Magie

San Francisco

Tries: Ai'i, Iongi, Tameilau, Finau
Conversions: Rouse (4)
Penalties: Rouse (3)

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