|Photo: Connie Hatfield (Pink Shorts Photograph)|
Denver move to a perfect 6-0 on the season in the most narrow of fashions with a come from behind 24-23 victory over San Diego at Torero Stadium. Heading into the match both Denver and San Diego has situated themselves at the top of the standings and now with the win Denver are at least a full match clear on points. They are also the only unbeaten team in a season that is halfway over.
The win wasn't always assured as the lead changed hands seven times. It also took a late heads up play from Martin Knoetze to score the winning try and prevent San Diego from gaining the upset. Purely on possession San Diego should have won the match as they had more of the ball in good spots but some missed kicks from the normally automatic Kurt Morath and untimely turnovers cost San Diego an opportunity for the win. That's now two close matches against Denver that San Diego would like to have back. They both happen to be their only two losses on the season.
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Morath had a penalty attempt just a minute into the match but he wasn't able to connect. Only a few minutes later he had another crack from nearly the identical spot as the one before and this time he made no mistake to put San Diego up 3-0.
Denver had a chance to respond when Mose Timoteo was illegally taken out at the breakdown but Magie would miss the first of his two kicks. Morath would miss another attempt of his own and through a quarter of the match it was still 3-0.
Mikey Te'o was dangerous all match and looked to have the first try of the game when he made a long run from his own 30 meter line following a Denver clearing kick but referee Derek Summers correctly called Hubert Buydens for obstruction.
The scoreboard finally ticked over again with five minutes left in the half when Morath made his second of the day. That lead nearly held up until halftime before Denver scored a great try. Hanco Germishuys, who was everywhere on the day, made a great run that drew in the defense right in front of the posts. Timoteo then did a great job to push the ball out wide quickly and into the hands of Max De Achaval who ducked under a tackle for the score. With the conversion Denver led 7-6.
Still, San Diego would head into the half with the lead thanks to another Morath penalty. Ata Malifa was called for a no wrap tackle on Taku Ngwenya. Both players were fine but it spoke to the number of hard hits in the match. Malifa was shown a yellow and San Diego lead at halftime 9-7.
In the second half Magie and Morath traded more penalties while Malifa was in the bin. In the end San Diego were able to increase their lead to 15-10.
The big break for Denver came shortly after Malifa returned. A lazy pass from San Diego was well read by Christian Wiessing who intercepted the pass and ran in for the try. Like that Denver were back on top 17-15.
Morath would add yet another penalty and San Diego seemed destined to win when Te'o capitalized on the Denver mistake to kick down the middle of the pitch with a great run before passing to Kalei Konrad for the try. However, the conversion would miss creating a gap for Denver at 23-17.
With less than 10 minutes to play Magie put in a kick for territory deep into the San Diego end. It was a good kick made better by a great chase from Martin Knoetze who outran the San Diego defenders, who thought the ball was going into touch and didn't play with urgency, to scoop up the ball and go in for the score. Magie was good on the conversion and now Denver led 24-23. San Diego had their opportunities after the try but Denver did well to wind down the clock and secure the win.
Denver have next weekend off as PRO Rugby takes a partial break for the international calendar while San Diego travel to Ohio.
Tries: De Achaval, Wiessing
Conversions: Magie (2)
Penalties: Morath (5)