The power of a tornado spotted in northeast Denver earlier in the day paled in comparison to the ferocious activity on the pitch as Denver East High Angels entertained Colorado Springs Grizzlies at East’s turf pitch later in the day on Wednesday. The battle for the top spot at the Colorado high school table was well contested by both sides though only one could claim victory.
The visitors got on board quickly as they consolidated kickoff ball and, after a pair of near-channel forward charges, inside center Chris Kunkel crashed into space and outpaced the chase 60 meters. Kunkel's try was converted by right wing Nate Fletcher and it was 7-0 at two minutes.
East got some back when the Grizzlies were pinged for not rolling away at the tackle, and Angel scrumhalf Jackson Bock drilled the penalty goal from 30 out, just off the right post.
A period of action between the 22s as both sides worked their mauls and short rumbles, but handling errors and sloppy play at breakdown caused turnovers until East were pinged for improper binding in the set and Fletcher, who had a personal haul of 22 on the evening, split the sticks for a 10-3 Grizzlies advantage in the 12th minute.
The travelers were judged to have handled the ball in the ruck in defense of their tryline, and sophomore scrumhalf Bock’s penalty shot was straight and true; 10-6 midway through the first half.
With the Angels on the front foot with a lineout throw inside ten meters of Springs’ goal, the visitors managed to pilfer the throw-in and flyhalf Michael Black cleared their lines.
Fletcher’s third penalty of the evening after a failure to wrap infringement made the scoreline 13-6 at the 22nd minute.
Plenty of action, though no more scoring, finished the first half as East were camped on their guests’ threshold for an extended period. A swarming Grizzlies defense was able to deny them points.
Short, smashing gains from East’s pack, led by tighthead Lamin Cobb and No. 8 Meshach Ricketts, were countered by same from Springs captain Dallas Frye and lock Jacob Russell as action blistered inside that first channel. East, however, suffered a big blow just before halftime, as flyhalf Jeremy Tabor was forced to leave the field injured.
Fletcher continued his outstanding form kicking, adding two penalties, while Bock responded with one to make it 19-9. East then went down a man as a payer was yellow-carded for not wrapping at tackle.
Springs used their man advantage well, as Black popped into space at his own ten meter line and sped to the East 22 before offloading to fullback Luke Divich, who fended off a tackler en route to the tryline. Fletcher’s deuce made it 26-9 with 54 minutes gone.
Denver were pinged for coming in from the side at the breakdown on attack just outside the Grizzlies 22, and the clearance all the way to East’s 22 set up the visitor lineout. A subsequent Grizzlies scrum 25 meters from goal, and a slick offload by Black to inside center John Kenney had the speedster in space and he scored. Fletcher converted again to make it 33-9.
With East back to full strength, Springs kept scoring. Lock Jake Russell rumbled over to make it 40-7 with Fletcher's 4th conversion.
Colorado Springs completed the evening’s scoring as openside flanker Seth Halliman burst out the loose and scampered half the pitch to ground. With Fletcher perfect on the evening at 9-9 (four penalities and five conversions) Colorado Springs won 47-9 to make the climax of the Rugby Colorado boys HS league very interesting.
Denver East 9
Pens: Bock (3)
Colorado Springs 47
Tries: Kunkel, Divich, Kenney, Russell, Halliman
Convs: Fletcher (5)
Pens: Fletcher (4)
Match Official: Brian Zapp