Three games in Week 6 of the Rugby Super League; NYAC defeating Life University 40-23, Old Puget Sound Beach over the Denver Barbarians 74-22, and the Boston against the Dallas Harlequins game finishing in a 16-16 tie.
The big clash between NYAC and Life University ended up in NYAC’s favor, with the home side winning 40-23. With the bonus point win, NYAC owns first place in the East and has now defeated each opponent in the first of two matchups this season. While there is still a lot of rugby to be played and the home and away system gets the other teams another opportunity to reverse the results, it won’t be easy to knock off NYAC.
The game started with both sides missing penalty opportunities, as both sides took the measure of their opponent. Ten minutes in, NYAC’s Brian Doyle provided a spark with a great take off a restart and Life was scrambling to defend the goal-line. An attempted clearance kick was blocked and Chris Chapman scored the first try of the day for a
5-0 NYAC lead. Life’s Tui Osborne reduced the deficit a few minutes later with a penalty as NYAC back row broke early from a scrum. NYAC was slowly getting the better of the territorial battle, but midway through the half, Life winger Shaun Van Rensburg shrugged off four would-be tacklers for an 80m jaunt down the left sideline to score Life’s first try. The restart by NYAC didn’t go the requisite 10m, and Life reacted faster with flanker Jason Davila finishing off the long range effort, Osborn converting for a 15-5 lead.
With a renewed sense of urgency, NYAC’s pack claimed the restart and powered over for a try, narrowing the gap to 12-15. Restart issues continued to surface, as shortly after that try, a Life 22 drop out was blocked by NYAC’s Conor Coyne and number 8 Alastair McFarland capitalized, scoring near the posts to reclaim the lead. With time winding down in the half, NYAC were awarded a penalty in front of the posts. NYAC turns down the easy chip shot, opting to go for the corner instead. It wasn’t a fruitful decision, as Life was able to repel the attack and the score at the half remained 19-15 to NYAC.
In the second half, NYAC gets off to a great start with an early converted try. An Osborne penalty narrows the gap to 26-18, but again NYAC controls much of the territory. Life’s 18 year old prop Xander Daniels departs the field with an injury, and he is replaced by veteran Chris Sullivan. A break by center Alan MacGinty leads to another NYAC try, as NYAC begins to start converting pressure into points. Minutes later MacGinty and a Life defender both go for a loose ball in the open. MacGinty wins the race and scampers in for a try to push the lead to 40-17, MacGinty converting all three second half opportunities. With time winding down, Life scores in the corner. Life hurries with the conversion in order to have a chance at getting a fourth try and a bonus point, but it was not to be and the score would finish at 40-23.
“They kept us pinned down in our half and we couldn’t escape” said Life player coach James Isaacson, “they kept it tight when they needed to and ran through their phases... we played better than we have all season and that’s all you can really ask for as long as you keep improving”. They two teams will play again late in the season, in the return game in Georgia.
In Denver, high flying Old Puget Sound Beach came in and defeated the Denver Barbarians 74-22. In a game that was perhaps tighter than the score-line might suggest, Denver repeatedly made good ground and threatened the OPSB line, but did not convert on all their opportunities. On the other hand, OPSB can – and did – score often, absorbing pressure, waiting for an opportunity and then using the backs especially to carve several scoring opportunities.
Denver to off to a good start, using several phases to pressure the OPSB line, but came away without points. From an OPSB attacking lineout, center Alipate Tuilevuka reached for the line to get OPSB on the board. Back came Denver, with Maximo DeAchaval making a promising break that was stopped by an illegal tackle. Denver opted for the corner, but again OPSB stopped the threat. Minutes later, a Denver clearance kick dropped at the feet of prop Olive Kilifi, who powered over for OPSB’s second try. OPSB’s Miles Craigwell was next on the board for the visitors with his first try of the day. Another penalty to Denver was kicked to the corner, but Denver knocks on from the lineout. Finally Denver got a break, as OPSB was guilty of feeding in the resulting scrum, and from the free kick, Hunter Leland crosses the try-line to get finally get Denver some reward.
Feeling adventurous, Denver attempts to run out of their “22”, but OPSB tackles and counter-rucks effectively, turning the ball over and Tuilevuka gets his second try. Denver has two more promising attacks stopped just shy of the try-line, but OPSB winger Filimoni Botitu splits those two attacks with a fine try down the left sideline. The five first half OPSB tries were all converted by Russell Armstrong for a 35-5 lead.
In the second half, the frantic pace continued as Logan Collins and Ben Nichols score tries for Denver, and Miles Craigwell and Andrew Durutalo score for OPSB. Midway through the half, yellow cards were issued to Mike Palefau and Kyle Hitt for some extracurricular activities. Emosi Vucago slips through for a try, followed a minute later by another try from Botitu. Off the bench, Nolan Allen adds another try for OPSB. Denver gets a fourth try, credited to Ben Schnake, before Craigwell completes his hat-trick for OPSB. Finally Nolan Allen intercepts an errant pass to notch another try, OPSB’s twelfth of the evening. Denver drops to 0-3 on the season, while OPSB is at 3-0.
In the final game of the day, Boston and the Dallas Harlequins tied 16-16. It was the second consecutive tie of the season for the Harlequins, which must be some kind of record.
Boston had a try and a penalty in the first half in response to a Harlequins penalty kick, moving out to a 10-3 lead. Center Fred Berger had the try for Boston, and Blake Creighton, returning from injury, contributed the kicking points for the home team. Scrumhalf Shawn Begg kicked the penalty for Dallas. As the game moved into the final quarter, Boston was holding on to a 16-3 lead, but the Harlequins were pressing hard. Two more penalties by Begg brought the visiting team close at 16-9, but a converted try would be needed to tie the game up.
With just a minute on the clock, Dallas center Sean O’Sullivan touched down for that try, and Shawn Begg made no mistake with the conversion to bring the scores level. With no time on the clock, Boston kicked off and the Harlequins slowly worked their way back up the field, taking five minutes to get close to the goal line, but knocked on to stop the threat, and the game finished at 16-16.
“Our defense was much better today and there wasn’t a lot of back-and-forth” reports Boston’s Chris Williams. “They might have had 80% of possession in the last 20-25 minutes and they took their penalties and scored with a minute or so left. They played hard and did a great job of playing to their game-plan for the last twenty minutes. Dallas’ Mark McCloy commented “it was a very physical game, there weren’t a lot of line breaks. It was a narrow field so it was easy to defend, but it was a hard physical game... Devin Musick, flanker Jimmy Clark and Shawn all played very well for us. I’m very proud of the way they guys fought back. It was a long travel day and they played very well in the last 20 minutes to salvage the points”.
The Harlequins play Life in Dallas next week, while Boston has some time off before they get to play NYAC again.