Saturday night’s raucous Barbo-Raptor clash at Infinity Park Rugby Stadium had a little bit of everything. From a dropkick to a Halloween trick by recently returned US Eagle Nese Malifa to four second half lead changes, this match had all the elements of high-quality rugby and kept the 1,000 plus in attendance on the edge of their seats throughout on a chill autumn evening.
Territorial ground gains via each standoff’s boot seemed the early game plan as action blazed straight from the kickoff. A bit of initial confusion at the Barbarian lineout enabled Glendale to pilfer a few tosses and put pressure on the visitors inclose, but the Barbos defensive wall was up to the task and held firm until flyhalf Maximo De Achaval could clear the line.
Glendale got onboard first when the Barbarians were pinged for failure to release and N. Malifa split the uprights for a 3-0 lead at 12 minutes. The Raptors returned the penalty favor as they were judged to have not released at tackle and De Achaval exacted payment from the 40 meter inside hashmark, knotting the scores in the 18th minute.
The Raptors roared right back as fullback Iniki Fa’amausili did well to return a difficult, lofting kick. No. 8 Ryan Chapman was in close support and collected the handoff at 22 meters and sprinted into goal for the try. Malifa’s conversion made it a 10-3 Raptor lead midway through the period.
De Achaval and Malifa traded a pair of penalty goals to make it 13-6 by the 25th minute.
Denver worked the kinks out of their lineout and began to rumble upfield employing tight three-man pods left and right of the breakdown. Then De Achaval broke the Raptors line, and put No. 8 Tom Pasque into space at the 22. Pasque jetted across goal for the touch down and a 13-11 Raptor lead going into the halftime break.
In the second half, Glendale capitalized well on the Barbarians early lineout problems and brought action to their adversaries with gusto, but as Denver began to sort out their set pieces, the match settled with each side exhibiting sparkling offense and comprehensive defense.
Denver grabbed its first lead at 50 minutes as lock Ben Haapapura crossed in the corner to cap a lively Barbarian forward rush. 16-13 Denver as the game’s intensity ratcheted up considerably.
Glendale got their own back as a sweeping backline counter begun from their territory put Fa’amausili across in the corner and the Raptors had the lead again 18-16.
With Denver pressuring ten meters out from goal, De Achaval received the ball from the loose, stepped back one pace, and drilled a drop goal through the sticks and it was Barbos 19-18 at minute 60.
Glendale did not wait long to retake advantage as N. Malifa executed a pristine looping run-around with his centers from 30 meters out and opened a monster-sized hole into which he put Chapman for his brace. Malifa’s conversion had the numbers at 25-19 Raptors with 62 gone as the pitch fevered.
Two minutes on, Glendale’s Max Statler stepped inside his opposite number and the speedy wing cutback through congestion to dot down. Malifa’s conversion brought the score to 32-19.
But the Raptors could not rest as Barbarians snugged things up with a try from wing Riley End. Its subsequent conversion from the touchline by De Achaval made it 32-26 and action flared brightly.
A further Malifa penalty goal brought the score to 35-26 at 68 minutes.
Glendale extended their margin as canny Malifa, from 22 meters out, quick-tapped a penalty and lofted a boot across field to an unmarked replacement wing Dustin Croy, who captured and touched down. Glendale now led 40-26 with 74 gone though not one soul was seen opting for an early exit.
Furious Barbarian forward pressure in close resulted in an intentional scrum collapse and a penalty try being awarded. De Achaval’s conversion reduced the margin to a goal, 40-33, and time was flowing.
But Raptors were able to maintain their defense as well as the lead at the final blow, and this one went into the books at 40-33, Glendale.
Glendale Head Coach Mark Bullock had this to say about the victory:
“The Barbarians demonstrated great resilience in coming back after we jumped to a 32-19 lead in the sixty-second minute. That just shows the quality of the team and what Coach [Jason] Kelly has instilled in his players.”
The clubs are off for the winter break and will resume play next spring.
Tries: Chapman (2), Fa’amausili, Statler, Croy
Convs: N. Malifa (3)
Pens: N. Malifa (3)
Tries: Pasque, Haapapura, End, PT
Convs: De Achaval (2)
Pens: De Achaval (3)
Referee: T. Luscombe