Glendale Raptors were first to breakdown in numbers and able to secure turnover ball in a bruising Division I contest Saturday at Infinity Park Rugby Stadium in front of over 750 spectators on a warm autumn evening.
The Raptors had the bonus point try by minute 31 en route to an eight-try performance, besting a determined Blues squad who were formidable in the loose and caused problems initially for the hosts.
The home side’s halfback combination was near flawless as scrumhalf Matt Guest harried well at the breakdown, providing crisp clean ball to flyhalf Ata Malifa who showed dodging, jinking surges into space and canny distribution to his three quarter line. Blues powerful forward pack were able to obtain a good bit of possession inside Glendale’s 22 at the early stages, but the Raptor defense was stifling within ten meters from their line, allowing only one crossing.
Raptors pointed at minute 14 when Malifa dummied open a lane and dashed into goal for his own conversion, 7-nil Glendale. After an Austin Clarke penalty kick for touch had pinned Glendale deep, tighthead Adam Orr gathered lineout ball and spun off the piece, diving across in corner to draw the Blues within two midway through the first half.
Glendale worked their way in picks and surges to the Blues 22 and down to the five before the travelers forced turnover, and Clarke was able to clear his lines. But Glendale came right back. Malifa’s cutout pass at the ten meter line to a streaking Max Statler enabled the wing to feed three-quarter partner Dustin Croy who zipped into goal for the Malifa-conversion, and it was 14-5 to the home side with 25 gone.
A Statler break and forty meter scamper three ticks on saw Raptors mauling inclose by the corner and 8th man Clinton Camp broke over goal and touched down for a 19-5 Glendale advantage.
Glendale’s distribution speed showed well and after the visitors were pinged for dropping their bind in the set piece, a Malifa boot for distance found them with a lineout seven meters out from goal. Raptors collected ball and #1 Leroy “Sunny” Fifita wheeled out of the ensuing loose action to bang across for the dot: 26-5 to the home team at 31 minutes.
Raptors blistering pace, a 2:1 penalty deficit, and the odd handling error served notice on the Blues for the first forty and the boys took a breather.
A repetitive reluctance to abandon the ball at tackle had referee Brian Zapp show yellow shortly after re-start, and Blues flanker Jim Eftink sat at 43.
Glendale capitalized immediately on their advantage as Fifita picked up his brace, rolling out of the loose inclose to cross and touch down a Malifa-converted goal, extending the lead to 33-5 forty-five minutes in.
Deceptive quickness by inside center Justin Pauga enabled him to burst into space at Blues 22 and power into goal in the 47th minute and the tally rose to 38-5.
Back at full strength, Kansas City mounted an attack with a series of phases between inside backs and mauling forwards that brought them to Glendale’s 22. Raptors were offside at the breakdown and fullback Jordan Neville drilled a penalty goal at minute 54 and the markers turned to 38-8.
Pauga closed scoring, picking up his deuce at minute 58 with a crashing run into goal for the Malifa conversion and a 45-8 final.
Impressively fast delivery of halfback Guest complemented by the crafty choices made by Malifa kept the Blues defense somewhat tentative all night and allowed lanes to appear that were then well-exploited by the home team.
“Kansas City’s very aggressive counter-rucking caused us to struggle to obtain quality second phase ball,” said Glendale Head Coach Mark Bullock. ”We were fortunate to clear the ball cleanly in attack due to that pressure. Prop Leroy Fifita had a strong match scoring two tries and anchoring our scrum.”
Of note for Glendale: the return of Ryan Chapman from time in Utah with the Warriors and the former Denver Rugby Highlanders backrow, Clinton Camp, who started at No. 8.
Next up for Kansas City Blues will be a fixture with University of Missouri 10/8/11, 7pm at Swope Park – Sporting KC Training Complex while Glendale are up at Pleasantview Fields for a 2pm kick v Boulder on the day.
Tries: Malifa, Croy, Camp, Fifita (2), Pauga (2)
Convs: Malifa (5)
Kansas City 8
Officials: B. Zapp, M. Blois, E. Geib