Denver Barbarians won on the road in Utah Saturday, though not a victory over the Super League opponents they anticipated playing at the start of last week.
The Utah Warriors are out of the Super League and, with travel plans already made, the Barbos were looking at a trip to the Beehive State and no rugby.
But in classic rugby fashion, the combined efforts of Barbarian Head Coach Jason Kelly and University of Utah Head Coach Blake Burdette bore fruit at the last minute, and Denver played the University of Utah on campus Saturday at McCarthy Field.
It turned out to be a barnburner of a game, ending in Denver’s favor 39-34.
Denver struck first after a three-phase bang on the door, ball spun wide saw fullback Taylor Howden through in the corner for the score and a Barbarian lead of 5-0 at four minutes.
Utah got theirs back soon enough on a sniping run by halfback Don Pati after quick-tapping eight meters from goal he was able to cross and ground. The scores were knotted 5-5 in the seventh minute.
Standoff Maximo de Achaval put Denver back on top with a penalty strike from 30 and it was 8-5 with 12 gone. A bit of territorial gain and loss from each team within the 22s before de Achaval zipped through the defense to touch down, adding the conversion to make it 15-5 Denver.
Barbos dotted again at minute 28 on No. 8 Hunter Leland’s pick-and-go, with de Achaval again adding the extras.
A true penalty stroke from fullback Hameti Lopeti drew Utah that much closer, but it was a well-finished grounding by Lopeti as he stepped through a pair of defenders that signaled the college boys’ intent to bring the action directly to Denver. With Lopeti’s own conversion the score stood at 22-15 at halftime.
Utah maintained momentum at the restart as tighthead Ty Peterson slipped from the rolling maul and rumbled over, making it a two-point game 22-20.
The Barbos regained the front foot with a try from flanker Kyle Hitt after a scintillating 70-meter run by outside center Zachariah Makavilitogia. Conversion by de Achaval and the numbers were 29-20 in the visitors’ favor at 53.
Denver continued their forward momentum, stealing the Utah put and center Mike Graham was released into space to score at 57. De Achaval accurate boot put Denver up by 16.
But it wasn’t over. The crafty Pati, who was superb all day, put the defense at sixes and sevens and raced in for another score. Lopeti’s postsplitter kick made it 36-27 with 16 minutes to go.
Furious assaults of both sides saw tensions ramp and defenses absorb as time wound down. A penalty slotted by de Achaval in the 77th minute put Denver three more clear, but Utah responded with a try by wing-threequarter Trevor Trowbridge to edge the Utes within five at 39-34.
That would be how it ended, though. Utah, which won its D1-A league match against Colorado State earlier in the day fielding a mostly second side, should be commended for stepping in to take the game, and playing so well.
“I wanted to help out because I’ve been working with the Utah Warriors and trying to help them,” said Utah Head Coach Blake Burdette. “So we split the squads and played. It worked out really well in the end. A lot of reserve guys got to play against Colorado State and play as the Utah 1st side. And then for us to compete the way we did against Denver, I was very pleased.”
Max de Achaval’s kicking was a huge part of Denver’s success, as the fullback claimed 19 points, 14 from kicks. Meanwhile Pati was brilliant for Utah.
“We were kind of lackluster in the first few minutes, but we picked up the game; and Don was just Don Pati,” said Burdette. “This kind of game is good for us going forward, so I’m happy we could play it.”
Denver Barbarians 39
Tries: Howden, De Achaval, Leland, Hitt, Graham
Convs: De Achaval (4)
Pens: De Achaval (2)
University of Utah 34
Tries: Pati (2), Barlow, Peterson, Trowbridge
Cons: Lopeti (3)
University of Utah Denver Barbarians RFC
1. Nick Mostyn 1) Andrew Post
2. Mike Shepherd 2) Luke Leinweber
3. Ty Peterson 3) Joshua Masek
4. Spencer Vickery 4) Jon Poynter
5. Kaleb Hogan 5) Ben Schnake
6. Mike Juszczak 6) Peter Pasque
7. John Kasinski 7) Logan Collins ©
8. Les Soloai 8) Tommy Pasque
9. Don Pati 9) David Hunter Leland
10. Danny Christensen 10) Maximo De Achaval
11. Bridger Walzer 11) James Kyle Hitt
12. Mote Houma 12) Jake Humphrey
13. Tonata Lauti 13) Zachariah Makavilitogia
14. Trevor Trowbridge 14) Jody Kramer
15. Lopeti Lauti 15) Taylor Howden
16. Madison Wilding 16) Matt Schafroth
17. Shon Curtis 17) Michael Graham
18. Austin Taylor 18) Matt Lancaster
19. Danny James 19) Thomas Hewitt
20. Alex Muehle 20) Michael Garrity
21. Winston Harris 21) Christopher Moreno
22. Ryan Snyder
23. Samson Kaloni