SFGG held off a determined Life University club to win the 2013 Elite Cup Final 31-26 Saturday evening at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo.
Life kicked off and SFGG’s attack was on point from the opening whistle. Quick ball orchestrated by scrumhalf Mose Timoteo, plus a couple of penalties, gave SFGG an attacking five-meter lineout, but Life turned the ball over in the set piece, ending the threat.
Gate botched another lineout in the attacking end a few minutes later, with hooker Neil Barrett missing his target long. Life openside Benji Goff knocked the ball on trying to pick it up, but the Running Eagle pack drove over SFGG to steal possession and assert its dominance in both set piece platforms early on.
Barrett found his target on SFGG’s next five-meter lineout, setup by a ruck infringement on Life’s behalf. Gate went wide, and Samisoni Pone squeezed out an offload to Mile Pulu for the game’s first try. The pass was marginal, as many in the Infinity Park crowd were calling it forward. Volney Rouse converted, making it 7-0 with about a dozen minutes gone.
SFGG committed the penalty on its next trip in the scoring end, allowing Life to clear its lines and get a lineout. The Running Eagles methodically mauled several meters, lulling SFGG into a static state before spinning the ball wide. Flyhalf AJ MacGinty broke the line and deferred to Tui Osborne, who dished to a streaking Benji Goff. The open side took it the rest of the way for the try, and MacGinty slotted the tying conversion.
SFGG’s next try, in the 24th minute, came after a kick was laid out for massive wing Jeff Colata, who’d been camped on the wing the entire first half. He scooped up the ball and broke a tackle attempt by Clint Whittler before desperately throwing the ball back. It hit the deck, and fullback Heinie MacFarland bobbled it before gathering and scoring. The conversion was missed, making it 12-7.
SFGG looked set to extend the lead a few minutes later when Barrett powered over the try line, but he was deemed held up, and Life stole the ensuing scrum and cleared to touch. The Running Eagles then stole the lineout and pounded the ball further down the field. SFGG bungled the catch into touch, giving Life the ball in SFGG’s end.
After a couple of quick turnovers, Gate was hit with a penalty, and Life got the ball into touch about 10 meters from pay dirt.The Running Eagles brought the ball down and mauled it to the try line before spinning it to MacGinty, who cut toward a tired SFGG pack and found a crease for a score just a couple of minutes before the half. The conversion was missed, leaving the score tied at 12, which is how the opening 40 minutes would end.
SFGG didn’t wait long to get the scoring going in the second stanza, as Thomas broke free for a long-range try. Conversion unsuccessful, SFGG led 17-12.
Life made inroads toward the try line with a big break from MacGinty, but support was slow in coming and SFGG got the ball back and put it into Life’s end. Pulu made the next long run, cutting through the Life line and passing out to set up a Tevita Okusi try that would make it 24-12 to SFGG with just over 25 minutes to play.
An offside penalty in the maul on Barrett allowed Life the chance to go back to its bread and butter. The Running Eagles kicked the ball deep into touch and mauled off the lineout. Goff was at the back of the pile, and it took a strong individual effort for him to dot the score down.
MacGinty slotted the conversion, making it a five-point game with just over 20 minutes to play.
Golden Gate seemed to be worn down midway through the second half, with several subs having come on and the defensive intensity waned. The Running Eagles then put the ball through several phases in the attacking end and Osborne lined up across from Gate’s forwards. He got the ball, broke a two-man tackle and sliced through a tired Gate defense for the tying score. MacGinty converted to put Life up 26-24 with about 12 minutes to play.
Golden Gate mustered one last attack, turning Life over at midfield and going through a few phases before Pulu made a break that ended just short of the try line. Gate swung the ball the other direction and flanker Danny LaPrevotte crashed over the line to regain the lead. Rouse converted – 31-26 with five to play.
Life won the restart and penetrated the SFGG defense, earning a scum near the attacking 22 after a ball was ruled unplayable at a breakdown. SFGG’s defense returned to its hard-hitting ways and won their own scrum after Life couldn’t recycle a ball taken in by reserve prop Demecus Beach.
However, the Running Eagles stole the scrum against the head, five meters from the try line, and opted to kick to touch and try one more maul. SFGG committed a penalty straight away, but Life lost No. 8 and key lineout operator Cathal Doyle on the play. Life carried the ball the rest of regulation, but couldn’t gain much ground before losing the ball, and the game, with a knock-on.