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Denver held off a late surge by the home team to move to 2-0 with a 22-16 win at Torero Stadium in San Diego, Calif. The visitors held a 22-9 lead with less than 15 minutes to go but were inches from losing it in the final seconds.
San Diego got up first via a penalty from flyhalf Kurt Morath, but Denver grabbed the lead near the 10th minute and never relinquished it. The vistors put the pressure on early with a booming kick from Will Magie and a swift chase. Morath fielded the ball and chose to run out of bounds at his own five-meter line. Denver won the lineout, and Zach Fenoglio scored off the subsequent maul. Magie’s conversion was true, putting the visitors up 7-3.
Morath added a second penalty moments later, as Denver captain Pedrie Wannenburg received a talk from the referee about his side slowing the ball down in the tackle area. Five minutes later Magie rebutted with a long penalty of his own after San Diego was caught offside.
There wasn’t much running rugby in the first half, but Denver displayed some free flowing flair with an early score in the second. Wannenburg bashed forward off a lineout from Denver’s 22. Then Chad London carried the ball forward, drawing two defenders and offloading to Max de Achaval, who nearly put wing Timana Tahu away. The former Wallaby was caught and offloaded back to de Achaval, who had to settle the ball with his foot. Niku Kruger, who was coming in support, scooped and scored. Magie’s conversion attempt was missed – 15-6.
Morath made an important penalty in the 52nd minute, pulling San Diego back to within one score at 15-9. He nearly cut the lead to three in the 57th minute, but his kick came up short.
Denver almost extended the lead moments later, twice. The first time Christian Wiessing was tackled into touch. San Diego couldn’t win the ball cleanly in the lineout, and Wannenburg appeared to have scored the loose ball during the fray, but he was deemed to knock on.
San Diego couldn’t clear its lines, as a wayward kick from Tim Stanfill didn't cover much ground, and Denver took to the air to cross the line. Magie laid a cross kick toward wing Martin Knoetze, who soared to the ball and tapped it down to a charging London. Magie converted, pushing the score to 22-9.
The hosts scored a frenetic try in the 75th minute to make the last four moments interesting. Wannenburg tried to squeeze an offload to Mike Garrity, but it went to the floor instead of hand. Mike Te’o booted the loose ball downfield and ran into pay dirt. He dished back in to Phil Mackenzie, who grounded the ball closer to the posts. Reserve flyhalf Kalei Konrad slotted the conversion, pulling San Diego within a converted try at 22-16.
Mackenzie made a big carry on the next possession to get San Diego within inches of the potential go-ahead try, but he was stopped short, and a knock-on gave Denver a scrum on its own five-meter line. Denver won the scrum and kicked to touch to win the game.
Tries: Fenoglio, London, Kruger
Cons: Magie (2)
San Diego 16
Pens: Morath (3)