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Week five in the PRP had three tightly contested games. The Denver Barbarians (1-2) squeaked by Olympic Club (0-4) 34-29 at home with a thrilling last minute score. OMBAC (3-2) bounced back from a loss to SFGG to defeat Santa Monica 29-26 (2-3) and the Glendale Raptors (3-1) earned their third consecutive victory with a 32-19 victory over Belmont Shore. (2-1).
Denver Barbarians vs. Olympic Club
In a fairly quiet first half, the Denver Barbarians trailed 7-6 to Olympic Club moments before intermission. Keegan Engelbrecht had given OC the lead with a try and conversion, but the Barbarians took the advantage going into the break thanks to a great piece of individual brilliance from flyhalf Ata Malifa, who broke through and found a streaking winger to give Denver the 13-7 lead.
Malifa made a number of quality line breaks all afternoon and spearheaded the Denver attack. “He showed some real glimpses of individual brilliance which marched us down the field at important times,” said Denver Barbarians coach Peter Borlase.
Although Denver took the lead going into the half, the Barbarians did not play a quality first half. “We had a chat at halftime and I was quite disappointed with the first half,” Borlase told Rugby Today. “We were playing in slow motion and I was pretty disappointed with our tempo.”
The Barbarians opened the second in much stronger fashion, building possession through phases. The home side added two more tries to take a 27-7 lead.
Olympic Club, however, fought back into the game earning to tries from winger John Gallo. Mike Haley added another score for OC with 12 minutes remaining, but the conversion was missed and the visitors still trailed 27-26.
“We had a block of awful defending,” said Borlase. “But take nothing away from them, they played their way back into the game but we definitely opened the door for them.”
With only a few minute remaining on the clock, Engelbrecht added another penalty to give OC its first lead of the second half. At 29-27, OC looked to be on its way to its first PRP win of the season. However, with 10 seconds remaining Justin Pauga dotted down off a scrum to steal the victory for the Barbarians.
“It was bittersweet. It was disappointing that we had to put ourselves in that position to win the game after being up comfortably,” added Borlase. “Obviously, we will take the five points and move on.”
For Olympic Club this is a reminder that to win in the PRP, you must be switched on for all 80 minutes. Nevertheless, OC has been improving for the last several weeks and showed tremendous gritin today’s performance.
“Credit must go to Olympic Club for fighting their way back into the game,” Borlase concluded.
OMBAC vs. Santa Monica
For much of the first half OMBAC struggled to put away scoring opportunities. Compounding the issue, Santa Monica capitalized on several OMBAC mistakes to take a 7-3 lead.
“Credit to Santa Monica, they are a very opportunistic team, they did well capitalizing on our errors,” said OMBAC club contact Ian Denham.
OMBAC took an 8-7 lead and things were very much back and forth in the second half until OMBAC found its stride. At 21-16, OMBAC nailed a penalty and scored an unconverted try to take a 29-16 lead. OMBAC took advantage of playing at home after playing the last several weeks on narrow fields.
“We got moving a little bit more in the second half,” Denham added. “We moved the ball a lot better on our home field and our pattern was a lot more set having the extra width.”
Santa Monica struck back dotting down after recovering a grubber and a penalty with five minutes to play, making it a three-point game. OMBAC, however, was able to shut down the Dolphins for the remaining minutes to make it 29-26.
Jesse Witkowicki came back from injury, and in the absence of Todd Clever, had a tremendous performance at Number 8 yesterday. Missing Clever, along with several injuries during the game, left OMBAC a little depleted.
“All of the guys coming off the bench did a superb job,” Denham said. “To be honest, to win the PRP depth is the main thing to have. Both Glendale and Gate had it last year and it no surprise that they were in the finals. It is very refreshing to know that when we have a few injuries we can still come away with a win.”
Glendale vs. Belmont Shore
Thanks to the Eagles camp, Glendale came into the game very short handed. The Raptors were missing five guys this weekend, including their entire front row, a second rower and a center. Despite the lack of depth, Glendale won the match 32-19.
“I was very pleased with the guys winning the game, but I was even more pleased with the guys chipping in at the positions of the guys with the Eagles,” Glendale coach Andre Snyman told Rugby Today. “They picked up their game… and I am really pleased to see that we have depth with them.”
Belmont Shore opened the scoring early, but Glendale responded with an unconverted try from Brett Willis. The Raptors took an 8-7 lead 15 minutes into the game, and a try from Mose Timoteo gave the Raptors a 13-7 lead. The home side added one more score before halftime to take a 20-7 lead going into the break.
Glendale opened the second half with two tries to lead 32-7. Two late tries from Belmont Shore were not enough as Glendale walked away with the victory.
Luke White and Christian Sarmento played very well as a locking pair and Joash Peko had a strong game at prop in the absence of the Eagles. However, it was a well-rounded performance from the Raptors that earned a convincing victory.
“Today was really a team effort in terms of forwards and backs working together. I thought that the team played really well together,” Snyman said.