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Eighteen points from Taylor Howden and a snappy start saw the Denver Barbarians defeat local rivals Glendale Raptors 33-28 in the first ever Elite Cup match.

The Elite Cup is the offshoot of the Super League, which ran from 1997 to 2012. The Elite Cup will feature eight teams in two divisions leading to semifinals and then a final May 25. Both Glendale and Denver are highly-regarded but are in a tough group with OPSB and SFGG. This weekend’s opening match showed how competitive the games could be.

Glendale began strong and quick ball from their forwards. The pressure put on by the Raptor pack forced Denver to infringe, and new Glendale scrumhalf Shaun Davies was good for three points.

More bad news for Denver as loosehead prop Chris Moreno was given a yellow card by referee Tim Luscombe. The Barbarians defense held, though, and didn't allow any points during Moreno's absence.

With the sides at full strength and Denver attacking inside the Raptors 22, flyhalf Taylor Howden found a crease in the defense and slipped through for a try, which he converted for a 7-3 Denver lead. The Barbarians increased their lead with a 60-meter sideline run from outside center Kyle Hitt to make it 12-3 after 26 minutes.

With Denver back on attack inside the Raptors 22, scrumhalf Tom Staab fed Howden, who calmly dropped a goal to make it 15-3.

Glendale's reply was to get the ball to Dewon Reed. The speedy wing juked his way through 45 meters to score in the corner. Davies hit the sideline conversion to make it 15-10.

Both Howden and Davies slotted penalties before the halftime whistle - 18-13 at the break in Denver's favor.

Glendale opened up the second half with another sparkling run from Reed. With David again good on the conversion, suddenly Glendale was in the lead, 20-18.

But the Barbos reclaimed the lead after frantic work from their forwards. Captain and openside flanker Logan Collins pushed and spun his way over the line for a key try, which Howden converted to make it 25-20 Denver. Howden added a key penalty at 56 minutes, giving his side a cushion of more than a converted try.

But trouble was ahead when they suffered another yellow card. This time Glendale punished them, with wing Dustin Croy just getting over the line, with a little help from some Raptor forwards, to put his side within three at 28-25.

The stage was set for a extraordinary finish and the sides did not disappoint. Certainly the next score would decide things, and Denver got it. Glendale kicked clear of their 22, but Barbarians wing Phil White fielded the ball inside his own half and raced off down the sideline and into the corner to make it 33-25. Glendale got another penalty from Davies, but that was all.

“This was a very mature Denver rugby team out there,” said Barbarians Director of Rugby Lance French. “They maintained possession and didn’t panic. This was a really good game, especially considering our guys have not been able to play because of all the snow."

There is plenty of rugby to play going forward. The Barbarians still have to play Boulder in a DI league game (weather has canceled the game twice), and they face the Kansas City Blues and Denver Highlanders in the next two weekends. Good performances in those games could see them jump to 1st in the league.

Glendale has one more DI league game, this coming weekend against the Denver Highlanders, and could finish 3-1-1 with a victory. It is likely not enough to win the league as Provo has not lost yet.

In the Elite Cup, it’s all to play for. Denver faces SFGG on April 6 and OPSB on April 13, while Glendale plays those same teams on the same weekends (with the order reversed of course).

Denver 33
Tries: Howden, Hitt, Collins, White
Convs: Howden 2
Pens: Howden 2
DGs: Howden

Glendale  28
Tries: Reed 2, Croy,
Convs: Davies 2
Pens: Davies 3

Match Officials: Tim Luscombe, Mark Huff, Greg Wolf

Elite Cup Standings

Elite Cup West W L T Pf Pa Pd BT BL Pts
Denver Barbarians 1 0 0 33
28 5
0 5
Glendale 0 1 0 28
-5 0 1 1
OPSB 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
SFGG 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Elite Cup East W L T Pf Pa Pd BT BL Pts
Boston 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Life 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
NYAC 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Old Blue 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

(Bernie Decker contributed to this report)