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In the rubber match of the last three PRP finals, Glendale bested SFGG 44-20 to claim its second consecutive PRP title. After a tight first quarter of the game, the Raptors overpowered the visiting Rhinos to take home the hardware.
The last few weeks have been tough for Glendale as the squad has seen a number of shifts to the roster. With Pro Rugby nabbing full time and match day players, the Raptors have had to go to the depths of their roster. However, after losing to SFGG a few weeks ago with a bit of a depleted roster, the Raptors came into the final only missing full time pro players Chad London, Luke White, Niku Kruker and Hanco Germishuys.
Nevertheless, SFGG came out fast putting a lot of pressure on the home side. The Rhinos, however, could not muster any first half tries and could only keep the match close for the first 40 minutes. Dustin Croy opened the scoring for the Raptors with a try but two SFGG penalties cut the lead to 7-6.
“It has been a consistent occurrence. That is what happens when teams come to Colorado the first half they are very competitive and as the game goes on the altitude gets to them and there was nothing different this time. San Francisco came out firing and really really played well,” said Glendale coach Andre Snyman.
It remained a one point game for most of the first half until Zach Pauga broke through the SFGG line. He offloaded to Croy for his second of the match and 12-6 lead at minute 36. Armandt Peens added the conversion and a late penalty to extend the halftime lead to 17-6.
Peens added a try of his own early in the second half and after another penalty, the lead was 27-6. Tom Rooke stemmed the tide briefly for SFGG with a try, but sin bin penalty that resulted in three more points to Glendale ended any chance of a comeback.
“We just played a really really fast paced game because I think we were fitter than them and we love to play fast,” Snyman added. “We just them around until they got tired and obviously in the second half we kept doing that and upped the tempo even more.”
The PRP’s leading try scorer Martin Knoetze got his first of the game and one more late score sealed the win. The Rhinos added a consolation try and the match ended 46-20.
The latter part of the season was a bit stressful for Snyman and the Raptors as the pro league put the PRP roster in flux. Winning its second consecutive title, however, made the tough season all the more special.
“The fact that we one this second year back to back means a lot for the club and the players. All the hard work that they put in for the season, once again we reached our goal,” an exuberant Snyman indicated. “It was a bit a see saw, up down, kind of season in terms of player selections. The guys have stepped up and done a really good job and I am proud of them. Once again it shows the character of the club.”
Another year of PRP play is in the books. Questions have been circulating about the status of the PRP with addition of Pro Rugby. Snyman indicated that the league will continue to function next year but is waiting for the conclusion of the pro season to evaluate its options. The PRP has pondered the possibility of moving the season to the fall and is considering the possibility of expanding with a few more clubs. Although nothing is concrete, what is clear is the PRP will continue to function as a high performance league next season.