You are here

San Francisco Golden Gate outlasted the Glendale Raptors to win the inaugural Pacific Rugby Premiership final 39-38 in front of a healthy crowd Saturday at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo. The lead changed five times, and Glendale threatened to flip it once more at the death.

Both teams displayed supreme depth, open-field rugby and bruising physicality throughout the game's many runs. Gate managed to make the first run of the contest, and Glendale's final one ran out of time.

San Francisco was the more aggressive team early, and an offload from wing Peter Moala to fullback Tai Enosa put Gate in for the first try of the game. A penalty and an Andrew Coquillard try later, SFGG was in a dominating position up 15-0.

Glendale crept back when SFGG's penalty problems began to pile up. First, Mike Graham sloted a point-blank penalty to get the Raptors on the board. Then, after several discussions with the sir, Gate lost second row Tom Rooke to a yellow card. With a man in the bin, Glendale got two tries back.

Fullback Dustin Croy scored the first, stepping Enosa, who was left trying to cover three players after some convincing decoy runs from centers Chad London and Justin Pauga. Then the bruising Pauga rammed home the second, bouncing Volney Rouse at the try line. Those bang-bang scores erased SFGG's 15-0 lead and saw the Raptors up 17-15 with halftime approaching.

Gate got back on the front foot momentarily with some imposing runs, but as San Francisco inched closer to pay dirt, the Glendale defense intensified. Some positive-grade tackles by the Raptors opened the door for blindside flanker Spencer Scott to poach the ball. He was nipped at the heels and passed off to wing Brett Willis. Mile Pulu and Samisone Pone came up empty when swiping at Willis' feet, and the former DI wide receiver strided over 80 meters for the score. Converted, it gave Glendale a 24-15 lead going into halftime.

As rapidly as SFGG started the first half it began the second. Gate took the physicality to Glendale with some strong runs, and a deft scramble from Mose Timoteo put SFGG inches from the try line. Glendale was pinged for not releasing in the tackle, Timoteo quick-tapped and spun the ball wide through hands to Enosa, who dotted down for the score. The touchline conversion was missed, leaving the Raptors up 24-20.

SFGG retook the lead seconds later, as persistent pressure in the form of big runs from second rows Brendan Daly and Rooke resulted in another penalty on the Raptors at their defensive five-meter. After the referee warned Glendale captain Zach Fenoglio about the repeated infringements, Timoteo toed the ball into play and passed to massive prop Paula Fukofuka, who barreled in under the posts. The easy conversion saw SFGG up 27-24.

Glendale kicked the ensuing restart deep, SFGG cleared its lines with a boot, and the Raptors countered. Croy committed two defenders and passed to Preston Bryant, who chewed up 20 meters and committed two more defenders before passing to London. After a couple of broken tackles and a quick ruck, Scott took a crash ball untouched for the go-ahead try. Graham's conversion put the Raptors up 31-27 with 30 minutes to play.

SFGG's backline retaliated with an incredible long-range try of its own. Pulu touched the ball twice on the link-up, and his final offload from the deck to Tai Enosa, who had to reach to his laces to pull in the pass, set the fullback into space for the score. SFGG missed the conversion, but claimed a 32-31 lead near the 58th minute.

SFGG and Glendale nearly got in on the wing again, but both attempts were ended inches short by the ball carriers being pushed into touch. On Glendale's shot, Croy did dot down, but video review determined he was in touch before doing so.

Gate caught a break in the 75th minute when the assistant referee caught Glendale playing the ball in a ruck while the Raptors had their backs against the wall. SFGG kicked the penalty to the corner and took a lineout. The ball was taken cleanly, the maul got Gate inches from the line, and a short plunge from the loosehead prop put SFGG up 39-31 after the conversion.

Down eight points with less than five minutes to play, Glendale responded. The Raptors were put on the front foot with a half break from sub No. 8 Zac Pauga. Then Mike Graham chipped a kick over the SFGG defense, reserve wing Max Statler gathered the ball and offloaded to London, who raced in for the score. With just two minutes to play, the conversion was nailed to pull Glendale within one at 39-38.

SFGG was called for a penalty right after the kickoff, and the Raptors kicked for an attacking lineout inside Gate's 22. Glendale won the set piece, but Graham made a grave mistake when he opted to grubber down one point at full time. Enosa scooped up the gift and kicked it to touch to end the game.

For his three-try performance and persistent danger with ball in hand, Enosa was named the MVP of the final. The win gives SFGG its second championship in a row and fourth since 2009. Gate won the Super League in 2009 and 2011 and the Elite Cup in 2013.

The final will be show in tape delay on Fox Soccer Plus May 24th at 12pm MST and May 25th at 5pm MST.

Tries: Fukofuka, Enosa (3), Coquillard, Lalaupeaalu
Cons: Rouse (3)
Pens: Rouse

Glendale 38
Tries: London, Croy, Willis, Scott, Pauga
Cons: Graham (5)
Pens: Graham