The Cherry Creek HS club program upset top Colorado team Colorado Springs Wednesday night in Rugby Colorado action, pipping the Grizzlies 24-21.
With a nasty winter storm waiting to pounce, Cherry Creek game back from a 13-0 deficit to just edge the national-championship-bound Springs team.
Creek staked their hosts to a 13-0 first half lead before picking up a converted try at the whistle to head into the break 13-7 down.
Nathan Fletcher opened the scoring for Colorado Springs with a 3-meater penalty kick, and then added another from 40 meters out to lead 6-0 at 15 minutes.
Both teams ran straight at each other in the early going, and the defenses were physical, and held firm. The Grizzlies backline attack looked a little more solid and they were the ones to finally break though, setting up tighthead prop Ben Fobes for the try. Fletcher’s conversion made it 13-0.
But as time ran out in the half, Cherry Creek No. 8 Ben Pinkelman quick-tapped a penalty and slipped through a shocked Springs defense for 30 meters and a try. Center Hayden Teehan hit the conversion and it was 13-7.
Colorado Springs roared out the blocks at the restart, patiently working their way upfield until the visitors were pinged for offsides five meters from the tryline. After one bang on the door from the pack, the ball was spun wide stretched Creek’s defense and enabled fullback Luke Divich to find the gap to score to make it 18-7 at 45 minutes.
At a point when Creek could have thrown in the towel, the south Denver team did the opposite. Pinkelman, who captained the side, was outstanding in losoe play and in the lineouts, and he led from the front, scooping up a loose ball and running around and through defenders to score from 30 meters out. Teehan’s conversion put Creek with a score at 18-14.
Fletcher popped a penalty through the posts at the 60th minute to make it 21-14, but Creek responded three minutes later with a hard-charging run by second row Treman Holmes. Teehan’s conversion tied the game 21-21 at 63 minutes.
Comprehensive defense and hard-won yardage by forward packs were the order of the evening as the sides sought advantage and time ebbed its way outward. In the 68th minute Creek was awarded a penalty 35 meters out and Teehan’s kick was true to give Cherry Creek the 24-21 lead.
Springs had one more chance. They got a penalty of their own with time up. But Fletcher’s attempts was wide, and Cherry Creek had won a thriller.
Springs Head Coach John Paterson was philosophical about the upset.
“Cherry Creek played good clean rugby and the game was played in tremendous spirit,” said Paterson. “They had strong defense and utilized their ball effectively.”
But, he lamented, there were too many errors in fundamentals by his team. With Springs still working in some players into their system, as they had to last year when they lost an early one to East HS, Paterson figures his team will get stronger.
“The loss is good for us and the win to Cherry Creek will justifiably pump them up for the season,” said Paterson.
Cherry Creek 24
Tries: Pinkelman (2), Holmes
Convs: Teehan (3)
Colorado Springs 21
Tries: Fobes, Divich
Pens: Fletcher (3)
Match Official: Chris Brewer