San Francisco Golden Gate won the meeting of defending club champions Saturday at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo., nipping the host and reigning DI champion Raptors 31-27. The game will air on Fox Soccer Plus April 19 9pm ET, Root Sports May 13 and on Denver's ABC affiliate July 17.
Glendale got on the board first with a try from No. 8 Nic Johnson, but the reigning Super League champs rattled off 24-consectuve points in the meat of the first half.
Johnson stopped the bleeding with his second try near the end of the first half, making the score 24-12 at intermission.
Glendale carried its momentum into the second half, going on a run of its own. Scrumhalf Daryl Furlong scored to open the second stanza and pull the Raptors within five at 24-19. Wing Max Statler pulled them level at 24-24 with an unconverted try, and fly half Nese Malifa gave the hosts the lead with a penalty.
SFGG struggled mightily in the lineout during Glendale’s 20-point run, allowing the Raptors more possession.
“We had a lot of trouble in our lineout the whole game, but the middle sort of 20 minutes, in particular, we had a lot of trouble,” said SFGG coach Paul Keeler. “I would say the last 10 minutes of the first half, too. We were having a lot of trouble with our first phase, and I think that’s what hurt us.”
SFGG lost Eagle hooker Chris Biller and stud lock/No. 8 Samu Manoa to Aviva Premiership Northampton this year, and it’s lineout has fallen victim to the change.
“In the past, if we’re having a problem in the lineout, it was ‘Throw to Samu.’ Nobody’s going to beat him. I think I’ve seen him lose a lineout once, and when he lost it he reached over the lineout and stole the ball from the other guy,” said Keeler.
“Definitely, it’s a big factor. And it’s a learning curve, and they’re letting guys get in front of them, at times get up quicker or letting the defense get set…That works great when you’re a dominant lineout. When you’ve got to hustle for ball, that doesn’t work.”
SFGG was also playing without lock and Nick Civetta, a key cog in the lineout.
Down three, SFGG put in one more converted try to another Malifa conversion to score the 31-27 win.
Keeler lauded the play of Glendale No. 7 Mike Kenyon and his own hooker, Patrick Latu.
Tries: Timoteo, Pone, Fukofuka, Latu
Cons: Rouse (4)
Tries: Johnson (2), Statler
Cons: Malifa (3)
Pens: Malifa (2)