Boulder was tied with the Denver Highlanders at halftime Saturday, and led by a couple with 60 minutes gone, but the goal kicking of Leif Gibson and a pair of late scores saw the hosts through at the end in the DI league opener for both squads.
Three lead changes and scores that were leveled twice provided ample entertainment for the spectators at Glendale’s Infinity Park turf pitch.
Boulder got on top at minute 13 when standoff James Melville sailed through a hole at Denver’s 22 fabricated by his deft dummy, and fled to goal unscathed for a try. Patrick Moore’s conversion made it 7-nil to Boulder as the Highlanders regrouped.
Both sides had success in generating opportunities, but early season mental errors and handling lapses combined to truncate multiple-phase play, as did the odd penalty.
Highlanders struck well after a period of maul, slip-and-drive, pressure brought pack action into Boulder’s 22. Prop Chris Gustafson burst from the lineout 10 meters out from Boulder’s goal and fended off a stopper before crossing for the touch down and the home team drew to within two at 25.
Boulder roared directly back into Denver territory after a Highlander kick for ground was gathered and well-countered by Boulder’s back three who dipped and swerved through the defense as ghosts, finally seeing winger Moore through to dot down, and Boulder regained their goal margin at 28 minutes.
Now it was the swarming Highlanders pack, close in support, who pressured and it was “Doc-lock” Tom Rogers who filled the gap and outpaced pursuit for the score. Gibson’s conversion drew the sides even at 31 minutes. Highlanders had their first lead at minute 39 as their pack rumbled 15 meters from a lineout and ever-present prop, Gustafson, touched down. Gibson added two and it was Highlanders 19, Boulder 12.
But Boulder was not done, and a counterattack along touch by their backs freed Moore who was hauled down by his collar from behind. That type of illegal horseplay drew a deserved penalty try award from referee Brian Zapp and the score re-knotted at 19s at the whistle with Moore’s conversion.
Both teams sought to gain the upper hand after the re-start, Denver with long range boots and Boulder with probing maulwork and incisive counters. It was Highlanders who were to draw first blood of the half when #10 Gibson stepped back from an attacking set piece and dropped a goal through from Boulder’s 10 meter line: DRH 22 – BRAC 19 at minute 59.
Highlanders lead lasted less than a minute as Boulder got on the front foot and setup in the vicinity of Highlanders 22. Melville dribbled through a grubber into the box which bounded up and into his hands for the scoot and score, and it was Boulder back on top by a deuce at 60 with the bonus-point try.
A tackle judged dangerously high 22 meters out and in front of posts provided the next lead change as “Gibbo” slotted that and it was Denver by one with 13 to go.
A huge 30 meter rush by Highlanders forwards in a series of slipping, sliding maulworks, and Gustafson had his third and Denver its fourth for their bonus point. Conversion by Gibson and 32-24 to the home side with the sands running swift. Rogers closed out try-scoring for the day, picking up loose ball at Boulder’s ten and striding into goal for the dot. Two more by Gibson led to a final of 39-24.
The visitors showed good form at the breakdown in securing possession and recycling, but in the end it was Highlanders prop Chris Gustafson’s third touch down and fellow tight fiver, Tom Roger’s second that undid the men in blue.
DRH – (39) – Tries: Gustafson (3), Rogers (2); Conv: Gibson (4); Pen: Gibson; DG: Gibson
BRAC – (24) – Tries: Melville (2); Moore; Penalty Try; Conv: Moore (2)
Referee: B. Zapp