Denver Harlequins opened the ERRFU league division play Saturday in fine fettle, picking up the bonus-point win over hosts and in-town rivals Denver Queen City as the visitors came out on the good end of a nine-try contest. Fitness saw the Quins early season form through in the end as they were first to the breakdown, producing clean and quick front-foot ball for their talented backline.
The initial fifteen minutes of action ranged between the 22s and saw probing jags from the Harlequins forwards and territorial kicks by Queen City well-contained by each defense. Queen City’s kicker was off on a pair of penalty strikes in the opening stages before Harlequins struck. An inside fill from the loose at City’s 22 put fullback Dave Jaeger into space to free wing Charlie Annerino in support for the dash into goal and touch down: conversion by Jaeger and Harlequins led by seven.
Quins forwards worked ball from the fringes of the sets, patient and steady, while City opted for quick possession to their backs and lengthy tactical boots. The strategy produced for Queen City in the 31st minute when, after an eight-phase set of work in close, lock Bryan Gustafson slipped from the loose and dotted down an unconverted score to draw the home team within two at 31 minutes.
Harlequins extended their lead just prior to the break when ball spun wide from an attacking loose piece five meters from QC’s goaline enabled outside center Steve Zaugg to step inside a defender and dash into goal, and with Jaeger’s second conversion the score went to 14-5 and the sides took a breather.
Harlequins came out after the re-start with a vengeance as halfback Werner Viviers sniped weak side around the base of the maul at his own ten meter line and broke clear before handing off to his flanker who, in turn, put 8th man Eamon Leonard free for a 30 meter scoot along touch and into goal: perfection by Jaeger and the Quins upped their lead to 16 in the 41st minute.
A period of intense work by Queen City realized naught as it was Harlequin flyhalf Adam Kreisher who flippered a tackler, spun a deft 360, and crossed for the Jaeger-converted goal and a 28-5 lead at 51 ticks.
Ten minutes on, and it was Harlequins threatening again five meters out as Leonard picked from the set and made a hard two before slipping ball to replacement flanker Joe Vitapa who burst across to touch down. Jaeger made it five-from-five with his conversion from the hash mark and the scores stood at 35-5.
Queen City got one back immediately with textbook finishing from wing Nickee Powell taking ball at Quins 10 meter line and burning past and through the defense on his romp into goal bringing the tally to 35-10. City stayed on the front foot, pressuring, until a Harlequin clearance for touch remained in play and wing Lloyd Chavez took flight up the sideline, returning 35 meters for the score and closing the gap to 35-15 at the 70th minute.
But any thought of a miracle finish by City was stifled when Zaugg touched down after a 30 meter scurry into goal followed by Jaeger’s atypically missed conversion to put the final at Denver Harlequins 40, Denver Queen City, 15.
“A good start to the season,” said brace-scorer Zaugg, “still there are some things we’ll work at, but overall, a good result.”
Queen City coach Charlie Haupt reported, “No finish at the loose. We got outrucked and failed to take care of business in that respect though,” he added, “to give credit to Quins, they were first to breakdown an awful lot and consolidated their possession well.”
Next up for Denver Harlequins will be Glendale Raptors in a league match they’ll host at Cook Park, September 10, while Denver Queen City travel to Colorado Springs in a fortnight for their next league fixture.
Denver Harlequins 40
Tries: Annerino, Zaugg (2), Leonard, Kreisher, Vitapa
Convs: Jaeger 5
Denver Queen City 15
Tries: B. Gustafson, Powell, Chavez
Referee: D. Summers