They went into the weekend sharing crowded room at the top of the table and they’ll maintain that crammed space thanks to an injury-time goal that left scores knotted and participants exhausted. Fans were promised a thriller and were delivered same at Denver Harlequin’s home pitch, Cook Park, Saturday afternoon in ideal spectating conditions for the crowd arrayed along the touchlines.
Harlequin kicker Dave Yaeger, near-perfect at 5-from-6 in last week’s league opener, began scoring by converting a 30 meter penalty goal at the 14th minute and it was Denver 3, Glendale 0. Raptors replied firmly, bringing the ball inside the Quins 22 for an extended period though they spilled the pill forward five meters out.
The Raptors gained the lead, quick-tapping a penalty and spinning ball that wing Chris Weinglass was able to finish and it was Glendale 5, Denver 3 at 28 minutes. Raptors returned on the front foot as fullback Ben Cappa put wing Bryan Evans into space midfield and the speedy winger fended off a tackler at Quins 22 before touching down a Cappa-converted score and extending Glendale’s lead to nine at 32.
Cappa closed out scoring for the half by slotting a penalty centrepost at the 22 and it was 15-3 to the visitors at break.
The Harlequins erupted out of the blocks at the re-start, with forward rushes and inside backwork that brought them a scrum five meters from Glendale’s goal. Sloppy ball was cleaned up well by replacement 8-man Joe Vitapa, and he burrowed into the try zone for the touch down two minutes into the half and the Quins shortened the gap to seven.
The Raptors had a man shown yellow at the 46th minute for dangerous play, yet still they were able to bring action into Quin territory for nearly the next 12 minutes, but they were unable to come away with points. However a second caution issued at 66 to one of the Raptors breakaways unbalanced their scrum enough so that the home side were able to gain advantage and Vitapa dotted his second at 70 to draw his team within two.
With time waning, Cappa collected an errant kick and raced into Quin territory with Evans in close support. With the fullback committed to the mark, Cappa shifted ball to Evans who tried to put the Raptors up by seven at the 78th minute and Glendale looked good to go. But with the atmosphere crackling and injury time flying, a rush by big lock Hunter Clark , a slip to hooker Chris Bailey, and a swift scoop and Eric Nixon had dotted down the try that, when converted by Jaeger, drew the sides even at the whistle.
“This Denver Harlequins side plays well as a team, both on and off the field. The team-first attitude was evident with the sideline support and the on field rally to come from behind,” reported head coach Mark Price.
The clubs meet again next month on the 22nd at Glendale’s turf pitch in what promises to be another fine rugby contest. Until that time the question of who is the best side in ERRFU’s D 2 league will be left up to the discussion of the sideline wags.
DH – 20 – Tries: Vitapa (2), Nixon; Conv: Jaeger; Pen: Jaeger
GR – 20 – Tries: Weinglass, Evans (2); Conv: Cappa; Pen: Cappa
Referee: T. Luscombe