Article written by Chase Thompson for Columbus Wired
The excitement was palpable at Memorial park Sunday afternoon.
The Ohio rugby community came out in numbers today. I mean, why wouldn’t it be a big deal? Ohio’s PRO rugby team had its first home game and Memorial Park at Obetz village and the place was packed.
The kickoff comes and there’s a growing roar, and then the ball just bounces out of bounds. Oh no, is this going to be another league that’s full of amateurs? Then comes Ohio’s lineout. A failed attempt that ends up knocked on. The crowd is deflated.
Little did we all know, those would be slowest moments of the inaugural match in Obetz. It started with a brilliant turnover at the ruck, then a kick from fullback Zac Mizell. The winger Spike Davis chased it, followed closely by Mizell. It landed just inside the 5 meter line, took a pretty bounce and then settled. Davis storms down the field after it, reclaiming the ball and pushes toward the try line. Davis is dragged down. Ohio rucks over and recycle the ball for a few phases, then all of a sudden there’s a pass wide to Davis, who was waiting for for it hungrily. He gets it and runs hard, driving his way over the try line. The crowd erupts. The first of many tries to be scored at Memorial Park is in the books.
Several minutes later, Pierce Dargan touches down after a beautiful offload from a teammate. Davies again sends the conversion through the posts.
San Francisco had the chance to go for points after Ohio was called for not releasing. They went for a scrum; big mistake. Ohio drove over and got the ball out quickly. Ahmad Harajly had a big run after getting the deep kick, getting it to Mizell right before ending up in the hands of Sebastian Kalm. The ensuing conversion was missed, but 19-0 is a great lead for being 18 minutes in.
With five minutes left in the half, another try was on the board. This time, a collapsed scrum leads to Kalm going over the line. The conversion ended up bouncing off the uprights from a weird angle.
San Francisco got the advantage of a yellow card on Robbie Shaw taking the quick tap and an outstanding break down the touchline. They played smart and with some quick hands and nimble feet, Jay Finua touches underneath the posts. Conversion is good and its 27-10 headed to half.
The starting kick of he second half failed to go 10 meters and San Francisco had a scrum at the mid way. Davies chips ahead and a scrum on the five meter leads to a Filippo Ferrarini try, missed conversion leads to 32-10.
Another big break and quick hands lead to Spike Davis scoring his second of the day. JP Eloff takes over kicking duties and misses the conversion from near the touch zone. Ohio used the restart to push towards the 22 meter line, but San Francisco regained the ball and cleared it out. Ohio takes the lineout and then, after some penalties, San Francisco pushed the ball into the 22 and pushed over the try line with 6 minutes left.
At this point, JP Eloff takes over and scores 2 more tries before the final horn blows, one on a beautiful step inside and the second off an offload by Sebastian Kalm. The horn blows and the final score is 51-17 after Eloff converts both his tries.
Ohio was able to show it’s offensive prowess after struggling in Denver two weeks ago. Granted, the weather was much less welcoming to the players on that season opening weekend (4 inches of snow as opposed to sunny and low 70’s), but they showed that their scramble defense is solid and that even if you make a break, you probably won’t get a chance to just jog across the try line. Ohio’s scrums were strong.
I got the chance to catch up with both Filippo Ferrarini and Shaun Davies post game. When asked about his thoughts of the future of PRO Rugby in the U.S., Ferrarini said,” It’s amazing. I’m so proud to be here, to be the first in professional rugby (in America). We can grow fast and reach our objective and grow this”. Davies had this to say when asked about how he felt the team was growing and their progress moving forward,” It’s early in the season and we have only played 2 games, so there’s still some untested waters. But so far, there’s a lot of positive thoughts and mindsets. The future is bright here”.
Ohio (now 1-1) heads to Sacramento next Sunday at 8 PM ET/ 5 PM PT. San Francisco (0-3) hosts San Diego at 6 PM ET/ 3 PM PT. Games can watched on ONE World Sports or streamed through AOL.