Denver Highlanders advance to High Desert Classic final with slapdash effort against Queen City

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Eight-Man, Kyle Gross, on a 60m run. Photo by Ben Jones, 10/22/16

The Denver Highlanders Men’s Club Rugby (4-0) beat Queen City (3-1), 15-10, in a sloppy semi-final game in the High Desert Classic this past Saturday in Albuquerque New Mexico. A total of 12 penalties were committed in this game with both teams sharing 6 a-piece.

“The Sir, (head referee), definitely slowed down a lot of the play today. I wish the boys could have gathered some momentum but its good that we were able to come out with a win”, said injured New Zealand outside-center Adam Price who was coaching the team from the sidelines. “I think we showed great strength with our performance today despite the Sir’s tough calls.”

Although the overall pace of the game was slow there were some great individual efforts that impressed the small crowd of about ten Highlander fans. Scrum-half, Habib Guerrero (Columbia) put on a stellar kicking performance by making 1 of two penalty kicks and 2 conversion kicks for 7 points. The Highlanders also showed great offensive structure at times when they were able to collapse the Queensland defensive line with tight crash balls to their forwards that set up the attack on the outside by the winger, Josh Slater (Missouri) for a late try,(60’).

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Photo by Ben Jones, 10/22/16

Queensland did fight back with and early penalty kick by flanker, Drew Barton (Colorado), (25’) and then a sneaky try thirty seconds into the second-half by winger, Tyvonn Johnson (New Mexico), who dummied two defenders on the outside and surged to the try line for a 30m run. The eight-man for the Highlanders, Kyle Gross (Denver, Colorado), also put on a strong performance with a break-away 60m pick and go run off the scrum that set up the game winning try,(70’), by the full-back, Derek Carr (Denver, Colorado). The crowd went from emotions of intense anxiety of loosing a must win game to giddy yells of excitement with Carr’s try.

“I saw that they left the weak side of the scrum open so I took the chance and belted down field,” said Gross. “Luckily Dereck, (full-back), was there in support and I was able to give him a quick offload, (pass), for the try”.

The Highlanders are on a four game winning streak which started in early September with a convincing win over the Harlequins B-side, 57-14. This was the last game going into the winter break and it leaves the team at the top of their league and ready to put on a great performance in March when they go to play in a Vegas tournament. The team and players, particularly player and coach Adam Price, wrist injury, will have ample time to heal and prep themselves for the Spring season.

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Scrum-down. Photo by Ben Jones, 10/22/16

With this loss Queen City’s three game winning streak comes to an end. They put on a good performance with a win over the Glendale Raptors, 55-20 in their game prior but that did not translate over to this past Saturday.

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