The Championship of the USA Rugby Super League is set.
This coming weekend, San Francisco Golden Gate and the Life Running Eagles will meet to decide the 2009 RSL title. Winners of their respective conferences during the regular season, both teams have stayed on course in the postseason to meet at this point.
San Francisco Golden Gate reaches the final in dramatic fashion after a last minute 19-16 win over a game ready Denver Barbarians. Prop Jason Bowden crashed over for a try after a series of sustained pressure by SFGG to seal the victory.
The win sends SFGG to their first RSL title game since 2004 (second overall) when they were defeated by Belmont Shore 24-21. The win by SFGG also denied Denver a second straight playoff upset and their second ever trip to the finals.
SFGG (8-1) jumped out to a 12-0 lead behind tries from Sam Manoa and Faimalo Tapui, but Denver (5-4) clawed their way back into the game.
“It was a classic game that probably didn’t deserve a loser,” said San Francisco Golden Gate coach Paul Keeler.
Barbarian flyhalf, Maximo De Achaval, once again played a huge part in the Denver comeback with his kicking game and field management. The comeback effort culminated in Denver taking a 16-12 lead late in the game.
Unfortunately, Denver’s great season came to an end with Bowden’s try.
“Denver played exceptional and defended great to keep us to just three tries,” said Keeler. “But as a club we are so excited to have won and have a chance at the title. We have worked hard all season for this and now we just have to prepare well for the big day.”
On Sunday, the Life Running Eagles secured their spot in the finals with a clinical 25-3 win over Belmont Shore. The win ends Belmont Shore’s amazing streak of seven straight final appearances. The win just adds to Life’s remarkable return to the USA Rugby Super League. At the beginning of the year, Life wasn’t even on the RSL schedule but became a late addition to the league after St. Louis unexpectedly dropped out.
What they've accomplished to this point has been unheard of, but not entirely unexpected. The win sends Life (9-0) to their first RSL final (second overall) since 2000. Life will hope for a similar result as they defeated Aspen for the 2000 title 43-21.
The Running Eagles took a 13-3 lead into half-time and extended it to a solid 25-3 victory by full-time.
Steve Petzel scored twice for the home side and Mark Aylor and Garry Sullivan added another try each to clinch the result, but it was Life’s defence that did the job. Belmont Shore’s previous season low in a game was 17 points, but Life held them to only an Ata Malifa penalty goal. Life’s defense continually bottled up Belmont Shore’s several scoring threats throughout the game and ultimately won the game for the Running Eagles.
This weekend’s action now sets up the final that everyone has been waiting for; The best from the Red Conference take on the best from the Blue Conference, in a winner take all final. The game is also set to air on ESPN Classic on Saturday and one can only hope that the 2009 final can match up with the overtime thriller that took place last year.
Tune into ESPN Classic on Saturday to find out.