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Dublin: 8 °C Saturday 20 April, 2019

Cork man Quill leads Sacramento to victory as USA's pro league launches

PRO Rugby got underway with two exciting clashes in Denver and Sacramento.

CORK MAN JOHN Quill captained Sacramento to victory on the first weekend of the USA’s new professional rugby league, PRO Rugby.

26-year-old Quill, who is a 17-cap US international, led Sacramento to a highly-entertaining 37-25 win over San Francisco, with the openside flanker delivering an outstanding individual performance.

Britain Rugby WCup South Africa USA Quill featured for the US at the Rugby World Cup last year. Source: Christophe Ena

Alongside former Munster academy flanker Quill in the victorious Sacramento team was try-scoring fullback Garrett Brewer, a US native who was playing his club rugby in Ireland earlier this season with Newbridge RFC.

Ex-Italy international Mirco Bergamasco was at outside centre, taking on the kicking duties, while Canada’s World Cup hooker Ray Barkwill was an important part of the pack.

Earlier, Denver dramatically claimed the spoils in the first-ever PRO Rugby game by beating Ohio 16-13 with a Will Magie penalty in ‘sudden death overtime,’ which the league will run whenever the 80-minute games end in a draw.

Deep snow was cleared from the surface at Infinity Park to allow the game to go ahead, with former Ulster back row Pedrie Wannenburg captaining a Denver side that is coached by Irish native Sean O’Leary.

Ex-Munster and Connacht prop Peter Borlase is assistant coach to O’Leary at Denver.

On the agonisingly defeated Ohio team was former Blackrock student Pierce Dargan, who started in the second row. Dargan played U20s rugby for the US and represented Trinity and Clontarf FC before taking up the opportunity in PRO Rugby.

Included on the bench for Ohio was Robbie Shaw, the 12-times capped USA scrum-half who was part of the Ireland U21 side that reached the final of the World Championships in 2004. Shaw also had a stint with Galwegians and played for Connacht A.

With just five teams competing in the inaugural season of PRO Rugby, San Diego – head coached by Limerick man Ray Egan – have to wait until week two to get their campaign started, with Quill’s Sacramento set to visit Torero Stadium on Saturday 23 April.

The first weekend of PRO Rugby, which has been sanctioned by World Rugby and USA Rugby, showed that there are major strides of improvement ahead, but also demonstrated the league’s promise.

Sacramento’s win over San Francisco was streamed live for free by AOL [and can be replayed on the same website], while the supporters who turned up for that clash appeared to be enthralled by the action.

The free-running, high-tempo nature of the contest will certainly have appealed to casual rugby fans or those who had no prior knowledge of the oval ball game.

Financed by Doug Schoninger, who made his money on Wall Street, PRO Rugby is here to stay for the short-term at least and any success for the league in truly establishing itself would be good for the rugby world.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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