The British Columbia Bulldogs have clinched the inaugural Rugby League Cross-Border Club Challenge with a narrow 32-28 victory over the Utah Avalanche.
The W in the return game in Provo, UT, gave the Bulldogs a winning 40-point margin from the two-game series that was based on an overall aggregate points system.
The Avalanche, of the American National Rugby League’s Southwestern expansion Conference, scored the opening try of the game to take an early 4-0 lead, but BC then controlled possession and set the tempo for the majority of the first half.
Too many handling errors and mistakes in general by Utah gave the Bulldogs a glut of possession and the visitors took full advantage to rack up a handy 24-4 lead by halftime.
The second forty was a different story, however, with the Avalanche scoring two quick fire tries within three minutes to close the gap to 24-16.
The Bulldogs were restricted to just two unconverted tries in the second half, but it turned out to be enough to hold off Utah, who came home like an out of control freight train.
In the end, the Avalanche notched six tries but converted only two of them and had their goal kicking been more accurate they may even have won the match.
Utah captain Aaron Thompson led from the front and he, along with Josh Latu and Kali Tavake, turned in stellar performances.
Also chiming in with big games were Teki Nau, John Latu, Brian Jensen, who was back from injury, Chance Williams, Miki Moli and Lua Latu.
“We kept going till the last minute of the game and I am so proud of the way the guys played,” said Avalanche president George Tupou. “It was a big turnaround for us from the 48-12 beating three weeks ago in Canada to 32-28.”
It is hoped that the cross-border challenge will become an annual series between the North American neighbors.