The 2008 Rugby Super League season started on a high note, with impressive performances and some rather suprising upsets throughout the respective conferences.

In the White Conference, last year's runners-up, the Chicago Lions continued to prey on their competition, with a 40-5 road victory over Philly-Whitemarsh, while in the Blue Conference, Charlotte kicked its seven game RSL losing streak from 2007 to defeat Potomac Athletic Club (PAC) 15-8.

Most notable, however was the Denver Barbarians squad, which after finishing fifth in the Red Conference standings last season, pulled together a solid team effort to defeat 2007 RSL Champions Belmont Shore and snap the the Long Beach team’s impressive 23-match regular season winning streak.

"It was a very tough match and we battled well against a strong side. Our fitness and commitment at the end, combined with good discipline, really won the day, " Denver Barbarians Coach David Hodges said. "I am particularly proud, given our one-match buildup to the Super League Opener. We have another tough one in two weeks in Denver against San Francisco Golden Gate and will need to be ready."

Belmont Shore was first to strike and went up 7-0 within the game's first 10 minutes, but Denver soon responded with a Nic Johnson try. The lead fluctuated throughout the first half, but with a swift try and conversion from USA Sevens standout Nese Malifa, Belmont went up 14-12 heading into the break.

However in the second half, through a true team effort combined with excellent discipline, the Barbarians were able to muscle out a victory. Belmont still held a 19-15 lead at the 47th minute, but the Barbarians turned the tables and took control of the match, notching two tries in the 10 minutes that followed to take a 27-19 lead.

Denver inside center Jake Humphrey led the scoring charge with a try and minutes later, Johnson recovered a loose ball and darted 50 meters to touch in his second try on the day. Belmont Shore made a comeback with a try at minute 64, but a missed conversion from the outside left the score at Denver 27-Belmont 24 and the Barbos continued to apply stiff pressure to put down any further offensive efforts from the 2007 champions until the final whistle.

“Denver showed quite a bit of organization in defense. It appeared Belmont was a bit rusty when compared to the form they’ve shown in recent performances,” USA Men’s Sevens Coach Al Caravelli said following the match. “Both teams left some points on the table and didn’t convert several opportunities. The better team on the day earned the victory and it was a great way to kick off the 2008 RSL season.”

The Barbarians next host San Francisco Golden Gate on March 29, while Belmont Shore travels north to take on Old Puget Sound Beach.

RED Conference
While the Barbarians shut down Belmont Shore in Long Beach, California rivals OMBAC and San Francisco Golden Gate met in a stern test at Treasure Island. In the stiffly contested match, the boys from San Diego were propelled ahead in the game’s closing minutes to clinch an 18-17 victory over Golden Gate.

“Matt Hawkins played absolutely phenomenal during the last 15 minutes of the game. He put us on the front foot and deserves full credit for creating space for the rest of the team to work off of,” OMBAC Head Coach Jason Wood said following his team’s win.

Under windy conditions in Santa Monica, the Dolphins started their 2008 RSL campaign with a hard-fought 18-16 victory over Old Puget Sound Beach. Quick-footed winger Kelly Serfoss blazed past two separate defenders to put Santa Monica up 18-13 early in the game’s second half and the team was able to fend off the mounting OPSB attack until the end for the win.

WHITE Conference
On the road, the Chicago Lions kicked off their 2008 season with a 40-5 win over Philly-Whitemarsh. Lions winger Ed Blumel completed the hat trick, speeding in for three tries on the day, while Scott Peterson kicked for 10 points.

“Philly showed a pretty strong pack initially and rather than fight that battle, we chose to attack the outside channels,” Blumel said. “Most of our tries, if not all, were scored by our backs attacking the outside center channel and wider.”

At Dallas, Washington suffered inopportune travel plans due to air and city traffic over the holiday weekend and had to press on against the Harlequins in spite of lacking warm-up time. Propelled by the excellent performances of a strong pack and quick backline, Dallas rolled past Washington RFC 82-0 at home.

The NYAC turned in a top notch team performance to beat the Boston Irish Wolfhounds 36-12 at home. The New York Athletic Club front row held strong, while flyhalf Christian Mayo had two tries and Justin Hundley kicked a solid game.

BLUE Conference
After going 0-7 to finish at the bottom of the Blue Conference standings last season, Charlotte emerged victorious in its meeting with Potomac Athletic Club (PAC). Despite playing a solid defensive game, mistakes from the young PAC squad allowed Charlotte to pull off a 15-8 victory in the start of the 2008 season.

The contest between New York’s Old Blue and Boston ended in a 21-21 tie at Columbia University’s Baker Field. An enthusiastic Boston side was able to capitalize on Old Blue’s change in lineup due to injuries and shot off to an 18-14 before the half; however, Old Blue dominated the beginning of the second to surge ahead 21-18 by the 50-minute mark. Inside the game's final 10 minutes, a swift Boston drop goal brought the match to a dead heat. With the chance to win it in the game's final minutes, a missed Boston penalty attempt from just outside the right post went wide, leaving the final at 21-21.

In the soggy conditions of the Windy City, the Chicago Griffins defeated the St. Louis Bombers 28-8. With the wind at their backs, the Griffins shot ahead to a 21-3 lead by half-time, cutting short multiple attacks from the Bombers in the Chicago end. Bomber center TJ Ebner put in a try to narrow the gap to 28-8 before the final blow.