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Belmont Shore opened Pacific Rugby Premiership play with a 26-20 defeat of the Denver Barbarians in Long Beach, Calif. Saturday. Belmont jumped out to a 19-point first-half lead on the back of three quality tries, and Denver scored at the death to secure a bonus point.

Dotting down the first try for Belmont Shore was fullback Mikey Te’o, who tallied a second in the second half. The Belmont forwards flexed their muscle on the possession, and Te’o took an offload on the weak side for the score. Sinipati Uiagaleilei and Mack Iosia also scored in the first half.

“Got quite a bit of ball early on, which kind of helped us get into the game,” said Belmont coach Ray Egan. “It was a great start, and then kind of true to form the Barbos came back in the second half and really had a go for it.”

Denver dug in and outscored Belmont 20-7 in the second stanza, with Ata Malifa and Taylor Howden combining for some dangerous touches. But Te’o’s second try, which went through several sets of Belmont hands from about 60 meters out, was good enough to keep the Barbos at bay by more than a try’s length until Denver scored on the last play.

The win was a big one for Belmont, which was going up against a Final Four team from the spring a week after faltering against a Texas all-star side in the Las Vegas Invitational.

“It was kind of a little bit doom and gloom in terms of our own play after Vegas, but we came out and the boys responded well during the week,” said Egan. “We had a good training week, and we came out of the blocks really well. That was really good.”

Debuting for Belmont at flyhalf was Iosia, the older brother of Junior All American and Belmont wing Pase Iosia.

“Really, really exciting player. He really found his layer attack wise. Very strong ball carrier. Probably not the most refined kicking skills, but defensively and attack wise he’s a real block in there,” said Egan, who was also complimentary of his forwards and inside center.

“We played really well. Our pack really carried ball well, really got over the gainline. And probably our man of the match was Ed Pitts at 12, defensively and in attack, and his leadership was outstanding today.”

Belmont Shore tries to go 2-0 with another home game next week against Glendale, also 1-0 after a win over Olympic Club, and Denver will try to bounce back at San Francisco Golden Gate, winners over Santa Monica Saturday.