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Mile Pulu carring the rock for SFGG. Austin Brewin photo

With four weeks until the Pacific Rugby Premiership Grand Final, each game on Saturday had implications for the postseason. League leader, the Glendale Raptors, improved their record to 9-0 with an 85-3 thrashing of the Santa Monica Dolphins to be a game away from securing a place in the their third straight championship.

The battle for second and the opportunity to face Glendale in the final is fierce. Currently in second, OMBAC held serve at home beating the Olympic Club, 64-17. With a 41-26 win over the Denver Barbarians, the SFGG Rhinos are already in playoff mode. SFGG is only three standing points behind OMBAC and needs to win out to earn a spot in the final.

Santa Monica Dolphins at the Glendale Raptors

Despite a slow start against the Santa Monica Dolphins, the Glendale Raptors exploded in the second half with ten tries to win 85-3. Man of the Match Brian Wanless and Max Statler each had hat tricks for the Raptors and six other players had a try in the match.

“The boys trusted the structure and they decided to play according to what we are training,” Glendale head coach Andre Snyman said. “It paid off because every time we play to structure, we are moving forward, we get over the gain line, and we score tries. As soon as we get away from the structure or the gameplan, then we struggle.”

Santa Monica scored first off the boot of Cayden Matehaere to hold an early 3-0 lead. It took a little while for Glendale to find its offense, but when it did, the Raptors scored 13 consecutive tries. Chris Hathaway, Zach Pauga, and Max Statler each scored in the half to lead 19-3.

The second half was all Glendale as Statler (2), Martin Knoetze (2), Brian Wanless (3), Dewon Reed, James Delbozque, and Zach Fenoglio each got on the scoreboard. Armandt Peens (7), Statler (2), and Reed combined for ten conversions on the day.

Glendale can clinch a spot in the final next Saturday against SFGG. “SFGG is always a physical game. They want to keep their championship dream alive,” Snyman commented. “They are going to come here and try to walk away with a W. We have the same idea to keep our momentum going. It will be a close game, not a blowout, and we are going to have to man up.”

Olympic Club at OMBAC

Second place OMBAC welcomed the Olympic Club to San Diego, Calif. hoping to rebound after a two-point loss to Glendale last Saturday. The aggressive OMBAC side led 31-10 at halftime and then doubled the score in the second period to win 64-17. Zach Pangelinan, Nick Batger, and Tai Tuisamoa each had a pair of tries for OMBAC and Brian Doyle, Oliver L’Estrange, Orin Catrett, and Ian Barford dotted one down.  

“[The Olympic Club] played tough and didn't give us anything, but our team put together some clinical rugby to score some good tries,” OMBAC head coach Jason Wood. “Tai Tuisamoa and Brian Doyle gave us good front foot ball that allowed our backline to be expansive. The team stepped up together on attack.”

For the Olympic Club, Josh Tucker provided most the offense with a total of 12 points with a try, penalty and two conversions. Charles Guiraud provided a try in the first half.

When asked what OMBC needs to do to reach the final, Wood said, “We have to win out, including a game at SFGG and we have yet to beat SFGG in San Fran in the PRP. Our close win against them in San Diego is in the past and it very well could come down to who wins on April 30th to play Glendale in the final.”

SFGG Rhinos at the Denver Barbarians

With no room for error, the SFGG Rhinos took the first step to returning to the Grand Final with Saturday’s 41-26 win over the hosting Denver Barbarians. The Rhinos received superb efforts from Neill Barrett, Tevita Okusi, Travis Benson, Brendan Daly, Tomasi Funaki and Jeff Colata with tries and four conversions and a penalty from Tai Enosa.

SFGG head coach Neil Foote indicated that the key to the game was its dominant set piece. “We had a lot of ball to work with so we got some front foot ball for our backline attack. It was just the way we used it that let us down. We were really good in parts and then in some parts, we were pretty poor in our general execution. We created a lot of opportunities on attack, but we just lacked execution to finish with points.”

Denver played valiantly and got as close as 27-16 in the second half, but couldn’t outplay its competition for the comeback. Kyle Hitt, Jeremy Misailegalu, and Daniel Bell each had tries for the Barbarians and Max De Achaval’s boot was on fire with three penalties and a conversion.

The biggest test for SFGG comes next Saturday at Glendale. “We know the formula for us is basically three finals to play in the next three weeks,” Foote stated. “The next time we lose is the finish of our season, so each week we are all in. Obviously, Glendale has been the benchmark for the PRP this year. They have a fantastic setup and a fantastic team, but we took a lot of confidence from the first time met them in Treasure Island. It came down to the 80th minute and one try was the difference between the two teams... We know we can compete, but we know that we have to be at our best.”