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SFGG Rugby Photo.

After the results of Saturday, the race to the Pacific Rugby Premiership Grand Final has been narrowed to the Glendale Raptors, OMBAC, and the SFGG Rhinos. League leading Glendale was on a bye, but the three games on the slate had plenty of finals implications. All three matches ended in blowouts with OMBAC, SFGG, and Belmont Shore picking up important wins and bonus points. Unfortunately for Belmont Shore, OMBAC’s 62-28 win over Santa Monica eliminated them from contention.

With Glendale all but assured a place in the Grand Final, second place will potentially boil down to next week’s match between OMBAC and SFGG in San Francisco. The Rhinos need to win out to make the Final and OMBAC is standing in their way.

Santa Monica Dolphins at OMBAC

Needing to keep pace for the Grand Final, OMBAC thrashed the Santa Monica Dolphins, 62-28. OMBAC stringed together a multi-phase attack that produced ten tries with flyhalf Zach Pangelinan amounting 27 total points scoring three tries and six conversions. Santa Monica’s defense was solid, but OMBAC was very disciplined with ball in attack and excelled in team play.

“Our ball retention was much better than it’s been,” OMBAC head coach Jason Wood said. “In the past, we really worked on not trying to force passes and force those scoring opportunities. Instead, we conceded the phase and looked forward to the next phase. The end result of this game was being able to put together a lot of good multi-phase attack, which led to tries.”

Along with Pangelinan, wing Nick Batger also scored a hat trick and Derrick Broussard (2), Jay Harmon, and Ian Denham each scored tries for OMBAC.

With the game versus SFGG on the horizon, Wood said, “We played them at home a month ago and we won the game where we were up pretty well early and they came back. We know they will probably have a better team and they will play better at home than they did when they came down to visit us.”

“We are not assuming just because we beat SFGG last month in San Diego that we can beat them this month in San Fran,” Wood added. “To me, it’s just playing good, hard, straight-up rugby and everything else is bonus from there.”

SFGG Rhinos at the Olympic Club

Ever since losing to Belmont Shore at the end of March, SFGG has been in playoff mode.  The Rhinos refocused and are a three game winning streak averaging 62 points a game in that span. In Saturday’s action at Ray Sheeran Field in Treasure Island, Calif., SFGG blasted the Olympic Club, 76-3, as the forward pack shined in the victory. The Rhinos earned the win and valuable bonus try points to stay in the hunt for the Grand Final.

SFGG head coach Neil Foote indicated that the key to the game was the way it moved the ball into space. “They boys made some really good decisions in the offload in contact and the support lines were really good. We got some really good continuity and the Olympic defense couldn’t really keep up with it.”

The Rhinos scored a total of 12 tries with Brendan Daly (2), Ricky Reynolds, Travis Benson (2), Tevita Okusi, Tai Enosa, Fernando Dominguez Pinuaga, Mile Pulu, Huihui, Kadin Te Nana, and Alex Ochoa dotting the ball down. For Olympic Club, its lone points came from a penalty by Keegan Engelbrecht.

As for next weekend’s match against OMBAC, Foote said, “We looking forward to the contest of it because we have been in the position where we’ve been playing finals football since we lost to Belmont Shore. Every week has been a must win games for us. We know the strength of the OMBAC team and know they are right in the hunt. They know if they beat us they are in the final of the PRP. It’s going to be a great battle.”

Belmont Shore at the Denver Barbarians

Hoping for some help to stay in the Grand Final quest, Belmont Shore did its part by quashing the Denver Barbarians, 45-7, at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo. The score was pretty tight for most of the game and it wasn’t until halfway through the second half when the Belmont substitutes made their entrance that the scoring picked up.

“We started off really well and won some restarts, got some field position, and scored pretty quickly,” Belmont Shore coach Ed Pitts said. “As the game went on, we controlled quite a bit of ball, but we had a couple of mistakes in their 22. Denver hung around and credit to them. They switched the momentum around and there was a point in the first where we defended for about ten minutes.”

“We were able to bring some subs in around the 60th minute when it was 19-7 and they did a fantastic job,” Pitts continued. “They lifted the tempo and in the last ten minutes were able to put quite a few tries in and finished the game off. If you look at the game as whole, the first and the last ten minutes were where we played the best. It was a good day to finish strong and get the win up in Glendale.”

Jesse Mechekak (2), Jonathan Gray, Ed Pitts, Mafi Seanoa, Brice Schilling, and Thomas Lowe each scored tries for Belmont Shore and Kieron Rollinson connected on five of his conversions. For the Barbarians, Tim Hanify had a try and conversion.

Coach Pitts gave the game ball to Arnold Meredith. “Offensively and defensively, he was a physical presence,” Pitts remarked. “He controlled the midfield very well. Denver has some good big centers and Arnold did a good job against them. He had few good line breaks putting people through the gaps.”