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In a busy weekend on the left coast, a champion was crowned in the Pacific Northwest, the final was set in the Pacific South, and San Francisco Golden Gate all but sewed up its ticket to Nationals in NorCal.
In the Pacific Northwest Championship, ORSU outlasted the Portland Pigs, 16-10. ORSU will now have two weeks to rest and prepare before taking on the NorCal Champion on May 6th for the right to advance to Nationals in Tucson, Ariz.
The Pigs and ORSU traded penalties in the first 30 minutes of the match with Ross Goffard and Tyler Thompson kicking for their respective clubs. The score held until just before the half when Thompson struck with the boot again to give ORSU the 6-3 lead.
An early second-half penalty and try pushed ORSU’s advantage to 16-3 and the defense held until the final minute of play. Portland scored at the death to close the gap to six points, but was unable regain possession for a chance to score again. As the whistle blew, ORSU rejoiced winning the Pacific Northwest title.
“The key to the game was excellent defense,” said ORSU coach Grey Lerner. “[We] made a strong and extended goal-line stand during the third quarter of the match. The Pigs were unable to get multiple phases going due to our tremendous gain-line defense.”
Standing out for Lerner’s two-time Northwest champs was outside-center Timothy Garcia and loosie Stephen Boger who “continues to show incredible skill and heart,” said Lerner. Also, key in the victory were Miles Garner and John Morris, who had their numbers called earlier than expected to replace ORSU’s injured eightman and scrumhalf.
In East Palo Alto, Calif., SFGG ran past the EPA Razorbacks, 45-5 to take one step closer to winning the NorCal Championship. Looking to avoid playing to EPA’s strengths in the contact area and find space on a narrow pitch, #10 Volney Rouse’s boot was critical on the day.
“The biggest key for us was control over the set piece and field position,” said SFGG coach Neil Foote. “We had really good tactical kicking from Volney Rouse, who was our Man of the Match. We just tried to get behind EPA and take their physicality out of the game. The field we played on was quite small. It was difficult to get into the wide patterns, so we had to use the kicking game to get that open space.”
SFGG scored seven tries by five different players in the victory. Fullback Isoa Donaldson scored a hat trick in the first half and Eakalafi Okusi, Dan Laprevotte, Tevita Okusi, and Volney Rouse each dotted down tries in the test. Additionally, Rouse was five for seven on conversions.
The win puts SFGG in prime position in the NorCal Playoff Round Robin with one week to go. If SFGG beats Olympic Club Golden Gate on Saturday, it will be 4-0 in the playoffs and advance to play ORSU on May 6th for the Pacific North Championship.
In Vallejo, Calif., Life West outpaced Olympic Club for a 53-28 win. The victory, and especially the bonus try point, goes a long way for the Gladiators in their quest to Nationals. Life West is 2-1 in the playoff round robin and needs a win over EPA on Saturday to advance to the play-in game against the #2 seed from the Red River.
“We started off slowly in the first half, but the boys kind of came around in the second half,” said Life West coach Adriaan Ferris. “We settled ourselves down and were able to work them around the field which was pretty effective for us, especially in the wide channel. I think our forwards laid the foundation. We started to get some go-forward in the middle part of the first half, which allowed our backline to attack wide.”
In Long Beach, Calif., Belmont Shore used a second-half surge to storm past San Diego, 58-23, to reach the Pacific South Final. Belmont Shore began the game with two tries in the first ten minutes from Peter Sio and Max Paronelli for the early 10- lead. San Diego answered with two penalty kicks from #10 Jaco Breytenbach, but Belmont scored its third and fourth tries via wing Greg Daniel and flanker Rob Newcomb at 24’ and 27’. San Diego responded with its first try five minutes later to make the score 24-11 at the half.
In the second, tries from center James Muse and Newcomb opened up a 36-11 lead with 30 minutes left to put considerable distance between the squads.
“It really was the story of the first ten minutes of both halves,” said Belmont coach Ray Egan. “We created a huge amount of pressure in defense and got scores with that pressure, which was huge. Then our bench came in and made an impact, which is great and something that has helped us all year.”
The scoring went back and forth with tries from San Diego’s Anthony Ellis and Belmont’s Cameron Reed to make the tally 41-18. A penalty and try by fullback Adam Channel and another try by Ezekiel Dunn ballooned the score to 53-18 by the 76th minute. San Diego fullback Casey Roller was able to score in the final minute, but the damage was done sending Belmont to the SoCal Championship.
Belmont will now face OMBAC in San Diego for the Pacific South Championship on in two weeks. “We need to focus on our set piece and make sure we can build a platform to play off of,” explained Egan. “[OMBAC] is the Cal Cup champions, and it’s going to be on their home turf. So, we’ll probably go in as underdogs, but we like that.”
In the second Pacific South semifinal, OMBAC earned its right to face Belmont via a 25-22 win over the Dolphins in Santa Monica, Calif. Wing Tim Stanfill led the visitors with two tries, while outside center Andy Early and coach Tai Tuisamoa from the lock position picked up the other two tries.
“Great effort from the boys,” said Tuisamoa. “We showed a lot of character towards the end. We kept our composure and never panicked. We knew it was going to be a tough game against them especially at home where they start pretty well and fast. We wanted to start well and we were able to put some points on the board in the first half.”
Tuisamoa pointed to his scrumhalf Charlie Purdon and #13 Andy Early as leaders in the victory. “I thought Charlie Purdon had a great game along with Andy Early. But I thought everyone showed up today and played their part in this win.”
Next up will be Belmont Shore for the Pacific South Championship on May 6th. OMBAC only lost by five points to Belmont back in February, so it should be a great match between two of USA’s standout clubs.
Alexander is a beat reporter for Rugby Today, published author, freelance sports writer and club rugby player for the Potomac Exiles. For more rugby action and his sports takes, follow him on Twitter @alexanderdiegel.