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The EPA Razorbacks and EPA Bulldogs continued to be the frontrunners in NorCal DI with wins this weekend, and Fresno notched its first victory of season. The Razorbacks remain undefeated (3-0) early by defeating Santa Rosa (0-2) in a close game, 27-19. The Bulldogs improved their record to 2-1 by knocking off the San Jose Seahawks (1-1), 39-18. In the last game, Fresno (1-2) beat the hosting Sacramento Lions (1-2), 26-17, in an engaging game despite multiple cards on the Lions. SFGG (1-1) was on bye this week.

The hosting EPA Razorbacks used an impressive first half turning Santa Rosa’s turnovers into three tries and a 19-0 lead going into halftime. Santa Rosa regrouped and came out focused in the second half.  Eightman Ratu Tamaibeka and reserve Thomas Robles put over back-to-back tries before the Razorbacks could stop the bleeding with a penalty kick to make the score 22-12.

In the 72nd minute, Santa Rosa was threatening with a five-meter scrum. As EPA was getting pushed back into their tryzone, the Razorback scrum fell apart with players breaking off and the referee awarded a penalty try to Santa Rosa. A conversion by fullback Scott Gilhooley reduced the lead to three points. With no time left, Santa Rosa was on the offensive taking risks to score the game winner. They tried to advance the ball, but an errant pass caused a knock-on that the Razorbacks took to the house to finish the match, 27-19.

“We still have some difficulties around turnovers,” said Santa Rosa head coach Rick Humm. “There’s a quick 14 points in the first 10 minutes off of turnovers. Same thing happened last week and it’s a big mountain to climb... Our scrimmaging was very strong, exemplified by a push over try and a penalty try off a scrum and that’s something we can build on.”

The EPA Bulldogs and San Jose Seahawks played a tightly contested game in East Palo Alto, Calif. until about 20 minutes into the second half where the Bulldogs’ size and physicality wore down their opponent. “[The Bulldogs] are a very large Tongan team,” Santa Rosa head coach Pat Guire. “We played the pattern pretty well up until the try that happened at the 56th minute. They started winning every scrum. Every kid in their scrum was probably over 280. They started rolling over us that way and we started breaking away from pattern. They got some good runners out wide and took it to us in the last 20.”

The scoreboard was silent until San Jose scrumhalf Joe Matalvao’s try in the 20th minute set off a flurry of scoring. The Bulldogs dotted down two tries followed by a Seahawk penalty kick by flyhalf Peter Bianchi to make the score 12-8. EPA scored another try and San Jose answered with a try of their own at the end of the half by prop Davis Malifa Jr. for a 17-15 Bulldog lead.

Coming out of the half, Bianchi kicked a penalty kick three minutes in for San Jose’s first lead of the day. The advantage was short lived as EPA reeled off four unanswered tries to end the match, 39-18.

The Fresno-Sacramento Lions test was mired penalties and multiple cards on the Lions, but visiting Fresno played more disciplined ball and won 26-17. The Lions are in the process of cultivating and developing new talent and with that comes inexperience and errant play.

“It went really well. We stuck to our game plan,” Fresno head coach Frik Fourie said.  “The boys lessened their mistakes from the previous week, although there were a couple of sure chances that we let go. Overall, the boys played a better game and they are on the right track. The game plan came through for us and the boys stuck to it.”

The teams traded tries in the first five minutes of the first half with Sacramento prop Sione Tanoa scoring first. Fresno scrumhalf Travis Jury scored two minutes later with a conversion by fullback Josh Santos to make it a 7-5 lead. The clubs battled to a defensive standstill for the rest of the half.

Fresno extended their advantage after the opening second half whistle when center Lucas Gaarde dotted down his club’s second try. The Lions were then penalized with consecutive cards and Fresno reserve flanker Rodney Tuisavalalo scored a try soon thereafter. Sacramento would not surrender and fought back to score the next two tries to cut the lead to 19-17. Lock Leslie Mango and wing Peni Baleisuva were on the receiving end of the Lions’ tries. With time winding down, the last try of the game was awarded to Fresno prop Montana Wilson and Santos connected on the conversion to preserve the 26-17 victory.

On his team’s play and course for the future, Lions coach Irifeimi Taweke stated, “I have five guys who have been with the team for the last three years and I have recruited in new, young guys, who are 19 to 21. I ‘ve got ten of them playing yesterday and most of them, it’s their first time playing in DI.  We are building up through our development. I want to bring up in the new guys for the future. We got into penalties [because of our youth and inexperience]... Penalties really cost the new guys in the field, they didn’t play to the expectations because seeing a lot of penalties given.”