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San Diego improved to 3-1 with a thrilling 24-20 defeat of Ohio at Torero Stadium on the campus of the University of San Diego Sunday. The hotly contested match wasn’t settled until extra time and saw the lead change hands six times.
Takudzwa Ngwenya paved the way for the first score of the game, chasing an up-an-under from Mike Te’o and laying into Robbie Shaw as he caught the ball. The positive-grade tackle drew a penalty, as Ohio was called for not releasing, and San Diego flyhalf Kurt Morath stroked over a penalty to put the hosts up 3-0.
Ohio answered back within two minutes through former All Black prop Jamie Mackintosh. The movement started with a rolling maul, and Mackintosh punched over the line a couple of phases later. JP Eloff converted, putting the visitors up 7-3.
San Diego regained the advantage similarly. Ohio was pinged for offside while San Diego was attacking, Morath pumped the ball to touch, and some hard carries by the home forwards resulted in a try by No. 8 Sione Tuihalamaka. Converted, the score put San Diego up 10-7.
Tuihalamaka nearly had another in the 24th minute. Joe Taufete’e turned the ball over in a breakdown, ripping it from the tackled Ohioan’s hands and popping it to his team. A couple of phases later, Tuihalamaka made a plunge for the try line but knocked on in the process.
Ohio suffered a massive loss in the run of play, as Eloff went off with an ankle injury. Roland Suniula bumped down from inside center to cover at flyhalf, and Alan Hanson came on to spell Suniula. Lock Kyle Baillie came off with injury a few minutes later, making way for Davenport and Life product Demecus Beach.
Tuihalamaka made another costly mistake at the onset of the second half. He was being pulled from a ruck by Ohio’s Dylan Fawsitt and kicked the hooker in the leg. The assistant referee caught it, and Shaw kicked over three points to tie the game at 10-10. He had the chance to give Ohio the lead in the 52nd minute, but the kick was shanked. He would make good three minutes later when Taufete’e was called for an infringement in a ruck – 13-10.
San Diego regained the lead in the 62nd minute. Ohio went wide off a scrum in its own end, and Spike Davis was brought down. Phil Mackenzie and Andrew Suniula counter-rucked, giving San Diego the pill in the attacking end. The hosts countered with some width, moving the ball from one touch line to the other and back, and it was a pass from Purdon to Mackenzie, via Morath, that put the Canadian away in the corner. Morath converted – 17-13.
The pendulum swung the other way in the 69th minute. Ohio’s forwards put in some impressive work when it counted, slugging away at the home pack in the attacking end. Eventually Sebastian Kalm slammed over the line for the go-ahead try. Shaw converted, putting the visitors up 20-17. Ohio had the chance to make it a six-point game with another penalty, but the absence of Eloff continued to haunt as another kick was missed again.
Still, Ohio led by three with the ball in the attacking end going into the 80th minute. A breakdown penalty allowed Morath to punt the ball up to midfield. The hosts won the lineout and methodically went through 11 phases before Charlie Purdon darted on the weakside of a ruck for a short-distance try at the death.
Ngwenya featured heavily in the possession, making three carries, including the longest one. Morath converted from the touch line to put an exclamation point on the great finish.
San Diego 24
Tries: Purdon, Tuihalamaka, Mackenzie
Cons: Morath (3)
Tries: Mackintosh, Kalm
Cons: Eloff, Shaw
Pens: Shaw (2)