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After five weeks of competitive play in the Pacific Rugby Premiership, it is getting crowded at the top of the standings. With its 41-3 blitzkrieg against Santa Monica, OMBAC stands alone in first place at 5-0. Three teams are tied at 3-2 with Belmont Shore and SFGG at 16 standing points and Life West just two behind with 14 points. Life West has pulled itself back into contention with three straight wins including this week’s 19-17 victory over Belmont. Although in fifth place, Olympic Club picked up a bonus point in its 44-31 loss to SFGG.
Life West at Belmont Shore
Trailing 17-0 following 30 minutes of play to Belmont Shore, Life West focused on playing Gladiator rugby to fight back for the 19-17 triumph. Two tries from Devereaux Ferris and a try and two crucial conversions from Guillaume Cazenave were all Life West needed for its third win of the season.
Head coach Adriaan Ferris attributed the win to the team accuracy and attitude on defense under pressure. “In the OMBAC and SFGG losses this season, we identified areas technically that we had been naïve in (where we were attacking the breakdown too often and getting caught without numbers in the line). We have been working on that over the past few weeks. It was pleasing to see an obvious improvement in that area, but ultimately it was a match-winning, try-saving tackle made by former Michigan and NFL player Sam McGuffie that kept our nose in front at the final whistle.”
In the opening frame, Belmont came out hard and fast scoring three times in the first 22 minutes. Sam Lilley, Jonathan Gray, and Keni Nasoqeqe scored for the Shore putting Life West in a big hole.
“All three of their tries came from Pila Iongi inserting himself on attack outside our centers,” Ferris said. “I know Pila well having coached him with Tonga, Life West, and the San Francisco Rush. His speed, power, and evasion have challenged international players so we needed to find a way to minimize him as an attacking threat. Our outside backs made the adjustment to push up harder defensively to shut him down.”
After scoring before halftime, Life West collected itself at the break. “For us, it was a matter of holding onto possession for longer periods in the game,” Ferris said. “Ultimately, we did that enough to get the win. I was pleased with the resilience we had in the second half. The ability to get up off the deck and get back into the defensive line to protect the goal line was all about effort and attitude. We showed some heart out there when we needed it most. The technical and tactical application that we produced in the second half was much better than the first.”
Life West is at Santa Monica on Saturday while Belmont Shore hosts SFGG.
Santa Monica at OMBAC
OMBAC has been the most electric and dominant team in the PRP this season finishing its first run through of opponents with a perfect 5-0 record. The San Diego club is averaging nearly 40 points a game and on Saturday, crushed Santa Monica 41-3. Led by a hat-trick from Tai Tuisamoa and tries by Jacob Nelson, Ian Denham, and Bryce Baker, OMBAC is in firm control of the PRP going into the second part of the season.
“We played a well-structured game this weekend although, in the second half, we became victim to too many knock-ons,” OMBAC coach Jason Wood said. “The real positive of the day was our defense. Our defense held strong all day, even while down a man and with our backs against the wall deep in the defending end. We're playing a real team game right now where everyone trusts the man next to him and that man is doing his job to warrant the trust.”
Mike Dillon earned the Man of the Match after slotting four conversions and a penalty. “Mike ran our attack structure quite well and he has been at 15 most of the season but stepped in well for an absent Garrett Brewer. Also, I can't not mention Tai Tuisamoa and his three tries. He may be playing his best rugby ever right now - he just has a confidence in his game right now that takes it to yet another level. He's running over people, hitting gaps, offloading, and most importantly going for it when the opportunity is there.”
OMBAC hosts Olympic Club on Saturday at Little Q field in San Diego with a hope to keep the streak alive for another week.
Olympic Club at SFGG
After falling to OMBAC to last Saturday, SFGG welcomed Olympic Club to Ray Sheeran Field at Treasure Island in San Francisco, Calif. OC gave SFGG everything it had for a combined score of 75 points, but in the end, SFGG endured winning 44-31.
“The deciding factor was that we had more impact coming off the bench,” head coach Neil Foote said. “The game didn't come down to a single play as we just seemed to always have the ability to score when we needed to. Our problem was having the mental fortitude to stop Olympic scoring."
Coach Foote was impressed by the play of lock Brendan Daly notching him the Man of the Match honors. “When we looked poor, he was strong. Brandan seemed to be doing everything at a higher level than anyone else on the field.”
SFGG will meet Belmont on Saturday for second place. In their first meeting in February, Belmont pulled out the one pint 30-29 win over SFGG. “We have to be more aggressive in every department especially on defense where I thought we were quite passive at times,” Foote concluded.
Scoring information was unavailable at the time of publication for the SFGG versus Olympic Club match.