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Belmont Shore edged Santa Monica 29-28 in a dramatic, back-and-forth clash in the Pacific Rugby Premiership Saturday.
Shore scored a couple of tries early, and then saw Santa Monica mount a furious comeback that ended with a late try from former USA wing Justin Boyd.
Belmont Shore scored two early tries through prop Jake Grubbs and hooker Michael Sweet. Kameron Moeller added both conversions and a penalty for a 17-3 lead.
"We felt at the time that we were pretty dominant," said Belmont Shore Head Coach Ray Egan. "It was an exciting and very open game, and our forwards were doing a good job in getting good possession for us to attack with."
But Santa Monica began to claw back. Mathieu Lesgourgues kicked Santa Monica's early penalty, and then Martial Chaput scored to make it 17-8. The former UCLA wing scored again moments later to make it, with the Lesgourgues kick, 17-15, and the flyhaf later added to penalty to put the Dolphins ahead.
But Belmont Shore replied as lock and Man of the Match Sam Lilley bulled over to make it 24-18 Belmont Shore after Moeller's kick. Lilley, in only his second year of rugby, was excellent on the day.
Santa Monica replied. Alan Gibbon touched down, and then Dave Martini to make it 28-24 Santa Monica with time winding down. That's when Boyd, who used to have the nickname "Lights Out" for his game-sealing tries for the USA 7s team, scored to put the game away.
"I think our saving grace was that we were able to push them to score in the corner, so every conversion attempt was a difficult one," said Egan.
And true, Santa Monica scored four tries but converted just one.
Belmont Shore was hit with the flu this week and saw three players become unavailable due to illness on Saturday morning. But the depth has to be there, said captain Ian Carpenter.
"We’ve got a lot of bodies on this club and we’re starting to come together," he said. "I feel like we're almost there. It’s like a river with a current; everyone gets into the current and we all start moving as one unit. We just need to keep improving and avoid those missed tackles and penalties that get us in trouble."
Belmont Shore improves to 3-1 while Santa Monica is 1-3, but with more bonus points than anyone.
Belmont Shore 29
Tries: Grubbs, Sweet, Lilley, Boyd
Convs: Moeller 3
Santa Monica 28
Tries: Chaput 2, Gibbon, Martini
Pens: Lesgourgues 2