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The first weekend of the inaugural 2017 California Cup is in the books as Life West clipped Belmont Shore, 27-20, OMBAC clobbered the Olympic Club, 58-10, and San Francisco-Golden Gate dispatched the San Diego Old Aztecs, 42-19. Playing at Ray Sheeran Field at Treasure Island in San Francisco, Calif., the fans in attendance were treated to a triple-header of high quality California rugby.
The Life West versus Belmont Shore match kicked off the festivities at Treasure Island on a beautiful sunny Saturday. Life West dominated in the first half before injuries allowed Belmont Shore back into the game. Life West has come a long way since its inception in 2013. The Gladiators have stepped up to the next level of competition every year and now hope to challenge the best of west coast rugby in the California Cup.
Head coach Adriaan Ferris had his squad primed and ready for Belmont Shore. The backline was well represented on the score sheet as outside center Siokatame Falatau, wing Manu Volavola, flyhalf Guillaume Casenave, and inside center Kau’ulufonuafakei Vete each scored tries in the victory. Fullback Pelepesite Toelupe-Tuisila was two for four on his conversions and connected on one penalty.
Down 22-0 at the intermission, Belmont Shore battled back in the second half with a try and two subsequent penalties by Andy Jackson. Robert Newcomb scored a late try for Belmont, but Life West held on for the 27-20 win.
Speaking to Rugby Today, Ferris said, “I was happy with the first half. The boys played well and the defensive structure went well... Our forwards muscled up and laid foundation for our strong first half performance... Obviously, it’s an 80-minute game and we underestimated the quality of teams at this level slacking off mentally allowing two tries in. We certainly have a lot of work to do.”
“We want to compete in every game and make sure we showcase our talent,” Ferris added. “I think working hard in every game is really important. The boys showed today that we are capable of playing at this level against a very good Belmont Shore side.”
Taking the second spot on the schedule was OMBAC against the Olympic Club. Both clubs sported rosters of PRO players who put on a show for the fans. The Olympic Club attempted to keep pace with OMBAC, but the forwards dictated the action following the opening minutes of the contest. OMBAC led 20-0 at halftime and poured it on in the second half to win 58-10.
Fullback Zach Pangelinan shined with a hat trick and Ian Denham, Ben Batger, Josh Bart, Shane Moise, John Grant, and Matt Long each made their marks on the tally. Former San Diego Sate flyhalf and current San Diego Breaker Kalei Konrad made five conversions and a penalty. Jared Braun scored the lone try for the Olympic Club with Jake Anderson converting the kick and penalty.
“In the first 20 minutes, it was really competitive and then we really started to get our groove,” OMBAC head coach Jason Wood remarked. “We got some good go forward from Brian Doyle, Tai Tuisamoa, Josh Vainikolo, and Jay Harmon. They set a platform where we were able to launch some good phase play off of.”
According to Wood, OMBAC has three goals for the California Cup. “First, to win the competition. Second, to have the few guys who haven’t been identified by PRO league or by the Eagles get identified. Third, is to have a great club season with good club unity and have a lot of fun together.”
“To me, the biggest success is if I lose a lot of players from DI,” Wood continued. “A lot of guys that are playing for us are playing PRO or Eagle rugby in February and not playing for us. The goal for OMBAC has always been to put people to the next level.”
Lastly at 3:00pm, SFGG and the San Diego Old Aztecs took the field for the final match of the day. The competition looked to be a mismatch on paper as SFGG came in as a potential favorite for the California Cup title and the Old Aztecs were taking the first step into unchartered waters. With talent in abundance on the SFGG roster, the 2016 PRP finalist outplayed San Diego to a 42-19 victory.
“We kept it simple and moved the ball at pace,” SFGG head coach Neil Foote said. “Everybody was in the right place for the shape. We had simple strike moves with the backline. We penetrated and did the right thing to draw them past scoring tries there. Our support rise when we were breaching their defense was really good.”
SFGG cruised to a 35-0 advantage at halftime, but had to buckle down on defense in the second half. A Tom Rooke red card for a dangerous tackle about four minutes into the second half put SFGG at a disadvantage. Although San Diego’s John Prickett, Robert Stortz, and Lucas Edwards were able to put points on the board, it wasn’t enough to topple its opponent.
Foote praised the performance of wing Pila Huihui who scored two tries and was awarded the player of the match. “He looked exciting every time he got the ball. He looked dangerous and he’s playing with a lot of energy that was missing from his game last year. He got some great ball coming inside as well. He worked hard all day.”
Fullback Jack Halalilo also had two tries and Fijian flanker Manu Laqai dazzled with his speed and ball handling skills for a score. PRP leading scorer Volney Rouse totaled 17 points with a try and six conversions.
The true MVP of the day was SFGG captain Brendan Daly, who courageously played rugby with his brothers after his father passed away last week. A momnet of silence was observed prior to the match in rememberance of Dan Daly.
SFGG has high hopes for the California Cup this winter. “We really want to play a brand of rugby that’s really exciting,” Foote stated. “Obviously, the outcome for us is to make the final match. That’s our end goal, but week-to-week, we just want to play a game that’s enjoyable to watch and enjoyable for the boys to play in.”
For Week Two of the California Cup, OMBAC is at Belmont Shore, Life West travels to the San Diego Old Aztecs, and SFGG hosts the Olympic Club.