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With four competitive regions active in DI club rugby, the tries were abundant and the results were felt throughout the country. Little time remains between now and the start of the National Playoffs so clubs are playing their best rugby to get into prime position for the postseason. Teams in the Pacific Rugby Premiership, Red River, Mid-Atlantic, and Atlantic North battled on the pitch on Saturday.
Pacific Rugby Premiership
In the PRP, OMBAC suffered its second straight defeat in a 41-22 loss to SFGG, Belmont Shore got a scare from Santa Monica to survive with a 40-35 win, and Olympic Club upset Life West, 38-29. After Saturday, OMBAC and Belmont are now tied with 34 standing points each, but OMBAC is in first at 7-2 and Belmont is second at 6-2-1. SFGG is in third at 5-2-1.
After a 28-14 loss in early March to OMBAC, SFGG had this game circled on the calendar. At home at Treasure Island in San Francisco, Calif., the Golden Gaters turned in a complete team effort for its third victory since that loss.
“We looked after the ball better than we have in the previous weeks,” SFGG head coach Neil Foote said. “We were able to put some pretty good pressure on OMBAC’s defensive line and had good power runners all throughout the park... It was a good OMBAC side and by the start of the second half, we really shut them out of the match.”
Foote gave the Man of the Match to eightman Akuila Uaisele. “He had a pretty powerful game and used his pace out wide. Nate Sylvia and Brendan Daly were right in the mix of things and Eakalafi Okusi playing at #12, he gave us control when he had to use his left foot for technical kicking. It was our best all-around performance from the whole team.”
To earn its sixth win of the season and move in first place in the PRP, Belmont Shore snatched the victory from the jaws of defeat against Santa Monica. Belmont ran into serious penalty trouble resulting in three yellow cards and Santa Monica staying on offense for a good chunk of the match.
Belmont began the match up 15-0 with tries from Viliame Longi and Robert Newcomb, however, back-to-back yellows gave the Dolphins an opening. Tries from Quinn Perry, Iain Herriot, Conor Clancy, and Pak Hang Chan put Santa Monica up 20-15, but Belmont took back the lead with Longi’s second try at the whistle, 22-20.
Longi started the second half with a try and Clancy answered back to cut the advantage to two points, 27-25. After two Belmont PKs, Herriot’s converted try and a Shawn Lee penalty put Santa Monica up 35-33 with three minutes left. After a defensive stop, Belmont counterattacked following a clearance kick and stretched the field from width to width. Once inside the 22, Keni Nasoqeqe ran a good line off the flyhalf to split the opposing fullback and scrummie to score the game-winner.
“We gave away more penalties in this game than the last three games,” Belmont head coach Ray Egan said. “We gave away field position, which allowed Santa Monica to ultimately stick around. One of the important things for us is that we managed to get a score just before halftime. It gave us an impetus to keep going... Just happy that pulled out a win not playing well, but we ground out a win which is important for us.”
In the last game of the PRP, Life West’s downward spiral continued with a 38-29 loss to Olympic Club. It is the Gladiators’ third in a row, while Olympic picks up its second victory of the season. Olympic secured a 24-10 lead at halftime and held on for the win scoring two more times in the second half. Life West will attempt to right the ship on Saturday at home against SFGG.
In the showdown between the two top clubs in the Red River, the Dallas Reds earned their revenge from an early season loss to the Austin Blacks. Behind a physical effort and tries from Dale Russ (2), Collin Yerian, and a 19-point performance from Blake Boulton, Dallas moved into a tie for first place after beating the Blacks, 34-23.
“The Austin Blacks played well in the first game and were worthy winners, they have quality players,” Dallas head coach Darren Morris said. “We didn’t have our usual players for the first game in Austin. We produced a very workmanship-like performance this week and played as a team. We were able to impose our strengths and dominate the physical battle. Our scrummage was once again as it's been all season, a one-sided affair.”
In the other Red River matches, the Glendale Merlins beat the Dallas Harlequins on the road to bring their record back to 0.500 at 4-4-1 and Little Rock and the Austin Huns tied at 29-29. This Saturday concludes the regular season in the Red River.
For the penultimate Saturday of the Mid-Atlantic regular season, Rocky Gorge remained undefeated with a 33-17 win over the Potomac Exiles, Norfolk kept pace with a 39-16 road victory at Pittsburgh, and the Washington Irish won its fourth game of the year against Schuylkill River, 43-14.
In Columbia, Md., the Potomac Exiles took advantage of Rocky Gorge’s sloppy play to build a 12-0 lead. Rocky Gorge stormed back to score five straight tries from Nick Kuhl, Matt Carroll, Cordero Curry, Bryan Perez, and Josh Brown before Irish dotted down the final try in the last ten minutes.
“It took us a while to find our shape,” Gorge head coach Nick DiMichele said. “We were knocking on the door early but a series of penalties and an interception try took the wind out of our sail and down 12-0. The first 30 was a struggle, but in the second 30, we got back in rhythm and executed some solid attack.”
As for the Norfolk Blues, the business trip to Pittsburgh was a success. After trailing 8-5 at the break, the Blues backline exploded for six tries for the 39-16 win. #11 to #15 scored for Norfolk as Nick Sandoval, Adam Brubaker (2), Dutch Jones (2), Anthony Kolwalski, and Ben McDougall found the fresh cut grass in the end zone. Norfolk head coach Chris Porter indicated that staying to the game plan and wearing Pittsburgh down were the keys to the game.
All eyes in the DI Mid-Atlantic will focus on Norfolk, Va. this Saturday as the Blues and Gorge will square off in the regular season finale. With first place on the line, DiMichele said, “We are going to need some inexperienced guys to step up, be fast and very physical. We’ll have to punch in a full 80 versus these guys,” while Porter kept it simple, “Play our game and stay aggressive on attack and defense.”
After matches against the MLR, Mystic River and NYAC got back to DI action at Travers Island, N.Y. With a number of NYAC players traveling with Rugby United New York to Ontario, Mystic dominated the match to win 66-5.