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Competitors in the California Cup built upon the first week’s momentum to produce a second action-packed weekend of rugby. Both Life West and SFGG moved to 2-0 while Belmont Shore nabbed its first win in the newly minted competition
Belmont Shore scored its first win of the inaugural Cal Cup season, beating OMBAC 31-16. After a dominant display in week one of the series against Olympic Club, OMBAC were riding high, but Belmont Shore’s resilient defense wouldn’t easily crumble under their strong forward pack.
Though Belmont Shore got on the board first with a penalty from Andy Jackson, OMBAC held the lead for the majority of the first half thanks to an unconverted try from Ben Batger. After the half, however, Belmont Shore came out with pistols loaded. The squad took back the lead thanks to a try from right wing Greg Daniels—who, according to head coach Ray Egan played “his best senior game for the club”—and a conversion from Jackson.
Two penalties from Kalei Konrad were a temporary saving grace for OMBAC, giving the squad the lead in the 53rd minute, but a try from Pita Semeane put the match in favor of Belmont Shore once more. In a frantic effort to take back the lead, Josh Vainikolo scored for OMBAC, tightening the margin of victory to a single try. But it wasn’t enough to claim the game. Back-to-back tries from from Rob Newcomb and Daniels sealed the 31-16 win for Belmont Shore.
“Defensively, I thought we were very good. Our commitment to defend and stay within the system really won for us,” Belmont Shore coach Ray Egan reflected. “Realistically, we just need to tighten up our set piece…We got some opportunities in the first half, although limited, and we failed to build any bit of pressure and continuity there. We need to finish and focus on taking care of the ball when we do get on the attack side.”
The win for Belmont Shore puts them in the running for one of the top two spots of the competition but potentially damages OMBAC's chances of claiming a top rank.
A longtime favorite of rugby fans in the region, the derby between San Francisco Golden Gate and Olympic Club has always demonstrated solid, hard-fought rugby. This year had potential to be the most aggressive, with each club putting forward what could be considered some of their most talented players.
Yet, SFGG dominated Olympic Club 28-7 in a wet and sloppy Bay Area game. Earning four tries (Pila Huihui, Jack Halalilo, Ismeli Ratumaimuri and Neil Barrett, plus four successful conversions from Volney Rouse), SFGG gained another bonus point to hold a claim to the first place position in rankings.
Olympic Club, still scrambling for a point, got on the scoreboard with a try from John Gallo with a conversion from Keegan Engelbrecht. The bonus point went begging, however, as the team only managed the single try.
Life West, meanwhile, only just outlasted a neck-and-neck contest with the Old Aztecs. Both squads put forth an equally commendable effort for the win, as this is their first real exposure to elite competition. Nevertheless, for the second week in a row, the Gladiators narrowly defeated their opponent, 27-25.
“We clearly have found we can win games,” head coach Adriaan Ferris said. “For us, it’s just the mental application.”
Early penalties from Guillaume Cazenave for Life West and Tim Howard for the Old Aztecs started off a match of back-and-forth action. About 20-minutes into the match, Howard scored another penalty to take the three-point lead for his club, but Life West finally gained some momentum ending the half with a 10-6 advantage. In the second half, Life West scored a converted try off pressure to increase their lead to 17-6, but the Old Aztecs were in for a fight.
Minutes later, Tasi Toilolo temporarily cut Life West’s lead to four, only to have it rise again to 22-13. Brilliant work from Robert Stortz allowed the Old Aztecs to push again 25-22, but their inability to make a successful conversion would come back to haunt them. With second remaining in the match, Life West scored a last-minute try, claiming the victory.
Ferris explained, “If we get our energy right and our focus right, we can accomplish something…We need to be in games to perform.”
The Gladiators are definitely encouraged by their current standing: Life West gained all five points from the contest, placing them at a tie with SFGG for first at the top of the Cal Cup. The Old Aztecs also picked up their first points of the competition.
Tries: Daniels (2), Semeane, Newcomb
Conversions: Jackson (4)
Tries: Batger, Vainikolo
Penalties: Konrad (2)
Tries: Huihui, Halalilo, Ratumaimuri, Barrett
Conversions: Rouse (4)
Tries: Helu (2), Finau, Iongi
Conversions: Cazenave (2)
Tries: Toilolo, Stortz, Roller