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Southern California projects to be the most tightly contested DI league in the country, and its opening week didn’t disappoint, with Old Mission Beach Athletic Club (OMBAC) and Santa Monica playing to a 34-34 draw.

There were a handful of lead changes, all of which came in the opening or closing 15 minutes of the match, while Santa Monica led the meat of the contest.

OMBAC took an early 10-6 lead, but Santa Monica nudged in front 11-10 and didn’t relinquish the advantage until OMBAC scored to make it 29-27 in the last quarter of the match. At halftime, Santa Monica held its largest lead of the game, 27-13.

OMBAC coach Eugene Mountjoy credited the boot of Santa Monica flyhalf Ryan O’Shea with much of the Dolphins’ early success.

“They really played territory much better than we did. Their fly half pushed us into the corners, and we couldn’t get out,” he said. “They capitalized on our mistakes, put a lot of pressure on us in the first half with the wind behind their backs and it paid off for them.”   

“I think at the breakdown our ball retention was exceptional. They didn’t have much of a sniff of the ball,” Santa Monica coach Greg Commins said of the first half. “We manipulated ball in hand, with ball on boot as well, with some very good breakdown play.”

Despite losing fullback Duncan Kelm mid-game to a rib injury, OMBAC went on a 21-0 run in the second half, via two penalties and three tries, to take a 34-27 lead late in the game. However, like it was in the opening quarter, indiscipline became OMBAC’s undoing late. Upwards 10 penalties at the breakdown inside its own 22 gave Santa Monica the opportunity to level the score, which it did when No. 8 Ikenna Asima crashed over the try line.

“It was a bit of individual pick-up-and-go, but it came from all 15 guys putting their body on the line the last five closing minutes of the game,” said Commins of the leveling score. “They smelled blood and they kept on hitting it up and kept on hitting it up…We just kept on the front foot and a dynamic maul ended up with us busting up a try under the poles.”

Neither coach is elated with the tie, but both were coaching their respective clubs for the first time in league play, and both, at one time or another, appeared destined to start off 0-1.

“The positive for OMBAC is last year they lost at Santa Monica, this year they came there and could have had the win, it got snatched away at the end, and it is what it is,” conceded Mountjoy. “It’s good how OMBAC played in the second half.”

Likewise, Commins was pleased with his team’s first-half performance, and seemed optimistic as a whole.  

Note: Following a protest by Santa MOnica and a review of the game film by union officials, it was concluded this game finished as a 37-34 victory for Santa Monica.