Cal Cup Round 3: Results, Team Notes, Quotes

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SAN DIEGO, CA – Another week of the California Cup competition is in the books, and week three did not disappoint. Heading into the two-week holiday break, Life West sits at the top of the table with a 3-0 record. OMBAC, SFGG, and Belmont Shore all sit one game back with identical 2-1 records, but Golden Gate and Belmont Shore hold a slight edge with 11 points each in the standings over OMBAC with 10. The Old Aztecs have come close in the last two weeks but are still looking for their first victory, and Olympic Club is improving week by week.

Belmont Shore 44 – 31 Old Aztecs: The final score line in this contest is not a clear indication of how this match was played. It was a battle for 75 minutes with Belmont holding on to a 32-31 lead before adding two tries in the final five minutes. The scoring started early and came often in this shootout, with Tim Howard of the Old Aztecs converting a penalty from 35 meters in the first minute to take the very early 3-0 lead. Just a few minutes later Belmont scored a try off a charged-down clearing kick and with the conversion from Andy Jackson gained a 7-3 advantage. At the 12 minute mark, Old Aztecs scrum-half Robert “Smokey” Stortz squeezed through a gap in the Belmont defense off a 5 meter scrum and with the Tim Howard conversion the Old Aztecs re-claimed the lead at 10-7. Belmont answered back ten minutes later, stealing an Old Aztecs scrum inside the 22 to take back control at 14-10. With ten minutes remaining in the half, Old Aztecs prop Tasi Toilolo broke a 30 meter run up the middle to score and give the lead back to the Old Aztecs 17-14. A penalty conversion from Andy Jackson at the 35th minute knotted the match at 17-17 and that’s how it remained going into the half.

Just two and a half minutes into the second half the Old Aztecs would score off a charged-down kick by flanker Leon Hayward, who offloaded to 8-man Jeff Diggs for the try. Tim Howard’s conversion pushed the Old Aztecs in front 24-17. Belmont Shore then scored 15 straight points off tries by flankers Cameron Reed and Rob Newcomb, with one try conversion and one penalty conversion off the boot of Hilton Mexted. Belmont would hold the 32-24 lead for the next 15 minutes until Old Aztecs captain Lucas Edwards scored off phase play and the conversion from Jaco Breytenbach brought the score to 32-31 with five minutes remaining. At this moment it seemed the match would come all the way down to the final whistle, but Belmont would add two tries in the final minutes off Old Aztec turnovers inside their 22 to push the final tally to 44-31.

Life West 48 – 23 Olympic Club: In the only Bay Area match of the day, the Life West Gladiators were looking to move to 3-0 and stay in contention for a spot in the championship match next month. Life West were happy to have several players return to the lineup after the fold of PRO Rugby’s San Francisco Rush. Prop Fancy Namulauulu, flanker Siupeli Sakalia, and fullback Martini Talapusi all returned to duty for the Gladiators this week. Olympic Club were looking to improve off their loss from week 2 and potentially pull the biggest upset of the Cal Cup thus far. In the early going the Life West forwards were dominant, setting a strong platform for the explosive Gladiator backs to score tries. Coach Adriaan Ferris credits standout performances from flanker Siupeli Sakalia and prop Huluholo Moungaloa for creating the momentum resulting in four tries on the day from outside center Pila Iongi. Adding to the total was a double from winger Anthony Munoz, and one try each from halfback Devereaux Ferris and fullback Martin Talapusi. With Golden Gate’s loss to OMBAC, Life West now have sole possession of first place heading into the break.

OMBAC 62 – 36 SFGG: As I stated in last week’s report, OMBAC needed to turn in a massive effort against Golden Gate to avoid falling to 1-2. A loss would have virtually eliminated them from a chance at the championship match. Coming into the weekend, Golden Gate had allowed only 26 points, the fewest in the competition, and OMBAC added some big names to the roster in an effort to rebound from their 16 point performance last weekend against Belmont Shore. USA Eagle and PRO Rugby San Diego player Tim Stanfill started on the wing, former Seattle Saracen standout Nick Evans made his OMBAC debut, and long-time USA Rugby captain Todd Clever made his much-anticipated return to OMBAC, on loan from the Austin Huns. SFGG jumped out to a quick 12-0 lead with tries by fly-half Isoa Donaldson and captain Brendan Daily, and one conversion by Donaldson. OMBAC narrowed the lead to 12-7 with a try in the 11th minute by Todd Clever and conversion from Kalei Konrad. Golden Gate then jumped ahead 22-7 with a try by stalwart Pila Huihui, converted by Donaldson in addition to a penalty conversion. OMBAC then struck back with two tries of their own by flanker Chris Turori and outside center John Grant, both converted by Konrad, bringing the score to 22-21 at the half.

SFGG flanker Danny Laprovette opened the second half scoring and with the conversion extended the lead to 29-21. OMBAC then ripped off an unbelievable 34 straight points, with tries coming from Tim Stanfill, Nick Evans, a second try from John Grant, and two more from Clever giving him a hat trick for the day. One conversion from Konrad, two from fullback Zach Pangelinan along with a penalty conversion from Pangelinan brought the score to 55-21 in OMBAC’s favor. The two teams then traded final tries as Joe Fukafuka scored for Golden Gate and John Grant added a third try for himself. Conversions by Donaldson and Ian Cassidy brought the final score to 62-36. SFGG coach Neil Foote gives credit to OMBAC saying “We were confident at halftime that we could carry on and win the game, but OMBAC changed their tactics well in the second half and thoroughly deserved the win.

The first three rounds of this competition have certainly provided everything you could ask for as a fan. Heading into the holiday break with two rounds left to play everything is still up for grabs. Happy Holidays to you all, see you in 2017 for the second half of the Cal Cup!

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Matt Ryan is a rugby lifer from the shores of sunny San Diego. Need we say more? Call him lucky.

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