NCRFU referee Jordan Bruno blew the start of an NCRFU Division I game between visiting Santa Rosa, and SFGG Gold at Sheeran Field. The field had standing water as recently as Tuesday, but had dried nicely under clear skies, and was soft with firm footing.
Both sides got straight into it, with SFGG moving the ball through the forwards into the Santa Rosa half. At the 4 minute mark, Prop PAT LATU slipped the ball to charging Hooker NEILL BARRETT who drove over the two defending half backs for the try. Flyhalf EAE OKUSI converted to put the home team up 7 – 0.
Coach NEIL FOOTE said: “I was really pleased with the opening 5 minutes – they played together, moved up field and pinned down the Santa Rosa defense which opened the door for NEILL. The next 20 minutes was something else. I don’t know if they thought when that initial work payed off, they could take a break – they got out of our pattern and started trying to do too much individually - soon found Santa Rosa were up to that challenge. They are a physical team with a lot if heart.”
There followed a period of relatively non-structured play, with both sides attempting heroic efforts instead of securing possession – lot of knock-ons and errant passes. It wasn’t until the 28th minute that PILA HUIHUI struck with a scooped ball from a ruck, down the far sideline and in for a converted try. That effort seemed to get the team refocused, and, playing to the basic pattern saw PILA IONGI touch down (converted) at the 30 minute mark.
The team got on track, creating an opening for BARRETT’s second try in the corner (not converted) at the 33 minute. On the restart again the ball moved into Santa Rosa territory, then IONGI again breaking through for the try. At the half SFGG 31- Santa Rosa 0.
PILA HUIHUI got SFGG on the board at 44 minutes with a try in the corner to seemingly put the game away. Santa Rosa did not lay down, but probed with punishing runs – stopped short by equally punishing tackles by the well organized defense. LINGILINGI HAUPEAKUI (AKA Tongan Hosii) was a force – stopping men in their tracks. Here, he combines with Lock for the Day DANNY LAPREVOTTE to close down an attack.
The scrums and line-outs were well played, the ground providing good footing for the first time in weeks. NICK GRASS and LAPREVOTTE generally got clean, attacking ball in the line outs.
NIKO LOLOHEA and PAT LATU got in a lot of playing time. Coach FOOTE was intent on getting more playing time for everybody, and this week proved to be a good place to do that. Captain BRENDAN DALY and VOLNEY ROUSE were unavailable, and Scrum Half CONNOR RING played the first half.
With 15 minutes in the game HUIHUI tore a hamstring and had to come out of the game – will miss the next 4 – 6 weeks. SFGG played the final 15 minutes with 14 men, having no reserves available. Starting Flanker ISAAC HELU had come out after a head injury (not serious) in the first half.
PEPE UAISELE, who replaced HELU, was the next try scorer at 55 minutes, followed 4 minutes later by FATAI VALALA scoring the first of his two on the day. This was converted by NEILL BARRETT, who also converted the next score after he made a break down the sideline to score himself. In between, Santa Rosa got on the board with a converted try at 71 minutes. VALALA ended the day scoring under the posts at 79 minutes, with Captain OPETI OKUSI adding the 2 point conversion.
FINAL SCORE: SFGG GOLD 65 - Santa Rosa 7
The Coach is looking forward to the week off. The plan as the year goes on is to work on the basic patterns of play, and the introduction of fresh players to fill in for inevitable problems making some players unavailable on a given day.
We need to go on the field with STRUCTURE, HIGH STANDARDS and DISCIPLINE.
We have the elements to enjoy a very successful season.