By Austin Brewin
SFGG clinched First Place in the Pacific North (aka Northern California) USA Rugby Division 1 with a win over the Life West Gladiators at the California Maritime Academy on Saturday. The score was 38 – 28, with the go ahead score coming late in the second half. The win gives us the home field advantage for the first playoff game against one of the Oregon teams where their outcome is not settled. Firmly in second place, Life West will travel to Texas for their first playoff game.
The game was played at the California Maritime’s all weather field on a warm spring day. Life kicked off and in a flurry of activity scored just 2 minutes into the game and took the early lead 7 - 0. On the restart, the two teams went at it physical and verbally. Senior referee Phil Ackroyd repeatedly warned both sides to keep quiet, and emphasized it with a Yellow Card at 8 minutes to Devereaux Ferris, Life’s Scrum Half. A holding penalty minutes later allowed VOLNEY ROUSE to put SFGG on the board – SFGG 3 – LIFE 7.
After the restart, PILA IONGI fielded a kick and headed up the side line. He off loaded to Hooker NELL BARRETT roaring in support, who fed ROUSE to touch down, then converted his try to take a 10 - 7 lead.
The game flowed between the 20s as both sides took advantage of any error. The scrums were not ideal, but from his Number 8 position, AUKUILA PEPE UAISELE made good things happen. At 18 minutes he made picked up a loose ball, burst past the nearest defenders and, when the fullback committed to the tackle, fed PILA HUIHUI who strode under the posts to touched down. ROUSE converted – Score SFGG 17 – 7.
Life struck back at 22 minutes as an uncovered center scored near the posts. SFGG 17 – Life 14, As the scrappy half came to an end, HUIHUI made a break, drew the tackle and returned the favour, feeding UAISELE to score under the posts. The half ended SFGG 24 – Life West 14.
A Yellow Card to UAISELE 8 minutes after the restart (kicking the ball away). The Life Number 8 scored on a push over, the try converted and Life closed the gap to 24 - 21. On the restart – the deep kick was fielded and the wing sprinted up the sideline with good support, a missed tackle and Life regained the lead SFGG 24 – Life 28. SFGG assaulted the Life defenders, who rebuffed repeated efforts. With 8 minutes left, PATRICK LATU bulled over to regain the lead the converted try giving SFGG a 31 – 28 lead.
SFGG returned deep into the Life end, and a ROUSE kick through for what appeared a certain BRENDAN DALY try as he picked up the ball and drove over only to have the ball held up. From the scrum the ball was spun wide, and IZZIE DONALSON celebrated his return to the lineup with a try in the corner. ROUSE converted and the score held up to the final whistle SFGG 38 – Life West 28.
Coaches NEIL FOOTE and GRANT WELLS selected PAT LATU for their Man of the Match. Said FOOTE “Pat went in early when MONE LAUAUPEALU came out after a Yellow Card. As always, Patrick is a rock on defense and adds to our offense with his size, strength and skills.”
FOOTE went on to say “This was a crucial game. The loser will need to travel to Texas to advance. Both sides knew the stakes and entered the game anxious and edgy. It would be great to have these hard, challenging games every week. We have bumps and bruises. PILA IONGI came out on the concussion protocol, but appears fine. We lost a bit of focus riding the half time lead, but when we were behind with 10 minutes to go, the experienced guys kept us on track and finished the game. DANNY LaPREVOTTE stole that last lineout and we closed it out.
We have a couple of games left before facing the Northwest Winner here on May 6th to get to the D1 quarter finals in Arizona. We will rest and rotate as we go. We will have back to back games in Arizona on May 20 and 21, so will need all our squad of 28 players ready. The finals are in Denver on June 3rd”
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NEXT WEEK, APRIL 22:
SFGG Men Gold host EPA RAZORBACKS Noon
SFGG Women host Sacramento Amazons 10AM
GO GATE – ONWARD THROUGH THE FOG!