Life University and San Francisco Golden Gate will meet once more in the Rugby Super League Championship game, as Life defeated Boston 27-23 and San Francisco eliminated Old Puget Sound Beach 53-22 in the Conference deciders. Life will host SFGG on Saturday May 21 in Marietta, Ga.
BOSTON @ LIFE UNIVERSITY
In Marietta, Ga., Life University started strongly in their third meeting of the season against Boston, and were rewarded with a penalty kick in the fourth minute, duly converted by Aaron McMaster. Boston had a chance to reply within a minute, but the Boston effort fell short with the kick attempt. A sustained attack by Life was aided by a series of Boston penalties, and in the 10th minute number 8 Mark Aylor barged over for a try. McMaster added the chip kick conversion, and Life was 10 points ahead after a promising start.
Closing in on the half hour mark, from inside Life’s half of the field, Benny Mateialona, Tui Osborne and Pat Denahy made significant yardage, and supporting winger Clint Whitler crossed to take Life out to a 17-0 advantage, McMaster again adding the conversion. It was a double blow for Boston, as center Marcus McAllister took a knock during the play and was unable to continue.
Boston started getting the better of the territory battle, and significantly were electing to take scrums when awarded penalties and free kicks to take advantage of pressure they were exerting on the Life scrum. Boston were rewarded shortly after with number 8 Brendan Moore crashing over following a 5 meter scrum. Elrick converted to make the score 17-7.
Shortly after, a clearing kick by Life was gathered in by Boston left winger Duran Vota who set off on a long winding run deep into Life territory. He was finally dragged down, but the ball was quickly recycled and Boston's other winger Kyle Marshall scored in the corner to leave the halftime score 17-12 to Life.
The second half began with Life furiously defending their goal-line against a Boston onslaught, Boston again electing scrums over penalty kicks. After a series of pick and go moves, Boston outhalf Nick Elrick slotted a drop goal to bring the visitors within two points, at 17-15. Ten minutes later, a promising Life attack was negated by a penalty, and after gaining good ground through a series of phases of play, Boston scored again near the left sideline to take their first lead of the game at 20-17, Marshall again getting the try.
As the game entered the final fifteen minutes, Life reclaimed the lead with an unconverted try by Brendan Thomson following a series of scrums and rucks close to the Boston line. Elrick quickly pushed Boston ahead with a penalty, Boston with the 23-22 advantage as the game entered the last five minutes. Life spent much of the final few minutes in the Boston 22, and they were rewarded with a Steve Petzel try. With less than two minutes on the clock, there would be no further scoring, and Life will make the trip back to the Super League final in a week’s time.
In contrast to the wildly entertaining game of last week, this game was marred by countless knock-ons and turnovers. Life coach James Isaacson, noting it would be little consolation to Boston, thought Boston deserved better than to lose this game. “Many of our players simply didn’t show up today” he said after the game, noting “we won’t win anything next week if we play like that again”.
OLD PUGET SOUND BEACH @ SAN FRANCISCO GOLDEN GATE
The West Conference final was played under ideal conditions at Ray Sheerin Field, on Treasure Island in San Francisco. Old Puget Sound Beach took the game to SFGG for the opening 10 minutes, capitalizing on strong running from Eagle center Alipate Tuilevuka and adept kicking by fullback/coach Evan Haigh. Haigh converted the first penalty kick of the afternoon to give Beach their first , and only, lead of the game after only 6 minutes had gone.
SFGG Coach Paul Keeler has been heard to lament his side’s penchant for slow starts, often finding themselves behind in the early goings. OPSB’s lead was short lived. At the halfway mark of the first half, Number 10 Volney Rouse broke the Beach defense to score the first of his two tries on a feed from recycled ball by hard charging tight head prop Stan Laulaupaleau to take the lead at 5 – 3.
Moments later, an elegant feed from center Mile Pulu put winger Tavita Okusi away to touch down the first of his two tries of the day. Before the buzz died, flanker Danny LaPrevotte added a try in the corner to culminate a furious forward attack from a lineout and the half ended with the score 22 – 3.
Keeler’s half time talk must have conveyed his desire to up the pressure on the talented Beach side, because the forwards came out on fire. The opening kick to start the second half was stolen by Gate, who drove to the line and sent Stan Laulaupaleau in through several tackles tor the try under the posts, converted by Rouse.
Beach pressed the issue, and minutes later freed Haigh to score and convert to bring the score to 29 – 10.
There followed repeated breaks by centers Mile Pulu and Samisone Pone lead to long runs deep into Beach territory by Wing Jeff Van Meter, the last of which created a line-out on the 20 meter markwhich SFGG kept in the forwards in a rolling maul skillfully directed by Mose Timoteo to the try line. The back dispersed, thinning the defense and Number 8 Samu Manoa, on his way to England under contract to North Hampton, pushed over for the score to open the flood gates. By the end, Rouse, Pulu and Hector Quiles touched down to give SFGG 53 points. Speedy Beach winger Filimoni Boitu scored two late tries to have the game end 53 – 22.