One look at the rosters for the San Francisco Golden Gate and Old Puget Sound Beach rugby clubs indicated a mouth watering clash was in store when the teams met in San Francisco on Saturday. Andrew Durutalo, Miles Craigwell, Nicholas Hawkins, Brendan O’Meara, Jone Naqica…and those guys weren’t even starting. Both teams were stacked with high quality players and observers were eagerly waiting for an important early season game.
The game started with the opposing out halves Russell Armstrong of OPSB and Volney Rouse of SFGG trading early penalty kicks, before Filimoni Botitu hit for OPSB’s first try. Armstrong converted for the 10-3 lead for the visitors. SFGG hit back with a John Thomas unconverted try, but with thirty minutes gone, a goal line stand by OPSB was followed by a Kellen Gordon interception and try for OPSB, Armstrong again converted.
OPSB suffered a serious blow last week, losing influential fullback Ishmeli Davita to a broken collarbone, but the team had an able replacement ready in Mike Palefau, fresh off his exploits in the Hong Kong and Tokyo Sevens. With halftime approaching, Palefau crossed the try-line for another OPSB try, pushing the score to 22-8. Despite SFGG being down to 14 men due to a red card being issued for a dump tackle, the team rallied for another try by Thomas before the half, and the Volney Rouse conversion narrowed the gap to 22-15.
SFGG started the second half the same as they finished the first, scoring an early try, credited to Mose Timoteo, and the game was all tied up at 22-22. But the next twenty minutes belonged to OPSB, notching four tries in a torrid span that had the team firmly in the driver’s seat. Second row Aaron Fry, scrumhalf Emosi Vucago, flanker Kellen Gordon with his second, and Miles Craigwell all notched tries for OPSB, and three Armstrong conversions had OPSB ahead 53-22. As time was winding down, SFGG hit for two tries courtesy of Paula Fukofuka and Tom Rooke, bracketing a try for OPSB.
At a final score of 36-60, the teams narrowly missed breaking a hundred points on the day. San Francisco’s Paul Keeler was philosophical after the game “We made some mistakes early, we gave up some soft tries and there was the game really. Ultimately we try to turn our defense into attack and it is hard to do that against a team that is good at disrupting breaks. You learn more from your defeats than your wins…we got away with some sloppy play recently and still won and we have learned the hard lesson that we are beatable.”
OPSB’s Evan Haigh said “One of the biggest things we wanted to improve on from last week was the ability to execute when we made breaks and that was the big piece that allowed us to score points.”
Despite the score-line, Haigh says the Golden Gate defense was solid and most of his side's points came from turnover ball and shifting the point of attack….
"Big for us today among others were the front row who laid a good platform that enabled us to have go-forward ball.” The two teams will meet again in the last week of the regular season in what promises to be another intriguing encounter.