By Richard Gonda
Santa Monica Rugby Club’s U18 Boys defeated the San Diego Mustangs on Saturday
at Cal State Long Beach, 21-15, in a tough and thrilling encounter.
The rematch of last year's championship final had all the exciting
elements of high-caliber rugby, though with a different result from
First points went
to the Dolphins after just three minutes when, following a powerful
twenty-yard driving maul, center Cormac Heaney set up a third-phase
where hooker Willy Hock popped the ball to No. 8 Conor Lydon who broke
through two defenders to score a nice try under the posts. Alex Walsh made the conversion to put the Dolphins up 7-0.
defending champion Mustangs kicked into gear immediately and pressured
Santa Monica into adopting a hurried defense which soon proved
ineffective. A loose Dolphin pass in desperation from a lineout ten
yards from their goal-line was intercepted by speedy Mustangs flanker
Jacob Neely who sprinted in for an easy score, which the Mustangs failed
Mustangs showed adept ball handling skills as they terrorized Santa
Monica at the breakdown and enjoyed the majority of first-half
possession. After constant pressure and with Santa Monica living off
scraps, Mustangs took control and from a well-placed cross kick chased hard by winger Harrison Cohen who scored out wide. The Mustangs again missed the conversion but were ahead 10-7.
No. 8 Dean Karam scored another uncoverted try just before half-time
and showed why they were they dominate youth rugby in the strong San
Diego region. Behind 15-7, things looked grim for the Santa Monica lads
going into the break and facing a stiff breeze in the second half.
Monica was on the back foot from the restart and showed great
determination, preventing the Mustangs from scoring as the San Diegans
pounded their try line. The Dolphin defense was rock solid which
resulted in the Mustangs becoming frustrated and undisciplined. With a
man down from a yellow card just before the break, they could not afford
to be complacent as they threw everything at their plucky challengers.
the tables turned and Santa Monica were the more composed side, winning
more ball from the set pieces and patiently awaiting to strike. Scrumhalf
Evan Clark gave no quarter as he took a quick tap from a penalty,
marching the Mustangs backwards into their own half. From
an ensuing scrum, flyhalf Walsh threw a beautiful dummy and with a neat
swerve off his left foot he bobbed and weaved through the Mustangs
defense to score a brilliant solo score near the corner flag. Walsh converted his try, leaving Santa Monica one point behind, 15-14.
Mustangs became increasingly frustrated, continued to infringe, and
received their second yellow card for taking Clark out in mid-air as he
caught an up-and-under. Several pick-and-goes by the Dolphin forwards made good yardage upfield which foiled the Mustangs. From a clever switch to the left-hand side, Dolphin hooker Willy Hock dived over to put Santa Monica in the lead. Another Walsh conversion and the scoreboard read 21-15.
as they might in the dying remaining minutes, Mustangs simply could not
penetrate a tenacious defense as the game drew to a close.
Dolphin Coach Charlie Lydon was very complimentary of the Mustangs: “They
are a fabulous team and it was just Santa Monica’s day in a game that
could have gone either way. The coaches are so proud of all our players
today. To come back from 15-7 down in the second half into a breeze and
without one of our key players, flanker Tom Heaney, and hold the
opposition scoreless is an incredible achievement, but to do this
against a team like Mustangs is just exceptional. We have fifteen
seniors on this team and they dug deep in the second half to show how
much they wanted to win against all the odds. We wish to thank Alexandra
Williams, Executive Director of Southern California Youth Rugby, the
match officials, and club volunteers for organizing a great day of rugby
at Cal State Long Beach.”
the Dolphins and the Mustangs will travel to Elkhart, Indiana, this
week to participate in the Boys High School National Invitational
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