Santa Monica U18 Boys Crowned SoCal Rugby Champions

Monday, 12 May 2014, 9:37:00 AM

Special To The Mirror

U18 Dolphin forwards arrive to support tackled teammate Nate Peterson (11) during Santa Monica's 21-15 victory over the San Diego Mustangs in Saturday's 2014 Southern California Youth Rugby Championship match held at Cal State Long Beach.
Photo by E. Michalak
U18 Dolphin forwards arrive to support tackled teammate Nate Peterson (11) during Santa Monica's 21-15 victory over the San Diego Mustangs in Saturday's 2014 Southern California Youth Rugby Championship match held at Cal State Long Beach.

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

2013.

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.

The

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

to convert.

The

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.  

Mustangs

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.

Santa

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.

Suddenly

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.

The

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.

Try

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.”

Both

the Dolphins and the Mustangs will travel to Elkhart, Indiana, this

week to participate in the Boys High School National Invitational

Tournament.

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