By Pat King (Team Manager / Active Player)
The men’s 7s team looked very strong on the first day of action at the Club National Championships, but failed to advance to the Cup rounds despite winning 2 of 3 games. In a strong pool featuring Pacific North top seed Life West, perennial Midwest powerhouse Chicago Lions, and a new up and comer from the South in Optimus rugby, the Dolphins had a good showing. There was a three way tie atop the pool between Chicago, Life, and Santa Monica, and we were the odd man out based on a point differential tiebreaker.
The Dolphins started the day against a very tough Life West Gladiators team led by former SMRC player Zach Bonte. Santa Monica started off slow in attack, but a strong defense was able to keep the Gladiators out of the end zone. Once they woke up and started to play the pattern, the Dolphins marched down the field leading to a try be Kevin Kucinskas under the posts. Conversion was good for a 7-0 lead. The team struggled to retain possession the rest of the first half, leading to two tries from Life and a 12-7 deficit going into the break. The second half opened the same way the first ended, with the Gladiators scoring in the corner for a 17-7 lead. This was the wake up call the Dolphins needed. They started to play the pattern and take care of the ball, leading to a converted Matt Pollen try to cut the lead to 3 points. With less than a minute to go, Santa Monica stole a Life West scrum and marched down the field. An outstanding display of patience was capped off by a knifing run through the defense by Joey Krassenstein at full time securing the victory. Final score SMRC 21 Life West 17.
The second match of the day was a rubber match from last year’s comp against Chicago Lions. Last year the Lions ran us off the pitch, so the Dolphins were looking for a shot at redemption. It was a tough fought game from the get go featuring lots of great effort and mental lapses by both teams. Down 10-5, an amazing individual effort by Jordan Robertson led to a tie game going into the final minutes. Unfortunately SMRC could not hang on for the tie, giving up a try at full time to lose the game 15-10.
Last match of the day was against Optimus rugby, another team we lost to in last year’s competition. The Dolphins came out firing on all cylinders, leading to a try by winger Allen Corruth under the posts in the second minute. Leading 7-0, SMRC kept the defensive pressure on forcing Life back to their own goal line. A defensive steal led to a maul and converted try by Victor Woo and a 14-0 lead. The team squandered a couple more scoring opportunities, but the defense held strong to keep the same score at halftime. Optimus showed up strong to start the second half, cutting the lead to 14-7. Regaining position on the kickoff, the Dolphins again played smart rugby, working their way down the field with another Matt Pollen try to push the lead to 19-7. SMRC would strike again minutes later, with youth program product Dylan James knifing through the defense. The conversion was no good again, putting the score at 24-7 for the Dolphins. With the game already in hand Santa Monica had a mental lapse on defensive assignments allowing Optimus to close the gap to 24-12 at full time.
The last minute try ended up being the difference on the day. A three way tie between Life West, Chicago, and ourselves was decided by point differential. We missed out on a spot in the cup rounds by a single point. The squad played strongly across the board, with by far our best Day 1 showing in our last 4 appearances.
You can still show your support by contibuting to the fundraising effort to cover costs of the trip: https://www.generosity.com/sports-fundraising/send-the-dolphin-7s-to-nationals-in-minnesota.
On a rainy Sunday in Minnesota, The Dolphins 7s team came through with two more come from behind victories for a 2-1 showing for the 2nd consecutive day. Unfortunately missing out on the Cup by one point, combined with a tough loss in the bowl sem-final had the Dolphins finishing 11th overall. With 4 victories and 2 very competitive losses, we were unlucky to not come higher as we looked like a top 8 team throughout the weekend. 7s is a game of inches though and a couple bounces the wrong way can be the difference between finishing 5th and 12th.
In the first action of the day 2, the Dolphins played a Charlotte team who looked to prove they belonged in the cup rounds. Santa Monica on the other hand, still seemed to be half asleep coming out the gates and went down 15-0 going into halftime. Charlotte put some quality phases together and earned their points, but it was clear they were the team that wanted it more to start the game. The second half started with more of the same, with Charlotte controlling the tempo of the game. With only 2:30 minutes to go, the Dolphins finally go the catalyst they needed. Another fantastic try from Jordan Robertson go the Dolphins on the board and cut the deficit to 15-7. Jordan seemed to be the spark plug on offense all weekend long with one big play after another. The boys were able to regain possession and score two more quick tries to win the game 17-15 at full time.
The next game was against the host team Metropolis. The Dolphins again started slow, leading to a 3 try deficit going into the half 19-0. Santa Monica looked to get into it in the second half, scoring an early try to cut the deficit to 19-5. The two teams traded tries to end the second half with a final of Metropolis 24- SMRC 12.
Santa Monica’s final game of the weekend was a rematch with Optimus Rugby. Optimus played spoilers to the Dolphins by scoring a last second try to keep us from advancing to the cup, and continued to be a thorn in our side to start the game. Some hard running by the South team and poor tackling from Santa Monica caused all kinds of problems. They were able to overcome this in the second half, again coming from two tries down to score the game winner at full time. Victor Woo got over to cap off a short maul from the 5 meter to start the scoring. Minutes later, another Jordan Robertson try would pull the Dolphins within 2. At full time, a savvy quick tap from Woo led to a SMRC penalty try and the victory. 19-14 Full time.
I’d like to say I am so proud of the effort the team put in over the weekend. They had a lot of come from behind victories and finished games strong, something we have struggled with in the past. Disappointed that I couldn’t play because of injury I initially wanted no involvement in the program this summer. It was this special group of players that got me back in the mix and made the experience a blast. Special thanks to Amy who always takes good care of the team and keeps the players healthy and on the field. Newcomer and player/coach Pago Haini was unable to play due to a concussion sustained playing for the new USA Islanders representative team, but he still made the trip to coach and support the boys and was vital to the success of the team. My assistant manager Andrew Stock, helped shuttle around the team, and kept the boys fed and hydrated all weekend.
Lastly I’d like to thank all our supporters who cheered us on all summer long. One of the best parts about Santa Monica Rugby is the involvement from the larger club community and it is really what keeps us going year in and year out. Even bigger shout out to all those who contributed on the crowdfunding page. Our 7s team is made up of some of the younger members of our men’s program, most of whom are students or just starting their professional careers, and without relying on the SMRC family to lighten the financial burden, I’m not sure if these trips to nationals would be possible. A huge thank you for all the love and support!
If you still wanted to contribute, the generosity page will stay active until Friday and we are still a few thousand short of our goal. We raised enough to cover the flights and most of the accommodation, but not transport, food and supplies. As always, as a non-profit all donations to SMRC are tax-deductible. The outpour of support has been amazing, but if you forgot to contribute or still would like to chip in a few bucks you can here: https://www.generosity.com/sports-fundraising/send-the-dolphin-7s-to-nationals-in-minnesota.
Thanks everyone for an amazing summer and looking forward to a successful 15s campaign!!