The U18 Dolphins played at UCLA this weekend, and we saw numerous SMRC Alumni, including honoree Tommy Smith. A great weekend all around!
The U18 Dolphins opened their pre-season in ambitious fashion; with about four trainings under their belt, the boys opened their 2018 account with an appearance in the respected Dennis Storer Classic, held at UCLA’s North Athletic Fields this past weekend. Teams from Northern California, Utah and Southern California met up for a warm weekend of rugby competition and camaraderie.
Despite having only 11 available players Saturday morning, the Dolphins borrowed players from San Francisco Golden Gate and tipped off against the #3 ranked high school club in the US, Danville Oaks. The team ran valiantly and tackled to the end, finishing the game much stronger than they started it, but the speed and ball handling of the NorCal visitors was too much for a young Santa Monica side, returning only 5 players from last season: Danville 49 – SMRC 0
Saturday afternoon brought a change of venue, with the late game played on UCLA Rugby’s immaculate home field, where the Dolphins/SFGG would face another team from up north, Lamorinda. This game was much more even than the morning affair, with Santa Monica making several breaks and scoring a try courteousy of guest scrum half Shane from the UK (too bad he’s only visiting). Defensive lapses undid SMRC, however, with the visitors running in 4 tries for a final of Lamorinda 28 – SMRC 7
Sunday morning, an almost universally unloved feature of tournament rugby, came bright and early for SMRC, who would play the first match of the day versus erstwhile teammates SF Golden Gate. While SFGG looked like they may have stayed up too late, the Dolphins were all business from the opening kick-off, with the forwards showing some early season continuity and the backs making several long, impressive breaks. The pressure was on SFGG and they ultimately cracked, when flanker Will Clifford blocked a kick in goal which was dotted down by flyhalf and team captain Daniel Crowley. Improvements on defense were evident on day 2 as well, with flanker and vice-captain Avery Vignolle and center Kamal Muhammad putting heavy pressure on SFGG’s backline, resulting in several turnovers. There were storming runs by center Max Palees , his backline mate Crowley, and #8 Mateo Gautier, as this year’s squad started taking shape before our very eyes. Ultimately, it was fullback Hector Dumans who finished off a long SMRC possession to dot down for a 7-point lead that would not be relinquished. Honorable mention must go to our forwards, for winning and keeping possession most of the match and to 2nd row Piers Carmichael for his relentless ball all game long. And finally, congratulations also to Dolphin newcomer Andrew Caster, who played his first rugby ever… and seemed to quite enjoy the experience – well done Andrew! SMRC 14 – SFGG 7