Dolphins Cash-in Big with Vegas Victory
by Dominic Riebli
A short-handed Santa Monica Dolphins side rolled into Las Vegas looking for a second victory from three opportunities on the Division 1 season. This mixed side of 20 PRP and D1 players found themselves down to 18 players just 5-minutes into the game. Fullback Shawn Lee pulled up lame with a knee strain during warm-ups and Andy O’Connor followed-up by doing his quad just after kick-off. Coach Greg Commins quickly shuffled the line-up, inserting freshly arrived Charlie Purdon (Hamilton RFC, South Africa) at scrumhalf and veteran Chinedu Okolo in the backs. The move at #9 benefited both Purdon and his first five-eighth, Harry Bennett (Eastwood, NSW, Australia), as they got more time to work on their transitions and communication.
The Dolphins opening score came at the six-minute mark from a line-out. SMRC was attacking inside the Vegas 22-meter when Referee Markowitz penalized the home side for hands-in the ruck. Wanting to establish a solid platform and get his forwards working, Bennett opted for the lineout just 5-meters from the goal line. After two separate line-outs and attacking sequences, each ending in a Vegas penalty for offsides, hooker Chris Baumann hit lock Zac Winter for a driving maul. The Vegas pack folded under the pressure and committed a professional foul; thus awarding Santa Monica an early penalty try. Bennett completed the easy conversion. 7-0 Santa Monica
10-minutes later the Dolphins again found themselves in the attacking zone and again Vegas was penalized for hands-in the ruck. This time, however, scrumhalf Purdon opted for a scrum. The Santa Monica tight-five clearly had ascendancy in the set-piece and Purdon wisely used it to his advantage. A solid strike and drive gave 8-man Philip Lydeard a lane to run toward the posts. He drew the opposing flanker, popped the ball off to Purdon, who then connected with Wing Sean Pypers on a close line. Pypers got pulled down just meters short of the goal line but the forwards recycled the ball through Bennett and Center Mathieu Lesgourgues. Lesgourgues had an easy 2-on-1, putting his midfield partner Stuart Sharpe through for a try in the corner. Bennett was true with the extras. 14-0 Santa Monica
Las Vegas Rugby Club (now called Downtown RC) finally got themselves on the board in the 20th minute on a penalty kick. The final 10 minutes of the first half saw a flurry of action with a try to the hosts and three from the guests. Santa Monica’s Pypers, Lesgourgues, and Lydeard all dotted down to provide the team with a sizable 31-8 halftime lead.
The second half began in very much the same way as the first half: Vegas penalty, lineout, driving maul, try (this time from Hooker Baumann), Bennett converts. 38-8 Santa Monica
At this stage and for the next 20 minutes, the Dolphins let their foot off the gas and got a bit loose with their passing. Downtown scored two converted tries and were down 38-22 with ten minutes to play. However, Santa Monica regained possession and control of the game, culminating in a push-over try at the bell; honors to scrumhalf Purdon, who beat replacement 8-man Van Aarde Pretorius to the flop at the base of the scrum. Final 45-22 Santa Monica
Said Santa Monica Head Coach Greg Commins: “I’m very pleased with the performance from the forwards. When you get three tries directly from the scrum or lineout, your pack has clearly asserted themselves. The front row of Rob Cleere, Danny Hill, and Chris Baumann put in a dominating effort. Chris, especially, has put in the work as both a scrummager and a thrower and it showed in his 90% completion ratio on our throw-ins.” To that point, Baumann received an invitation from the national team to participate in the Forwards Camp this coming weekend.
“I’m very happy for Chris. This is what we at the Club are striving to do – to put a quality, competitive product on the field and gain recognition for Santa Monica and its players. We hope that Chris stays in the Eagles conversation moving-forward. As for us, the PRP preseason is over and we now get ready for Belmont Shore.
The Dolphins open their PRP season on Saturday, January 31 at 3:15pm at Cal State Long Beach. The D1 side will play the curtain-raiser at 1:30pm.
Go Green Machine!
Santa Monica Line-up
- Cleere, Rob
- Hill, Daniel
- Baumann, Chris
- Winter, Zac
- Corr, John (Walter – 64)
- Zuberi, Jabari (Pretorius – 52)
- Manavian, Taylor
- Lydeard, Philip
- Purdon, Charlie
- Bennett, Harry
- Pyper, Sean
- Lesgourgues, Mathieu
- Sharpe, Stuart
- Raisch, Mitchell
- O’Connor, Andrew (Okolo – 13, O’Shea 59)
- Thorne, Walter
- Pretorius, Van Aarde
- O’Shea, Brian
- Okolo, Chinedu
Santa Monica Scorers
Tries (7): Forward Pack, Sharpe, Pypers, Lesgourgues, Lydeard, Baumann, Purdon
Conversions (5): Bennett (4), O’Shea