On a rainy Saturday afternoon at Treasure Island in San Francisco, a short-staffed Dolphins team took the field against Olympic Club in search of their first win on the season. Despite giving up an early lead, Santa Monica would tie it up 15 minutes into the match, take a 10-5 lead into the half, and then cruise to a 41-19 victory.
The wet conditions meant that Santa Monica needed to execute in their set-piece and utilize tactical kicking in order to be effective. To that end, hooker Philip Lydeard and 8-man Patrick Roberts (on debut for the Dolphins) had to be efficient in channeling the ball back in the scrums and working with dirty ball (literally and figuratively). At the lineout, Chris Baumann maintained a solid completion ratio, working up and down the line to his jumpers. Despite giving up a significant size advantage in the pack, the Dolphins did enough to provide the backs with ball that they could use.
“Kicking was certainly the order of the day,” said captain and flyhalf Harry Bennett. “I’m building a good rapport with Charlie (scrumhalf Charlie Purdon) and he’s been great about knowing when to serve it out to me or kick from the base. Add to that having Brian O’Shea at fullback and it was like having two pivots on the field. But, in order for any of that to happen, we needed to be able to win our own ball. It sounds like common sense but it’s quite difficult in these conditions. I can’t speak highly enough about the effort that the pack put in today.”
Things did not start well for Santa Monica as, at the 5-minute mark, O-Club took a lineout from inside the attacking 22, sucked the Dolphins pack in, and then passed out to flyhalf Keegan Englebrecht. The Cal product executed a nice chip over the top of the defense and fullback Michael Haley dotted down in-goal for the first points of the day. 0-5 O-Club.
The Dolphins struck back 10-minutes later as flyhalf Bennett spotted some open space near the left sideline and kicked to ball into touch 15 meters from OC’s goal line. The ensuing throw was not straight and Santa Monica elected to take a lineout themselves. Thrower Baumann deftly connected with scrumhalf Purdon in the short channel and the #9 scurried through the defense to score in the corner. Bennett could not convert the extras. 5-5 tie.
Santa Monica put themselves under pressure by failing to take the following kick-off. O-Club went on the attack but could not break the gainline. Eventually Roberts was able to draw a penalty for holding on, thus bailing his team out of trouble. As the first quarter of action came to a close, the heavens opened up and the rain started to come down hard. The sloppy conditions favored the hosts as, despite knocking the ball on a few times, they were able to regain possession by winning consecutive tight-heads. On the third Santa Monica scrum, the visitors were able to clear the restart and fullback O’Shea booted the ball to the opposing 10-meter line. O-Club fullback Haley responded with a Garryowen that Roberts fielded nicely. The two sides traded kicks until Purdon took the ball up and received a high-tackle. From 40 meters out, Bennett’s penalty kick sailed wide. However, Santa Monica got a reprieve as OC were offside on 22-meter drop-out. Bennett kicked to touch. From a lineout on the right sideline, the ball went wide to wing Mitch Raisch on the left hash. Raisch raced for the corner and attempted to dot down as he leapt for the pylon. Unfortunately, he didn’t maintain possession of the ball, thus giving OC a scrum on their 5-meter.
The Dolphins were penalized for an early push on the scrum, giving OC a free kick that they put into touch. From the Santa Monica lineout, the guests mauled toward the posts. Purdon spotted a gap around the fringe and sniped his way through. He connected on a wide ball to winger Raisch, this time on the right hash, who took the ball up to the 5-meter line. After a series of pick-and-drives proved fruitless, O-Club were penalized for offsides. Purdon quickly took the tap and found Baumann hanging out on the sideline for a try in the corner. Bennett again missed the extras. 10-5 Santa Monica and that’s how it stayed until halftime.
Coming out the for the second 40 minutes of play, the hosts proved overzealous in the tackle area and earned themselves a penalty for hands-in. Bennett kicked for touch and then O-Club were penalized again, this time for pulling down the lineout jumper. Bennett’s 40 meter attempt at goal was true. 13-5 Santa Monica.
From the restart, Bennett kicked long for territory. O-Club tried to run back into the attacking zone but immediately turned the ball over in the tackle. Purdon chipped ahead from the base of the ruck and the hosts were forced to carry the ball into touch. From lineout, the ball went wide to center Shawn Lee, who broke the gainline and was tackled 5 meters from the goal. Lock Philip Osbourne was johnny-on-the-spot as he picked from base of the ruck and dove over in left corner. Bennett hit the conversion. 20-5 Santa Monica.
As the sun started to peak through the clouds, the Dolphins spent a great deal of time defending in their half. Eventually they conceded a penalty 30-meters out and in front of the posts. Unfortunately for the men in red, Englebrecht missed a very makeable kick.
From the 22-meter dropout the Dolphins defended fiercely, with flanker Jabari Zuberi and scrumhalf Purdon making several tackles. Zuberi eventually jarred the ball loose in the tackle area and it skirted away from the ruck. Bennett towed it forward. OC couldn’t handle the bounce and flanker Van Aarde Pretorius came up with it. Out of the tackle Bennett kicked ahead again. O-Club returned fire but fullback O’Shea cleanly fielded the volley and placed a nice kick into the right corner and into touch. O-Club failed to connect on the lineout and Lee gathered the overthrow and crashed forward. Hooker Lydeard recycled to Bennett, who chipped over the defense (very similar to Englebrecht’s kick at the beginning of the match) and into the dead area 5-meters from the goal line. Bennett was knocked off-course while trying to retrieve his kick but prop Baumann, like a thief in the night, took the ball on a bounce, split the gap just as three O-Club defenders collided with each other, and touched down under the posts. Bennett hit the easy conversion to bring it to 27-5 Santa Monica.
With momentum clearly on their side, Pretorius took the ensuing kick-off, shook-off a tackler, and offloaded to Osbourne. The lock carried on before connecting with Roberts, who ran past the midfield. The quick recycle found Baumann on the right wing and the prop set off on a thundering 35 meter run, only to be brought down just short of the goal. Bennett took the recycle and executed a beautiful cross-field kick that landed softly in the arms of a waiting Stuart Sharpe, who easily touched down for the bonus point try. It was truly one of the most impressive passages of play that this reporter has ever seen from a Santa Monica team. Bennett was again true with the conversion. 34-5 Santa Monica.
Now hanging by a thread and running out of time, O-Club threw everything they had at the Dolphins’ defense. Having run out of ideas, Englebrecht attempted a high ball inside the attacking 22. Winger Raisch took the mark but then flubbed the restart by passing forward to Purdon instead of kicking to touch. From the scrum, OC focused their drive and were awarded a penalty try as the Santa Monica pack caved to the pressure. 34-12 Santa Monica.
Santa Monica came right back and definitively put the game out of reach on the next series of plays. Flanker Pretorius successfully contested and stole the restart and advanced the ball to the OC 22-meter line. A quick pick by Osbourne, recycle to Bennett, out to Baumann, break the line, pop to Sharpe, score in the corner. Conversion good. 41-12 Santa Monica.
O-Club would score a consolation try near fulltime to bring the final line to 41-19.
Of note: Former ICEF product Allen Corruth made his PRP debut, replacing Lesgourgues in the 70th minute. He and Jabari Zuberi both played under former Dolphins Head Coach Stuart Krohn and former Dolphins scrumhalf David Hughes. They join Santa Monica Youth Rugby’s Danny Thomas as key contributors to the senior men’s side – Thomas having played the 7s season with SMRC. We look forward to many years of returning SMYR and ICEF players who will join the senior ranks.
- Robert Cleere
- Philip Lydeard (Hill – 60)
- Chris Baumann (de la Torre – 70)
- Philip Osbourne
- Zac Winter
- Van Aarde Pretorius
- Jabari Zuberi (Amaya – 70)
- Patrick Roberts
- Charlie Purdon
- Harry Bennett
- Stuart Sharpe
- Mathieu Lesgourgues (Corruth – 70)
- Shawn Lee
- Mitch Raish
- Brian O’Shea
- David Amaya
- Daniel Hill
- Luis de la Torre
- Allen Corruth
- Tries: Baumann (2), Purdon, Sharpe (2), Raisch
- Converssions: Bennett (4)
- Penalties: Bennett