Despite the perfect California rugby weather, it was a tough day at the office on Saturday as all three Santa Monica sides in action lost.
The first side traveled to Belmont Shore. The first half was a slugfest with neither team giving an inch, but both teams making uncharacteristic mistakes. The Dolphins defended for approximately 35 of the 40 minutes and gamely held the Shore attack at bay. In the games 25th minute it looked like the Dolphins were starting to assert themselves offensively, but a 50/50 pass fell into enemy hands and Belmont were able to counter attack and score the games first try.
In the 35th minute the Dolphins began to build up pressure again; a penalty and subsequent 5 meter line out lead to a Loa Milford try in the corner. Lock, Zac Winter, took the lineout throw and the Dolphins started to drive but were turned back. The ball spun out to the backs where fullback, Ali Ross, crashed hard in midfield, but was tackled short of the line. Milford picked up the recycled ball and sprinted across field looking for any gap he could find, eventually finding himself in the corner where he touched down. Flyhalf Brian O’Shea’s conversion was good from the touch line to give the Dolphins a 7-5 halftime advantage.
The Dolphins opened the second half looking to open up their lead and pressured Shore in their own end for the half’s first 10 minutes. Belmont’s defense was up to the task and repelled attack after attack. The home side turned the tables at the 52nd minute when another 50/50 Dolphin pass fell into the wrong hands and went 55 meters the other way for a try, 7-12.
Belmont began to prick their tail feathers up, and upped the tempo of the game. Around the midway mark of the second period, backed deep in their own end the Dolphins kicked to relieve pressure. The kick found the Belmont wing instead of touch and was spun quickly across the field into space for the home team’s third score of the match, 7-19.
The Dolphin’s were down, but not out and returned to playing attacking rugby, earning penalties deep in the Belmont half on multiple occasions. Unfortunately, O’Shea, a very reliable kicker, was not in form on Saturday and missed on three occasions throughout the second half. Belmont’s kicker was able to convert on a second half penalty in the 63rd minute to extend the home teams lead to 7-22.
Things went from bad to worse as captain, Ken Aseme, was penalized and yellow carded for holding the ball in the ruck, at the 65th minute. The Dolphins battled gamely and were able to hold their attackers at bay and even attack on several occasions, but were not able to make the last pass to spring the runner into paydirt. After a long line-break, at the 72nd minute mark, a desperate Dolphin pass again found Belmont defenders, and another long counter attack try was had, 7-29.
In the games dying moments, Belmont was able to turn yet another Dolphin turnover into points, the final dagger in a frustrating day, 7-36.
Santa Monica- 7
Tries- Milford, Loa
Conversions- O’Shea, Brian
Belmont Shore- 36
1) Seeman, Bart (Guerra-60); 2) Lupini, Brenno; 3) Nasser, Keaton (Scott- 65); 4) Winter, Zac; 5) Kelley, Chris; 6) King, Pat; 7) Martini, David; 8) Aseme, Ken; 9) Cooley, Pierce; 10) O’Shea, Brian; 11) Clay, Chris (Milford-30); 12) Pypers, Sean; 13) Regas, Nick; 14) Morales, Shane (Cremin-55); 15) Ross, Ali
The Santa Monica second side faced a very large, physical Belmont Shore side, and jumped out to an early 12-0 lead. Shore proved up to the task though and fought back throughout the half to close the gap to 12-7.
Facing his former roommate and life partner, flanker Taylor Manavian, found himself frustrated and confused throughout the game. “I’m a lover, not a hater. Eddie [McKenna] and I were bosom buddies for a lot of years so it was hard to make myself tackle the “Ginger Ninja”. I had a couple of chances at the bottom of rucks to really put the spurs to him, but instead I found myself gently touching his cheek and thinking back to better days, when we were both Dolphins.”
Santa Monica struck first in the second half to extend the lead, 17-7. Belmont showed no quit though and struck back with two quick tries to take the lead 17-19. With 3 minutes remaining in the match flyhalf, Spencer May, squirted through a half gap and was able to touch down for the go ahead try.
The next three minutes were very tense and frenetic. Belmont battered the Dolphin defense, and with only 30 seconds remaining in the game were able to smash across the line from close quarters, 22-26.
1) Guerra, Adam; 2) Cooper, Matt (Palmer, Phin- 35) ; 3) Scott, Will; 4) Bercovicci, Alex; 5) Reibli, Dom; 6) Erdtsieck, Jon; 7) Manavian, Taylor; 8) Williams, Sion (La Rouche, Wade- 42); 9) Manzo, Tom; 10) May, Spencer; 11) Ingate, Nick; 12) Erdtsieck, Cris; 13) Jackson, Johnny; 14) Clay, Chris (Randles, Brya-60); 15) Regas, Nick (Ruud, John- 60)