Behind the boot of Brian O’Shea and his 21 points, a very disciplined Dolphins squad defeated the Utah Rugby Brothers 36-24 on Saturday in Park City.
The Dolphins were a little too fired up to open the game and early gaffes left tries begging. Consistent pressure though lead to wing Sean Pypers touching down in the 13th minute. It was the Dolphins third such excursion into Utah territory, unfortunately a dropped pass, and lost ball in a ruck ended the first two attacks. O’Shea added the extras on a 100% kicking day, 7-0.
Just before the halfway mark of the first half, O’Shea kicked a penalty to extend the lead to 10-0. Then a curious series of events lead to the Brothers scoring a pair of tries before half time and staking themselves a 10-14 half time advantage. First a tipped kick from beyond halfway was touched down in goal by the Dolphins who thought they’d earned a 22 meter restart. The referee instead awarded a 5 meter scrum to the home side. The Dolphins survived the initial onslaught and Utah were given another 5 meter scrum. This time after several phases, a cross kick, and a couple of more tackles, the Brothers were able to sneak through and touch down.
Next the Dolphins were on attack and had created a 4-2 overlap. The Utah defense feeling the pressure jumped the gun and into the passing lane intercepting a pass and returning it 80 meters for the easy try. A frustrated Dolphins squad converged at halftime down, but certainly not out. Everyone agreed that we were the better team and that if we stuck to the game plan in the second half the cream,would rise to the top.
The second half opened with the Dolphins on attack and a more patient side emerged from the break. The Dolphins jabbed the Utah defense consistently looking for a knock out opportunity, and looking to wear the home team out. At the 47th minute an O’Shea penalty closed the gap to 13-14 and the visitors confidence grew.
Three minutes later, captain, #8 Ken Aseme, saw the chance to take an uppercut and stun the Brothers. Aseme quick tapped a penalty from inside the Dolphin 22 and was able to offload the ball as the referee played advantage for not being back 10 meters. The backs found space and Pypers found the ball near midfield. Pypers stiff armed one would be defender and stepped another, before setting the fullback and finding center Kelly Serfoss who scored under the posts, 20-14.
The penalty count continued to tick over and despite several high tackles, and punches in rucks the Dolphins kept their cool. The calm heads prevailed as a Utah replacement was given a yellow card moments after coming on to the field as a replacement for punching. O’Shea made the hosts pay, 23-14. Coming in to the game the coaching staff had given the squad a goal of earning fewer than 10 penalties on the day. The final number was 5, that discipline served us well and ultimately lead to our success throughout the game.
Still playing with a man advantage the Dolphins kept the pressure on and a penalty deep in the Utah end gave the visitors a chance to take the knockout punch. Aseme passed up the chance for the kick at goal and instead kicked into the corner for the 5 meter lineout. His choice almost went awry when hooker Pat King missed the jumper, but reserve flanker Andrew Woolley was there to collect the ball and scramble over the line untouched, 30-14. Another O’Shea penalty continued the scoreboard ticking over in the 76th minute, 33-14.
Up three scores with what seemed like only a few minutes remaining the Dolphins took their foot off of the gas. A Robert Knox penalty for collapsing the scrum lead to a Utah score in the 78th minute. O’Shea responded with another penalty at the 80th minute, 36-19. Following the O’Shea penalty the referee said that there would be three minutes remaining. A wayward Dolphin kick down the center of the park gave the home side the ball back for one last possession. A turnover near the Dolphin line looked to end the game when center Steven Woodward touched down in goal, but a 5 meter scrum was awarded and the Brothers earned a last ditch try to finish the game, 33-24.
The Dolphins and the Santa Monica Rugby Club Green Machine now head to Chula Vista, CA for the USA Rugby Round of 16 on Saturday, May 12. The Dolphins will be playing defending national champions. Everyone is encouraged to come out and support the squad as they look to advance to Sunday’s quarterfinal match.
Tries- Pypers, Serfoss, Woolley
Conv- O’Shea 3
Pen- O’Shea 5
1- Scott, Will (Seeman @ 53); 2-King, Pat; 3-Nasser, Keaton (Knox @65); 4-Winter, Zac (Manavian @ 65); 5-Ashcroft-Leigh, Ien; 6-Kelley, Chris; 7-Martini, David (Woolley @ 30); 8-Aseme, Ken (C); 9-Carpio, Danny (Cooley @ 65); 10-O’Shea, Brian; 11- Pypers, Sean; 12-Serfoss, Kelly; 13-Woodward, Steven; 14-Morales, Shane; 15-Ross, Ali (Cremin @ 65)