Santa Monica crowned Tempe sevens Champions
Already, the odds seemed stacked against the Dolphins due to late injuries and lack of availability reducing the team roster to only 10 players instead of the regulation 12. Furthermore, tournament organizers also had a team pull out meaning a restructure of the pools saw Santa Monica placed in the same pool as last tournament winners Belmont Shore, instead of leading a pool of its own after placing 4th.
This did not deter the men in green however, whom after a 6 hour drive turned up ready to take on all comers.
The temperature soared to 105 degrees for Santa Monica’s first game against Belmont Shore, with the Dolphins opening the scoring after an Ian Wilson break leading to what would be Dave Martini’s first try of many for the day.
UCLA recruit Martial Shaput struck next after beating 3 defenders to score and increase the lead to 10-0.
Belmont Shore scored quickly from the next kick off but it was Santa Monica who dominated scoring next through Danny Thomas, sealing the game 15-7 in what appeared to be a one sided affair.
The second pool match against local team Phoenix was merely a formality as their single try was no match for the 5 scored by Santa Monica’s Brian Regal, Martial Shaput, Tyler Pritchard and the brace-scoring Phil Osborne.
Final score 31 – 7.
Santa Monica met L.A.R.C. in the quarter finals and asserted their dominance immediately with a long range try by Dave Martini. The next to score was Ian Wilson and although the Dolphins took a commanding lead, theire were many incidences of uncharacteristic errors, which LA took advantage of and kept the pressure on with 2 tries. Santa Monica now went into the half time break with a narrow lead 14 -12 and needed some calming words and mental regrouping.
The second half was all Santa Monica as they shifted up a gear with more tries to Regal and Martini, before a bustling 60m effort by Pat King to score and advance the Dolphins into its second semi final in as many tournaments.
The Semi Final presented an opportunity for redemption after losing to Old Aztecs in the 3 v 4 playoff in the previous tourney.
Santa Monica drew first blood through some crafty clean up work from Tyler Pritchard setting Brian Regal free for a gallop to the try line.
It then proved to be a tight affair for the rest of the half after Aztecs hit back with a try from the kick off. They then kept the pressure on with some solid defense, forcing Santa Monica back into their own 22m before some quick thinking and a brilliantly executed Chip kick and re-gather by Tyler Pritchard enabled the Dolphins to break free from Aztecs stranglehold, with Dave Martini finishing the movement to increase the lead to 14 – 5.
Aztecs then reduced the deficit to 14 – 12 after a long passage of possession, finally breaking the valiant Santa Monica defense to score.
But it was Santa Monica who progressed to the Final when Dave Martini powered over the try line in the right corner to put the game beyond doubt. Final score 19 -12.
The stage was set at 10:20pm for the ultimate game of the tournament between the Dolphins and No 1 tournament ranked Belmont Shore.
Confidence was high in the SMRC camp after having already defeated Belmont Shore convincingly during the pool stage, and also keeping an injury free roster throughout.
Belmont made their intentions clear that they were up for it by opening the scoring with a converted try not long after kick off. But Santa Monica bounced back when the ball moved wide through the hands to the Green Machine’s Thoroughbred Dave Martini with some space to the sideline and 65m to the try line. He took the outside space and despite the attempts of two Belmont defenders to bring him down, there was only one outcome on Martini’s mind, touching down under the opposition poles to bring the score level at 7 – 7.
The crucial moment of the game came just before the half time break. Belmont piled on the pressure with wave after wave of threatening attack which eventually led to them with 3 unmarked attackers out wide, and only 25m to the try line. But Captain Courageous Brian Regal had other ideas. As the ball was lofted toward Belmont’s free runners, Regal timed his run perfectly and plucked the ball from the air in Jordan-esque fashion, and then out paced the would-be chasers to score a converted try which brought the score line to 14 – 7 at half time in favor of a rejuvenated Santa Monica outfit.
The second half was a tense affair and a great display of desperation defense by both teams. Some excellent work by the youngsters, particularly Danny Thomas, Tyler Pritchard, Martial Shaput and Seve Woods gave some spark to the Santa Monica attack and provided a promising preview into the future of the Santa Monica rugby program.
Another big moment would come once again in the dying minutes of play, when one of Belmont’s massive humans busted out of his own 22m, shrugging off 5 tackle attempts and steaming down the touchline toward the corner flag.
But once again, Brian Regal saved the day as he ran the monster down and bowled him over into touch with a little help from Phil Osborne arriving at the scene.
The Full time whistle blew shortly after, granting Santa Monica its first ever SoCal sevens tournament victory, moving them now into 2nd place on the Qualifying standings just behind Belmont Shore.
This puts the Dolphins in prime position coming into its home tournament this weekend, and with a big home crowd rallying their troops, they are hoping to keep the momentum flowing for an eventual berth in their first National Championships qualification in the Club’s history.
A special mention must be made for the support staff of Myles Pritchard, Rene Meredith and Meghan Wendland whose efforts helped the whole day run smoothly for the team and helped ensure this amazing result.
See you all at Webster this coming weekend!