Dolphins fail to overcome early red card
by Dominic Riebli
What started as a dream beginning for Santa Monica quickly turned into a nightmare as an early red card to 8-men Ken Aseme turned the tables on the Dolphins and they found themselves on the losing end of a hotly contested 25-22 match with Los Angeles Rugby Club (LARC).
The visiting Dolphins jumped out to an early 14-3 lead and looked to be in control of most every phase of the game before referee Jason Harper issued Aseme a red card for stomping LARC scrumhalf Marcus Pigrom in the 13th minute. From that point on, Los Angeles rattled off two converted tries before the Dolphins finally answered back with a penalty goal.
“I certainly didn’t mean to stomp the guy’s head…and I didn’t; I’m not that kind of player,” said Aseme. “He was lying all over our ball in the ruck, we had a penalty, and he wasn’t releasing. I attempted to rake the ball out, but apparently the referee felt I came too close to his head. I’m just really upset. I feel I let the boys down.”
Commented Head Coach Doug Bratcher, “It’s difficult to beat any team when you’re playing a man down for over 80% of the game. It would’ve been difficult to beat LARC if we were at full strength, playing at their home field. Combine those factors and we really had a tough road to hoe. Now, that being stated, we had several opportunities at the end to win this game and we simply failed. Whether we panicked or rushed when we were inside their 22, we made far too many unforced errors.”
Things started off well for Santa Monica when, in the 5th minute, flyhalf Brian O’Shea connected with Alistair Ross inside the LARC 22 and the center slipped his defender on the way to pay dirt. LARC answered back with a penalty goal from Pigrom in the 10th minute, to which the Dolphins immediately responded with another try; this one coming via a forwards maul from a line-out. Lock Arthur Houlihan dotted down, O’Shea converted, and the visitors seemed on their way toward victory.
However, fate would deal the severe blow to the Dolphins on the ensuing restart. Santa Monica flanker Zac Winter took the kick-off up into a tackle. Both sides contested heavily at the breakdown and scrumhalf Pigrom found himself on the wrong side of the ruck. Referee Harper awarded Santa Monica a penalty for slowing the ball down. Ken Aseme attempted to retrieve the ball from Pigrom at the bottom of the ruck. He did not comply, so Aseme attempted to pry the ball loose and was assessed a red card for his efforts.
“It’s a tough call,” said Bratcher. “I’ll need to watch the film and see what I can see.”
Three minutes after Aseme was sent off, LARC 8-man Pablo Acuna crashed over the line to bring the score to 14-10 in favor of Santa Monica. The home side scored again 10 minutes later on a converted Grant Cole try. Dolphins flyhalf O’Shea responded in the 30th minute with a penalty goal and the score stayed knotted at 17 going into the half.
“Considering everything we’d been through in the middle part of that first half, I was happy to go to the break with a tie,” said Bratcher. “We had the advantage of playing downhill with the wind in the second half, so I liked our chances.”
For a majority of the second 40 minutes, the game remained in a deadlock. Both teams battled back-and-forth, each defending their lines with abandon. Finally, in the 70th minute LARC scored an unconverted try through lock and former Fijian international Leaware Senikavika. Pigrom added another penalty goal two minutes later when Santa Monica was caught off-side.
Down by two scores, Santa Monica camped inside the LARC 22 for the remainder of the match. In the 75th minute, replacement scrumhalf Danny Carpio found a gap around the ruck and slipped through to score a try near the corner. Ross failed on the conversion, leaving the score at 25-22 in favor of Los Angeles.
The Dolphins had one last shot to either tie or take the lead when fullback Kelly Serfoss made a half-break and put his team in the attacking zone. Unfortunately, the Dolphins did not cleanly recycle the ball and suffered a crucial knock-on. LARC was awarded a penalty on the ensuing scrum for Santa Monica pulling and was able to kick to touch; thereby alleviating much pressure. The Dolphins could not regain possession and the game ended with LARC ascendant at 25-22.
“It’s a difficult loss to suffer, especially for how hard the guys fought, being a man down and all. A loss is a loss. My main focus now is preparing this team for next week, getting them to bounce back, and finding myself a starting 8-man (Aseme’s red card carries an automatic two game suspension).”
Score: Santa Monica 22 : Los Angeles 25
Tries: Santa Monica – Ross, Houlihan, Carpio : Los Angeles – Acuna, Cole, Senikavika
Conversions: Santa Monica – O’Shea (2) : Los Angeles – Pigrom (2)
Penalties: Santa Monica – O’Shea (1) : Los Angeles – Pigrom (2)
Line-up: 1. Turner; 2. King; 3. Guerra; 4. Davis; 5. Houlihan (Scott – 60); 6. Winter; 7. Manavian (McKenna – 50); 8. Aseme; 9. Hughes (Carpio – 60); 10. O’Shea (Regas – 62); 11. Erdtsieck; 12. Killefer; 13. Ross; 14. Branham; 15. Serfoss