Round 7 of the Pacific Rugby Premiership marked the beginning of the second round of the home-and-away series as the Santa Monica hosted Belmont Shore for a crucial match-up. Needing a win against their downstate rivals, the Dolphins came up short, losing 25-15.
Things started out well for the hosts as Belmont flanker Jack Tracy knocked-on the opening kick-off, setting-up a Santa Monica scrum inside the attacking 22-meter zone. The Dolphins nearly crossed over the goal line but, as was the story for the entire day, Belmont’s defense proved stout enough to turn them away. Santa Monica settled for a penalty kick from flyhalf Harry Bennett at the 5-minute mark. 3-0 Santa Monica.
From the kick-off, the Dolphins kicked for field position and forced Belmont to retreat into their own zone. The guests attempted to run out of their goal but eventually turned the ball over near their line. From open play, the Dolphins were penalized for holding-on in the tackle and Belmont kicked for touch. From the lineout, scrumhalf Ryan Cochran punted the ball down the middle of the pitch. Wing Ali Ross couldn’t handle the difficult hop, knocking-on at the Santa Monica 10-meter line. From the scrum, Belmont attacked right but the Dolphin defense was strong. After several phases of play and a few restarts, Shore flyhalf Nese Malifa put a grubber kick in toward the left side near the Santa Monica try line. Center Stuart Sharpe raced back to field the kick, carrying it into his own goal and touching down; thus giving Belmont a scrum on the attacking 5-meter line. From the scrum, the Belmont forwards applied pressure the Dolphins pack and got rewarded with a push-over try. Wing Andy Jackson converted to give Belmont a 3-7 lead after 15 minutes of play.
“It was very frustrating to watch the field flip on us like that,” said Santa Monica Head Coach Greg Commins. “The play certainly wasn’t clean to start the match. Again, we put too much pressure on ourselves, this being a pivotal match, and just made too many unforced errors. We went from an offensive scrum on the attacking 5 to a defensive scrum on our own 5 in a matter of minutes simply because we failed to execute on basic handling and position play. As far as the scrum went, we know how Belmont want to play and control the match. Our pack didn’t focus on stopping the drive from the put-in and it cost us.”
Much of the rest of the half was played in Santa Monica’s zone; they found it difficult to work their way out and spent a good deal of time playing defense. The lone bright spot came on a Charlie Purdon interception near the left sideline. He broke out against the run of play and offloaded to center Sharpe, who was dragged down near midfield. A quick recycle to Ross kept the momentum on the front foot as he dashed into the 22-meter zone. Against a scrambling defense, scrumhalf Purdon probed the gainline, only to run smack into the referee, resulting in a scrum to the hosts.
From the set-piece, Santa Monica immediately turned the ball over in the tackle as Belmont flanker Peter Dahl poached the 8-man pick-up from Patrick Roberts. Malifa’s clearance kick didn’t find touch and so Santa Monica immediately went back on the offensive in the attacking zone. Purdon passed wide from left to right and found flyhalf Bennett, who spotted a gab, fended his tackler and was away. Bennett got tackled inside the 22 but offloaded to center Mitch Raisch, who then found a hard-charging Philip Osbourne. Osbourne skirted one last defender and emphatically touched down between the posts. Bennett converted the easy kick. 10-7 Santa Monica on the stroke of half-time.
Unfortunately for the hosts, they would not be the last ones to score in the first stanza. Needing to reclaim the ensuing kick-off and put the ball out of bounds, the Dolphins failed to do so. Belmont tapped the kick back and then worked their way down the right sideline, scoring through the forwards on a series of tight runs. Jackson missed the conversion but the try made it 10-12 in favor of the visitors.
“We talk a lot about playing smart rugby,” said Commins. “Coming out of the SFGG match, we showed what can happen if we don’t commit too many mental errors. I think we took a step back today and that’s frustrating. We score on the brink of halftime, we have to know that the kick-off is going to be short and high; we need to set-up ourselves up to play that properly. We didn’t…obviously. From a psychological perspective we go from elation to deflation in the blink of an eye; from being the last to score to not.”
The second half proved to be a slog for Santa Monica as both Purdon and Bennett would exit the game with injuries within the first 10 minutes. Andy O’Connor, in his first game back from injury, did an admirable job of policing his troops. His service was crisp but he showed the signs one would expect from a player coming off of a 5 week rehab assignment. Martial Chaput slotted in for Bennett and, though not his natural position, did an admirable job and showed a lot of the improvisational skills fans have come to expect of him through his years with the Club.
“It’s always going to be difficult when you lose your playmakers that early in the match. After sorting through position and personnel adjustments, the boys scaled back the plays and did some positive things. The issue for the day was more that we allowed Belmont to dictate the game according to their pace and style. They muddied-up the tackle area, thus slowing down the recycle, and used their forwards to bash us. You can’t play defense for as much and as long as we did today and expect a positive result.”
The dam more-or-less broke for the Dolphins in the 60th minute when Raisch received a yellow card for tripping. Belmont fullback Mike Teo scored a converted try and then Jackson kicked 2 penalties to put his side up by three scores: 25-10. Raisch got his team a consolation try on a 60 meter intercept try and gave Santa Monica some hope of securing a bonus point with another score. Unfortunately, it was not to be as Belmont closed out the game and came away 25-15 victors.
The Dolphins travel to Denver this weekend to take on the Barbarians at Infinity Park in Glendale, CO.
- Rob Cleere
- Philip Lydeard
- Chris Baumann
- Zac Winter
- Ken Aseme (Hill – 70)
- Philip Osbourne
- Taylor Manavian (Pretorius – 70)
- Patrick Roberts
- Charlie Purdon (O’Connor – 45)
- Harry Bennett (Milford – 45)
- Sean Pypers
- Mitch Raisch
- Stuart Sharpe
- Alistair Ross
- Martial Chaput
- Daniel Hill
- Andrew Stock
- Van Aarde Pretorius
- Stephen Yoshida
- Andy O’Connor
- Loa Milford
- Shawn Lee
- David Amaya
Tries: Osbourne, Raisch
Conversions: Bennett (1)
Penalties: Bennett (1)