SMRC 31-38 Olympic Club
Olympic ran out to a commanding lead in the first half, but had to weather a Santa Monica comeback that almost succeeded. In the final moments, Olympic Club was penalized for throwing the ball into touch in a futile attempt to end the game. Santa Monica made it to the line, but a superb play by scrumhalf Chad Clark prevented the ball from being grounded, and O-Club held on.
“We knew we were playing better, and the guys worked really hard,” said Scott Compton, who oversaw O-Club on game day while Head Coach Ray Lehner stayed home with his wife and newborn twins. “We had a good work rate, especially in the first half, and we had four or five moments in the third quarter when we could have put it away, but didn’t.”
“We just went from playing smart rugby to thinking that we needed to score tries and run from inside our 50,” added center Colin Hawley. “We should have kicked for territory – we talked about it. But we weren’t smart.”
Olympic Club looked smart as anything in the first half. Rikus Pretorius was moved from center to the position where he was an All American at Cal, flanker, and the result was very positive for the Bay Area team, as Pretorius earned Man of the Match honors and was hugely influential. Fullback Dustin Muhn and then No. 8 Alex Manke scored tries, and then center Michael Haley scored to stake O-Club to a 24-7 lead. (Flyhalf Keegen Engelbrecht converted all three tries and added a penalty goal.)
A yellow card to center Mathieu Lesgourgues didn’t help Santa Monica’s cause at all. But things began to change in the second half.
“We do have a habit of shooting ourselves in the foot,” explained Engelbrecht. “We had played very well against Denver but made mistakes, and we have to learn that we can’t just stop playing rugby because we’ve scored a few tries. Every team will punish you for that in this league.”
And led y a massive effort from Joe Killefer, Santa Monica did come back.
“We have to play 80 minutes of rugby and sometimes that means coming out of the blocks hard,” said Santa Monica Head Coach Greg Commins. “We have this habit of being really close to any team we play – at the top of the table or the bottom. Olympic Club played well in the first half, but we needed to play better defensively.”
Lesgourgues was moved from center back to flyhalf, and the Santa Monica defense perked up, while Killefer was among the try-scorers as Santa Monica edged closer. But Haley, and then Hawley scored for O-Club to keep ahead, just barely.
“This is the great thing about this league,” said Commins. “Before you’d play eight to ten games and then into the playoffs, and you might have had three or four tough games, maybe, and then who knows what happens in the playoffs. Now, it’s like a playoff game every week.”
“We love this competition,” added Engelbrecht. “We haven’t won much but this is what we want. We want to compete at a high level. We’re learning each week.”
Olympic Club improves to 1-4, with Santa Monica at 1-5. Santa Monica earned a bonus point for a close loss and one for four tries, allowing them to move ahead of 2-2 OMBAC despite having a worse won-loss record.