by Dominic Riebli
For 70 minutes in sunny southern California, the Santa Monica Dolphins gave last year’s PRP runners-up Glendale Raptors all they could handle. Unfortunately, generally poor tactical play coupled with some unfortunate bounces made for a blowout in favor of the visitors, 46-26.
As an indication of things to come, Santa Monica started out the match by putting themselves under pressure inside of their own zone. Within the first 5 minutes of the match the Dolphins twice failed to clear their 22 and put the ball safely into touch. This eventually lead to a Santa Monica penalty from 20 meters out and to the right of the posts. Fortunately, Glendale flyhalf Armandy Peens muffed the kick, giving the Dolphins an initial reprieve.
From the dropout, Santa Monica booted the ball to midfield and played staunch defense. Winger Mitchel Raisch dislodged the ball in the tackle and hooker Chris Baumann quickly pounced. He popped to fullback Ali Ross near the right sideline. From a tackle, the ball swung back to the left sideline where lock Zac Winter had tons of space to run. He drew a defender and offloaded to 8-man Philip Lydeard. With a man to beat Lydeard failed to connect with wing Stuart Sharpe on a hook pass and the scoring opportunity went begging. However, the Dolphins maintained possession and eventually worked it to the attacking 5-meter line. After a series of tight runs, scrumhalf Charlie Purdon passed the ball out to flyhalf Mathieu Lesgourgues on the left flank. The French flyer tried to step his man back to the inside but got caught up in the tackle, giving the ball to the Raptors. On the ensuing scrum, Glendale scrumhalf Mose Timoteo was called for feeding. Purdon took the quick tap and dove over the line for the first try of the day. Lesgourgues failed to connect from the extreme angle. 5-0 Santa Monica.
From the restart, Santa Monica cleared their zone but Glendale flyhalf Peens kicked deep into Dolphins territory from open play. Sharpe and Purdon retreated to field the ball but opted not to kick for touch from inside their own 22. Purdon got ushered into touch, thus giving the Raptors a lineout.
The Dolphins defended their line valiantly and earned a turnover. Purdon’s kick from the base of the ruck traveled a bit too far and gave Glendale space to run. The wing and fullback combined on a nice scissor move to split the midfield, forcing Santa Monica to scramble in defense. The Raptors rapid recycle caught Santa Monica offside and from the penalty tap prop Ben Tarr crashed over for a try. Peens converted the extras. 5-7 Glendale.
The Raptors received the restart and kicked to touch at midfield. From the Santa Monica lineout, the ball swung wide to right sideline where fullback Ross found a bit of space and made the gainline. The recycle found hooker Baumann in the backline. He crashed hard through a couple arm tackles and carried the ball and some defenders toward the goal. Purdon swung the ball back to the right, executed a beautiful give-and-go with center Loa Milford in very tight quarters and threw a basketball volley over a defender and into the arms of Ross. The fullback wiggled free of a tackle and touched down in the corner. Lesgourgues’ kick from the right sideline proved true. 12-7 Santa Monica.
Glendale responded with a well-executed try at the 20 minute mark. After a series of kicking exchanges, Purdon attempted to chip over the defense along the right sideline but was taken out as he gave chase. Glendale gathered the ball and swung it wide to the opposite hash where they had a numbers advantage. The Raptors wing and center weaved in and out, popping the ball to each other and causing Dolphins wing Sharpe to twist in circles. Fullback Ross dragged the Glendale wing down 5-meters from the goal but the Raptors center quickly picked up the ball from the tackle and scored in the corner. Peens missed the conversion. 12-12 tie.
Santa Monica scored next off of a driving line-out. After stemming the tide of a Glendale attack and forcing a turnover, Purdon put in a beautiful high ball from inside his own 22. The Raptors fullback failed to catch the ball in the air and it ricocheted to winger Sharpe near the right sideline. Sharpe immediately booted ahead but his kick traveled a bit too far and into the goal area. From the 22 drop out, the Dolphins attacked the midfield and eventually earned a penalty for hands-in the ruck. Lesgourgues kicked for touch and from the lineout the pack drove 10 meters and into the try zone where Baumann did the honors. Lesgourgues again hit the difficult conversion. 19-12 Santa Monica.
The Dolphins almost scored again in somewhat similar fashion as, from a turnover inside their own 22, Purdon kicked high, the Glendale fullback failed to field the kick, and Santa Monica recovered moving forward. The ball got out to Sharpe on the left wing with just Glendale center Chad London to beat. Sharpe tucked back inside and took the tackle 5-meters from pay dirt. Flanker Philip Osbourne rushed the pick-and-drive and ended up knocking-on at the base of the ruck. On the ensuing scrum, Santa Monica were penalized for twisting; letting Glendale temporarily got off the hook. From the lineout at midfield, 8-man Lydeard fielded an overthrow and did a beautiful behind the back pass to flanker Osbourne. He took it back into the attacking 22 and into the tackle. Purdon quickly recycled to lock Winter with pack partner James Lowrey on his hip. Winter got tackled and the ball came loose on the ground. The referee pinged Lowrey for playing the ball on the ground, thus relieving the pressure from Glendale again.
From the ensuing lineout, the Raptors drove deep into the Santa Monica zone. With halftime looming, the Dolphins displayed tough defense, held their line, and were rewarded with a turnover when the ball didn’t come out from a ruck. Not knowing exactly how much time remained, Santa Monica chose to kick long to touch instead of taking the shorter, more definitive angle. The ball failed to find its mark, instead landing in play to Glendale wing Cody Melphy. The ball moved across field to his opposite wing before finding center London back inside. London shed two tacklers and easily scored near the left hash. Peens missed the conversion. 19-17 Santa Monica after 40 minutes of play.
From the 2nd half restart, Santa Monica got held-up in the maul, causing a turnover. The referee then penalized the home side for collapsing, forcing a speedy retreat. After a couple tackles, scrumhalf Timoteo found Melphy in the centers. He took the ball, shook off a few arm-tackles and scored in the corner. Peens hit the conversion. 19-24 Glendale.
“That was a huge momentum swing, those two scores,” said Santa Monica Head Coach Greg Commins. “You always want to finish the 1st half strong…be the last to score…and start the 2nd half strong with the first score. We did neither. We simply failed to execute on the basics and put ourselves under tremendous pressure. We can’t afford to do those types of things when we’re playing a ‘weaker’ side, much less the league leaders.”
The Dolphins needed to answer back and had a very good opportunity on the next interplay. Attempting to run out of their own end, Glendale threw a forward pass, thus turning the ball over to Santa Monica for a scrum in the attacking zone. From the restart, the Dolphins executed a nice dummy-scissor-miss that found wing Raish inserting into the centers. Raish split the defenders but lost the ball in the cover tackle from Peens. Melphy picked up the loose ball with nothing but daylight in front of him. Wing Sharpe was able to chase Melphy down but not before he offloaded to Timoteo in support for the score. Peens converted the easy chip. 19-31 Glendale.
Showing that they still had some fight left in them, the Dolphins immediately responded. Reserve flanker Van Aarde Pretorius tapped the kick-off to lock Lowrey, who got tackled about 30 meters out. Purdon quickly recycled to Lesgourgues, who spotted a gap near the fringe. Lesgourgues shook two tacklers and then offloaded to Osbourne in support. The flanker broke a tackle and then steamrolled another Glendale player on his way to dotting down. Lesgourgues hit the conversion. 26-31 Glendale.
The Raptors scored next via a penalty kick at the 65 minute mark to stretch their lead to 8 points. Unfortunately for Santa Monica, at some point during play Lesgourgues suffered an injury (later diagnosed as a broken). Already down two flyhalfs – Harry Bennett and Brian O’Shea – Purdon shifted to the pivot and Danny Carpio came in at scrumhalf.
The Dolphins launched what was their final salvo at the Raptors. At the 75 minute mark, from a Santa Monica scrum on the left hash at the 10-meter line, Carpio passed out to Purdon. The 9-come-10 attempted to grubber through the Glendale defense but his kick glanced off of Peens feet and angled back toward the Dolphins’ goal. Center London easily collected the ball and splashed down in the corner. Peens failed to connect on the extras. 26-39 Glendale and Santa Monica’s back broken. Glendale would add another converted try and fulltime to close out the scoring.
“Full credit to Glendale as they are an excellent, dynamic side,” said Commins. “That stated, we sure didn’t do ourselves any favors. If we stick to the game plan, we tend to have more success. I think the pressure got to us; forced us to do things we shouldn’t (and wouldn’t normally) do.
“We’ll just have to regroup and come back fighting. Things don’t get any easier for us but that’s what we’re in this for.”
The Dolphins travel to San Diego this week to take on OMBAC.
- Robert Cleere
- Chris Baumann
- Epi Kalemani (Taylor Manavian – 60)
- James Lowrey
- Zac Winter (Van Aarde Pretorius – 40)
- Vince Proctor (Jabari Zuberi – 60)
- Philip Osbourne
- Philip Lydeard
- Charlie Purdon
- Mathieu Lesgourgues (Danny Carpio – 65)
- Stuart Sharpe
- Loa Milford
- Martial Chaput
- Mitch Raisch (Kelly Serfoss – 70)
- Alistair Ross
- Luis de la Torre
- Danny Hill
- Taylor Manavian
- Jabari Zuberi
- Van Aarde Pretorius
- Kelly Serfoss
- Danny Carpio
- Pat King
Tries: Purdon, Ross, Baumann, Osbourne
Conversions: Lesgourgues (2)
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