By Dominic Riebli
The Santa Monica Rugby Club Dolphins fell to Australian touring Petersham Rugby Union Football Club side at Corsair Stadium on Friday night by a final score of 35-22. The Shammies successfully wiped away an early 17-5 Santa Monica lead by running in three tries in the final 20 minutes of play.
The rugby game, played on a brisk, drizzly night, started off well for the host Dolphins as they took the opening kickoff and immediately navigated into the attacking zone with a Nick Regas break through the wide channel. After breaking the gain line through the left side, the winger offloaded to center Cris Erdtsieck at the Petersham 22. As the opposing fullback shuttled Erdtsieck into touch, the Dolphin winger attempted a pass to flanker Taylor Manavian. Manavian failed to collect the difficult pass and knocked-on.
Petersham cleared the ensuing scrum, but the Dolphins went right back onto attack. Moving left to right, scrumhalf Danny Carpio marshaled the troops further into the red zone. After Petersham received a penalty for offside on their 5-meter, 8-man Bart Seemen muscled his way over the opening try. Center Kelly Serfoss converted the extras and the home side took a 7-0 lead.
“For only having had one training session (the Dolphins preseason began on Monday), I liked what I saw from the first-side players,” said Coach Rob Kremer. “Regas had a nice break. We showed some enterprise, but didn’t finish. We expect to have some rust, given that we haven’t played together in 5 months, and we definitely don’t expect Taylor to make every catch…heck we don’t even expect him to make any catch!…but we recovered nicely and got a try.”
On the ensuing kickoff, Santa Monica went back on the attack as, after a few sets of knock-ons, Nasser made a half-break down the right sideline to get his team into Petersham territory. Flyhalf Spenser May did a fantastic job of controlling his backline, utilizing loops, crash balls, and miss-passes to Serfoss and Erdtsieck. After penetrating the Shammies 22-meter zone and getting slow ball, scrumhalf Carpio had his forward pack drive the ball in tight. The forwards received a reward for their efforts when lock Zac Winter crashed over for the team’s second try. Serfoss failed to convert the extras, eventually finishing just 1-of-4 on the night, but the Dolphins had an early 12-0 lead.
Said Kremer, “The second try resembled the first in many ways: we made a half-break, got into the attacking zone, and then finished through the forwards. Unfortunately, Kelly had an off-night with the boot and that came back to hurt us in the end. Petersham only missed one of their extra points, whereas we missed 3.”
With tongue firmly in cheek, Kremer continued, “In this sense, I really pin this loss on Brian O’Shea and Padraig Cremin (the Dolphins’ regular goal kickers) for not playing in tonight’s game. It’s like the saying goes, ‘If you’re lucky enough to be Irish, then you’re lucky enough.’ Well, we didn’t have any Irishmen on the field tonight and it showed.”
Petersham answered back in the second quarter of the match when they took a clearance kick from May that failed to make touch and launched a counter attack. The fullback linked-up with his inside center on the 50 meter line at the midfield and he did the rest, brushing off a couple of tacklers and dotting down near the corner. Santa Monica closed out the scoring for the half when winger Regas, showing his characteristic sidestep, weaved through the midfield and carried a defender into the try zone. Serfoss’ missed conversion left the score at 17-5.
The second half represented something of a different story for the Dolphins as substitutions and player trades led to a noticeable lack of continuity.
“Because this was a friendly, we wanted everyone who was keen to get some time. I had a roster of 32 guys to balance. I find it difficult enough to manage substitutions when I only have 7-8 guys to choose from, more so when I don’t know all the names of the players who want in,” said Kremer. “We alleviated some of the demand for playing time by having some Santa Monica guys play for Petersham. They had some personnel shortages due to injury so we supplemented their ranks; Rob Knox actually started at tighthead for them. At halftime, we traded Taylor Manavian and Zac Winter for a Shammies tour shirt; we definitely got the better end of that one.”
The lone Dolphins try of the second-half came on a nifty chip-and-chase by Kelly Serfoss. From a Santa Monica lineout inside their 22, Referee Anthony Yeo penalized the visitors for early lifting. Reserve scrumhalf Nick O’Sullivan took the quick-tap and passed out to Regas (now playing flyhalf). Regas fed to Serfoss in space and with an overlap advantage. Serfoss attacked the line, put ball to foot, got a favorable hop, and easily dotted-down.
“The interesting aspect of that try was that Kelly had several options for how to score – he could’ve stepped his defender, beat him to the outside, or simply passed to his support player. The chip certainly added a degree of difficulty to score. What he lacked in tactical simplicity and effectiveness, Kelly made up for execution.”
Serfoss’ try aside, the remainder of the game consisted of one-way traffic for the Shammies, as they ran in four tries and finished the game 35-22 winners.
The post-match function delivered much goodwill, singing, and drinking. Petersham President Adam “Dunny” Dunn presented Santa Monica General Manager Dominic Riebli with a plaque, tour jersey, and Shammies tie and gave a brief history of Australia’s oldest touring Club. In exchange, Riebli presented Petersham with a game poster.
“Just like that Manavian/Winter for a shirt trade, I think we came out on top on this one,” said Riebli. “In all seriousness, Petersham humbles us with their generosity and organization and reminds me/us how far we still have to go as a Club. We feel honored that they chose to play us on their stop in L.A.”
Having started in San Francisco, stopping in Santa Barbara and then coming to Santa Monica, Petersham finishes their tour with a stop in Las Vegas. The Dolphins wish the Shammies the best for the rest of their tour and thank them for the match.