By Evan Lappen (Rugby Today) | 02.02.16
With four games on the slate, four teams have remained undefeated through four weeks of play in the DI NorCal. Divisional frontrunners, the Life West Gladiators and the Sacramento Lions, each brought their records to 3-0 with wins against San Francisco-Golden Gate and the San Jose Seahawks, respectively. Additionally, Santa Rosa earned its second straight victory with a win over Fresno, 33-17. As for the EPA Razorbacks at the Sacramento Blackhawks match, various issues caused the game not to be played and the result will be decided by the Northern California Rugby Football Union Competition Committee.
Life West Gladiators at San Francisco-Golden Gate
The last loss Life West suffered was against Old Blue in the 2014 Division III National Championship. Since then, the Gladiators have waged war against club rugby cleaving their way to a 2015 Division II National Championship and for 2016, has its sights set on DI.
In the first three games of the season, Life West has picked up where it left off and now is 3-0 with a point differential of 210 points. Head coach Adriaan Ferris attributes his squad’s early season success to “hard work and players having clarity of what we (coaches) expect from the players.”
With a total of 14 tries on the day, four players had multiple tries with #8 Junior Helu earning the hat trick. Calvin Nell (2), Jay Finau (2), Tyler Harrison (2), Suli Holani, Anthony Munoz, Taniela Vakauta, Devereaux Ferris, and Nemia Qoro each scored in the victory. In addition to his try, Ferris connected on seven conversions to bring his total to 19 points for the game.
Coach Ferris said, “the key to the game was the forwards laying the platform to use the ball wide. Most of the tries were scored by the outside backs, so having strong penetration and quick ball from the breakdown was key.”
Ferris’ men of the match were lock John Austin Colvill and halfback Devereaux Ferris. “Colvill’s accuracy and hard work at the breakdown (to clean out) helped lay the platform for the clean and quick ball… Ferris’ strength, speed and accuracy of his passing / distribution from rucks – putting the ball in space in front of the forwards, helped our penetration on the fringe. He showed outstanding support play both on attack and defense.”
San Jose Seahawks at the Sacramento Lions
Joining Life West at the top of its division, the Sacramento Lions scratched out their third consecutive victory with a 29-5 win over the San Jose Seahawks. Hosting San Jose, the Lions endured a tough first half to tie the game at 5-5, before letting loose in the second half to pull away late.
Strong defenses highlighted both sides in the first half. Sacramento’s fullback Sekove Rokobou, a new recruit from Fuji, scored the first of his three tries in the 10th minute and inside center Kyle Ozdinski responded for the Seahawks to tie the game at 5-5 at the half.
The floodgates opened for the Lions in the 50th minute with a try by Sitiveni Vatuvoka. Rokobou’s two second half tries sandwiched a try by Brett Henderson, a transfer from Los Angeles, to culminate a 24-point second half for Sacramento. Scrumhalf Peni Baleisuva was two for five on conversions for the Lions.
“The Lions gave it away it in the first half, but came back strong in the second half and scored tries to win,” Sacramento head coach Isereimi Tawake said. “The key to the game was to keep it in hand, keep continuity, and let the ball flow.”
Santa Rosa at Fresno
In its second match of the season, Santa Rosa stayed on the winning path picking up its second victory over Fresno, 33-17. Santa Rosa jumped up to a 21-point lead with tries Illvasi Navia, Tyson Cummings, and Craig Manno and conversions by Justin Stine. Penisoni Tuifua scored Fresno’s first points at the end of the first half.
Looking to seize the momentum, Fresno’s JP Salvador scored a try in the 45th minute to cut the lead to 21-12, but Santa Rosa extended the lead to 28-12 on a try by Ratu Tamaibeka. In the last ten minutes, Manno hammered the final nail coffin in the coffin for Santa Rosa with a try before Fresno’s Ivan Mendoza could score on the last play of the game.
Santa Rosa’s head coach Rick Humm was thankful his team finished the game with the victory. “The boys followed the gameplan and executed it pretty well and got up 21-0. They started to fall off the plan and Fresno put in some hard yards pull themselves back into the game. By and large, Santa Rosa, in attack, managed to get after and fracture their backline.”
“Fresno stayed competitive,” Fresno head coach Frik Fourie said. “They stuck with the gameplan. One thing that got to us was the lineouts. We weren’t as solid in the lineouts as we wanted to be. We put ourselves under pressure, but their boys played a better game, very competitive, and stuck to their guns.”