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Life West v. Olympic Club – Saturday, April 22nd, 2017

Watch the full match here, and find photos from the match by Bill Thomas here.

With both Life West and Olympic Club tied on points for second place in this Pacific North Top 4 playoff, the two teams met at St. Mary’s College in what promised to be an exciting and high-energy match. Both teams took the first ten minutes to find their footing, with a handful of turnovers and mistakes on both sides of the ball. But after five minutes, the Gladiators coalesced their shape through a multi-phase attack in the Olympic Club half, with a strong carry from prop Siliveinusi Tomasi finishing the job. In the 10th minute, however, the Olympic flyhalf crossed the whitewash for a 5 – 5 score. The Gladiators continued their pressure, but were tripped up through simple mistakes, with an enterprising break at 13’ through a creative offload from left wing Calvin Nell squandered by a forward pass. With both teams struggling to make headway, it was Olympic who got points in the 20th minute with a penalty in front of the posts.

Life West’s next score came at 24’ from a lineout steal in the Olympic 22; the ball was sent wide from the ensuing ruck, and fullback Tyler Harrison stepped inside his defender and scored despite the efforts of the defense to hold him up. The conversion was again unsuccessful, and Life held a slim 10 – 8 lead. Olympic again responded with a strong drive into the Life half, and scored off a maul for a tenuous 3 point lead in the 32nd minute. Off the kickoff, Olympic sent the ball into touch, but a quick throw in from Nell to Harrison saw dividends, as the fullback streaked 50m upfield through the Olympic defense, beating four defenders before being brought down 1m from the line. A simple pick from the ruck saw scrum half Devereaux Ferris dive over for the score. Flyhalf Gui Cazenave slotted the easy conversion for a 17 – 13 lead, with six minutes remaining in the half. Eager for another try before the half, the Gladiators returned a kick into the Olympic half, then burst through the line through right wing Leki Latu, who sent a great inside ball to Ferris, who in turn gave it to fullback Harrison for his second and the try bonus point.

Half time: Life West 22 – 13 Olympic Club

The Gladiators started off the second period with a bang, buoyed by front row replacements Jay Finau and Fancy Namulauulu, and eightman Maka Tameilau. They made an immediate impact, shoring up the Life West scrum and creating opportunities in the loose. A deft pass from Namulauulu to Finau shattered the Olympic defense, with fullback Harrison picking the offload for his hat trick. The try was converted for a 27 – 13 lead by scrum half Ferris at 45’, who took over kicking duties for the rest of the match. The Gladiator momentum was unrelenting, breaking out from a 5m scrum in their own half and exploiting the space at the fringes of the Olympic defense. Silky offloads kept the drive alive deep into the Olympic 22, with eightman Tameilau picking from the ruck to score for the Gladiators’ fifth try at 50’, 34 – 13. Earning a penalty off the restart, Life took the lineout and sent the ball to centre Pite Lopeti, who splintered the Olympic defense for a 30m break. Quick ball and another penalty against Olympic for offsides led to hooker Finau crashing over 15m from touch. Although Ferris missed the conversion, the Gladiators still held a commanding 39 – 13 lead.

However, Olympic were not out of the fight, and took a quick tap within the Gladiator 22 for a try in the 60th minute. Another maul five minutes later lead to several phases before their flyhalf slipped a tackle and crossed the line for Olympic’s fourth try and a 39 – 23 score. Reasserting dominance, the Gladiators recovered the ensuing kickoff, and Ferris sent a short pass to runaway train Tameilau, who burst through the Olympic defense with ease, forcing Olympic to concede a penalty for offsides on the retreat. Opting for a 5m scrum, the ball was sent to centre Lopeti, who made it over the line but was ruled held up. Olympic pushed back into the Life West half, but knocked it on. Off the scrum at 74’, flanker and captain Zach Bonte burst away for a 60m run, getting pulled down only 5m from the line. Lopeti picked from the base for his second try, putting the Gladiators further ahead at 46 – 23. Again off the kickoff, the Gladiators asserted their dominance, with forwards making meters at will, and the backs exploiting holes in the defense. Reserve flanker Tookey Stevenson ran in a 40m try with his first touch from a great pass by outside centre Moni Tongauiha for the final Gladiator try of the day, breaking the half-century mark over their opponents. Olympic showed some resolve in the dying minutes, scoring a try after several phases on the Gladiator line.

Full time: Life West 53 – 28 Olympic Club

The victory, and especially the bonus try point, goes a long way for the Gladiators in their quest to Nationals. With their dismantling of Olympic Club, Life West is 2-1 in the playoff round robin and has cliched the Pacific North wild card. They will face the #2 seed from the Red River in Texas on May 6th. “We started off slowly in the first half, but the boys kind of came around in the second half,” said Life West coach Adriaan Ferris. “We settled ourselves down and were able to work them around the field which was pretty effective for us, especially in the wide channel. I think our forwards laid the foundation. We started to get some go-forward in the middle part of the first half, which allowed our backline to attack wide.”

Next weekend our Gladiators face EPA away, and our Gladiatrix face SFGG on Treasure Island. Details will be posted when available.