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Life West v. SFGG – Saturday, April 15th, 2017 

This weekend our Life West Gladiators faced San Francisco Golden Gate in the most important match of the season so far. The Pacific North D1 playoff format consists of a four week round robin; the team with the best record advances to play the Pacific Northwest champion for a spot in Nationals on May 6th. Additionally, the second place team in NorCal will play the Red River #2 in Texas on May 6th for entry to Nationals. The match was a must-win for Life, as each victory is essential for all clubs as tie-breakers may determine who advances farther in the postseason.

The week leading up to the match carried rumors of rain, but kickoff at Cal Maritime was beneath a clear sky on a warm spring day. The action started from the first moment, as the Gladiators recovered the kickoff and surged strongly towards the SFGG goaline. Their pressure reaped rewards, as flyhalf Gui Cazenave dummied and scored near the posts in the second minute, taking an early 7 – 0 lead. Cazenave had a brilliant game, showing poise and precision with every decision, as well as producing some wonderful tackles. On the restart, the tension between the two teams spilled over, with Life West scrumhalf Dev Ferris spending 10 minutes in the bin as a result. SFGG answered with a penalty kick from flyhalf Volney Rouse at 9’, then notched its first try to take the lead at 13’.

The game kept up a ferocious pace, both sides seeking space on the edges and behind the defense. Blindside flanker Siaosi Lata was especially effective, breaking tackles at will while remaining a rock in defense. It was SFGG who struck again in the 18th minute off a scrum, but the Gladiators returned the favor through Moni Tongauiha, the center bursting through and scoring, pushing the score to 14 – 17. However, it was Golden Gate with the last say through eightman and former Gladiator Akuila Uaisele.

Half time: Life West 14 – 24 SFGG

The Gladiators came out firing after the break, bouyed by a yellow card to Uaisele for kicking the ball away. They man-handled the SFGG scrum on the five-meter line, with eightman Naibuka Tawake crashing over at 50’. Our Gladiators struck again moments later through right wing Anthony Muñoz. The ball was secured off the kickoff and sent wide, with Muñoz expertly evading the clutches of Golden Gate’s fullback for an 80m try and the lead, 28 – 24. An invigorated SFGG redoubled their efforts, but were stymied by resolute Gladiator defense. Finally, in the 62nd minute, SFGG struck back with a try to regain the lead, then again in the 70th minute to go up 10 points ahead. The momentum was in the Gladiator’s favor until the final whistle, but a crucial lost lineout on the SFGG 5m line helped seal the win for Golden Gate.

Full time: Life West 28 – 38 SFGG

This weekend our Gladiators face Olympic Club at St. Mary’s in Moraga, kickoff 4pm. Details are on the Life West Rugby Facebook page, here.