Both the U16 Boys and the U14 Boys from the Santa Monica Rugby Club won their 2013 Southern California Youth Rugby championship matches May 11 at Cal State Fullerton.
The U14 Dolphins were up first, facing the Santa Clarita Tigers in a hard fought contest. Santa Clarita were very strong in the opening 10 minutes, pinning Santa Monica in their own half, but thunderous tackles from the Dolpins prevented a Tiger score.
Santa Monica responded, imposing their fast-paced, slick-passing offense into the game. Repeated attacks eventually overwhelmed the Santa Clarita defense and opened up a channel for Ryan Dominic to race down the wing to score the first try.
Dominic added a second try shortly afterwards with great passing from scrumhalf Cole McPherson and flyhalf Quinn Perry. Just before the break, Ryan Suggs and Avery Vignolle made a try-saving tackle to prevent Santa Clarita from scoring and Santa Monica went into half time up 12-0.
The second half was all Santa Monica as their imposing forward pack dominated the ball for long periods and their exhilarating backline of Perry, Suggs, Dylan James, and Sol Broady passed the ball with speed and style that repeatedly tore through the Santa Clarita defense.
Further tries from Broady, Dominic and Chase Capiti, a sensational power run from Andreas Gonzalez, and penalty conversions from Jack Gibb racked up an impressive 43-0 final score.
“I’m so proud of these boys,” said U14 coach James Gibb. “They really are an exceptionally talented group, and some have their eyes set on playing for the USA National team someday. After today's display there’s no reason why not!” The U14 Dolphins ended their season with an undefeated 17-0 record.
The U16 Dolphins faced an undefeated Young Aztecs team from the SCYR South conference. Santa Monica came out strong and were able to put points on the board in the first two minutes. From a lineout at the Aztecs 22-meter line, lock Brandon Gaines ran to the weak side and was nearly untouched as he scampered across the tryline for five quick points.
The Aztecs battled back, but tactical kicking by the Dolphins saw the team from San Diego kept in their own end. A penalty awarded to Santa Monica was within range so scrumhalf Kieran Kerwin successfully kicked for posts to put the Dolphins up 8-0.
The teams went back and forth with offensive bursts and defensive surges until finally an errant pass by the Aztecs was picked up off the ground by Santa Monica fullback Olan Moon-White who sprinted gazelle-like 60 meters to the Aztec try-line. The Dolphins were set to go into halftime with a 13-0 lead but the Aztecs were not done. A good kick and excellent pressure forced a Santa Monica error near their own goal line and the San Diego team capitalized with a converted try to make it 13 -7 at the break.
The second half saw a reinvigorated Young Aztecs. The Dolphin defense did their best to repel the attacks but after fifteen minutes of scoreless play, the Aztecs broke through for a score and pulled to within a point, 13-12.
Two minutes later, a lack of discipline by the Dolphins gave the Aztecs an opportunity for their first lead of the match. Their kicker took the penalty perfectly, turning over the scoreboard at 15-13 to the Aztecs.
The Dolphins repeatedly tried to break through the San Diego line but without major gains in territory. With two minutes to go, it did not look promising for the young men from Santa Monica. They got only as close as 40 meters from the Aztec goal line, but an Aztec penalty gave them the option to kick from there for a much-needed three points.
SMRC captain Cormac Heaney conferred with Kerwin and elected to go for the posts. The kicking tee was brought in and the catcalls from the Young Aztec supporters in the stands were loud and incessant as Kerwin lined up the kick. Unfazed, he booted the ball on a low trajectory and the crowd was silenced for what seemed like an eternity until the uprights were finally slotted and the referee flags were raised to signal the kick was good. 16-15 to Santa Monica.
The Aztecs took the ensuing kickoff, put some good phases together and with time running out, made a desperate attempt at a drop-goal. Moon-White grounded the unsuccessful kick in-goal and the referee blew the final whistle.
"We are absolutely delighted with this win," said Dolphin U16 Coach Conor Shalloe. "The Aztec players are the real deal and the score in this match truly reflects what a battle it was. What a great day for Santa Monica and a great day for youth rugby!"
The U16 Dolphins travel to Treasure Island (San Francisco) on May 25th to represent SCYR in the State Cup. They will compete against the NCYRA champions from Granite Bay (Sacramento).
In the day's final match at CSUF, the Santa Monica U18 Boys were defeated by the San Diego Mustangs by a score of 36-7. The U18 Dolphins will also make the trip to Treasure Island as the Mustangs were unable to accept the State Cup invitation.