The Santa Monica U18 boys rugby team defeated ICEF 50-12 Saturday in the Buddha Cup, an annual clash between the two teams.
There are strong ties between ICEF and Santa Monica Rugby Club; Mike Piscal (aka Buddha) founded and ran ICEF Public Schools, and ICEF rugby has thrived under the leadership of Stu Krohn and Dave Hughes, both former Santa Monica men's team players.
In the game named for Piscal, Santa Monica opened with two quick tries by maintaining ball possession and gaining quick ball from the breakdown. ICEF were unable to meet the controlled aggression and power of the composed Santa Monica forward pack when their scrum packed low and pushed ICEF back which disrupted their momentum.
Santa Monica took advantage of a wealth of possession and a well-functioning lineout to exploit space out wide.
Down 38-0 going into the second half, ICEF forwards showed grit and determination and a series of penalties against Santa Monica enabled ICEF to regain possession and hold the ball better in tight. ICEF scored two tries and one conversion by splitting open Santa Monica's defense.
It was an impressive rebound in the second half, but not enough to reel in Santa Monica.
Santa Monica's scores came from mobile loosehead prop Benny Gonda (3 tries), spritely flanker Tom Heaney (2 tries) whose pace at the breakdown was first-rate, inside center Joseph Epko, who constantly broke open ICEF's defense, No. 8 Conor Lydon, and Ian Jost. Flyhalf Alex Walsh kicked five conversions.
Mention should go to Conor Lydon whose tackling and defensive work were outstanding, center Parker Lynch, who combined well with his center partner Joseph Expo, Willy Hock who was at the forefront on every attacking play, Benny Gonda who bulldozed through the ICEF defense and showed great support play in getting his hat trick. Scrumhalf Evan Clark constantly put the ICEF on the back foot with clever box kicks and Walsh controlled the backline.