The DI club competition on the West Coast might actually find some closure this weekend as the Southern California and Pacific teams face off.
With the top team in Pacific Coast, SFGG, having pulled out, the Northern California/Pacific Coast group of teams was put into something of a confusion. The remaining teams bumped up a seed, but because of a pre-season agreement between Old Puget Sound Beach and the Northern California leagues, OPSB, clearly the second-best team in the Pacific Coast behind SFGG, could not take the #1 seed.
That honor instead fell to the Sacramento Lions, who had lost to OPSB 61-0. This didn’t sit well with the teams from Southern California, as it now became clear that the #3 seed, OMBAC, would get a far tougher game on the road in Seattle than would the #4 team, San Diego Old Aztecs.
So the SCRFU teams met and agreed to award the #3 seed to the Old Aztecs and #4 to OMBAC. Leagues and unions are free to award their seeds as they see fit, and it seems that both Pacific Coast and Southern California did just that.
The result? These matchups:
East Palo Alto Razorbacks at Belmont Shore. EPA finished 3-6, but lost by only one point to the EPA Bulldogs. They are young, but athletic. Belmont Shore, however, is full of talent and, having won the DI title last year, championship experience. They are very tough at the breakdown, have skill and savvy out wide, and can kick goals. This should be a comfortable home win for Belmont Shore.
Shore will be looking to their outstanding back row, which includes Jack Tracy, Billie Elray and Pater Dahl. Ian Carpenter captains the team from lock, and Jake Grubbs helps anchor a tough front row. Kameron Moeller is an excellent goalkicker, and he has a backline of Sinapati Uiagelelei, James Muse, Peter Sio, Mike Te’o and Jeff Round to work with.
Edge: Belmont Shore
EPA Bulldogs at Santa Monica. Santa Monica is a powerful outfit that beat Belmont Shore and pushed them close in their other game this year. While the Bulldogs are not particularly flexible – they play a game based on power almost exclusively – Santa Monica can win up front, can move the ball to the speedsters, and have a solid kicking game.
Edge: Santa Monica
OMBAC at Sacramento Lions. OMBAC wanted to play Sacramento, and they have their wish. So now it’s up to the San Diego team to make that choice work for them. They can, with a savvy group of forwards and a young and intelligent halfback combo of Jamie Purcell and Zach Pangelinan. Damien Fatongia is a key leader in the midfield, while Joe Fontana captains the squad ably from openside flanker.
But Sacramento is not a pushover. They have some powerful forwards, and Coach Ifereimi Tawake says he is most pleased with how the pack, led by Josh Vavao, Joel Scott, and Sione Green, have progressed.
Their backline is fast and athletic, with fullback Tevita Pale especially dangerous.
So this is not a sure thing for OMBAC, despite the fact the San Diego squad finished 3rd in a very tough league, and Sacramento backed into 1st in a less-tough league. At home, the Lions, who got some visiting coaching help from former Fijian test prop Epeli Naituivau, have all sorts of weapons.
Edge: Pick ‘Em
San Diego Old Aztecs at OPSB. The Old Aztecs are a good side that perhaps has struggled to finish well. OPSB is a supremely talented team which may have, somewhat, underperformed so far this spring. This week Puget Sound, playing a must-win game in Seattle, should handle the Old Aztecs. They have tremendous pace in the backs, and a bulky, hard-working forward pack. Matt Trouville leads an OPSB team that, if they win any sort of ball at all, will be able to unleash the likes of Fili Botitu, Isi Daveta, Mike Palefau, Emosi Vucago, and Nic Hawkins.