Despite a shock at the beginning of the game, Seattle Old Puget Sound Beach defeated SFGG to win the Men’s Pacific Coast 7s Championships in Seattle.
Both teams rolled through pool play in a competition that seemed destined to have a Seattle v. San Francisco finish.
OPSB won their three pool matches by a combined 143-0. This included a somewhat shocking 43-0 defeat of a very solid Olympic Club team. SFGG was almost as perfect, winning their pool matches 125-17.
In the semis, SFGG almost saw their dream of a spot at the National Championships fritter away. Olympic Club put in a sterling performance, led by a bruised by unbowed Colin Hawley and with Rikus Pretorius also playing well, Olympic Club led 14-10 with time winding down. But smart ball movement put Andrea Bola Asuega in space and the experienced back knew what to do. His try won the game 15-14 for SFGG.
Things were very, very different for OPSB, as they dismantled the Sacramento Lions 64-7. Puget Sound led 40-0 at halftime, as Shane Moore gleefully exploited space and Miles Craigwell, Emosi Vucago and Ben Gollings all got on the scoresheet.
It was a case of a game too far for Sacramento.
In the final, the game started with a shout. Gollings kicked off and immediately fell to the ground, clutching his leg and obviously in pain. The all-time-leading scorer on the IRB World Series circuit was done, as he was carried off.
Young Simione Ratakalou was thrown onto the field to step in at flyhalf, and OPSB kept their heads up and kept playing. Still, it was SFGG that led early, as the ball was spun to Tim Maupin who zipped in for a try. But the Seattle club rebounded. Vucago and then Craigwell scored tries to make it 14-5 by halftime.
Vucago’s try came after SFGG squandered an excellent scoring opportunity, mostly because they were a man down and too worried about giving up a try to score one – therefore, naturally, they gave up a try.
In the second half, OPSB went a man down when Kellen Gordon was sin-binned for a ruck infraction. While the Beach players were watching Gordon leave the field, Mose Timoteo tapped and sent the ball to Danny Barrett, who crashed over under the posts. That made it 14-12 OPSB, and then Maupin scored his second to put SFGG up 17-14.
But OPSB came right back. Smart play from Ratakalou started a break into the SFGG half, and then sub wing Tim Stanfill finished it off. Mike Palefau scored after that to seal it 28-17.
“Seeing Ben go down like that it was a shock,” said Craigwell. “But after a while we settled down and realized we just needed to play our pattern. We have really good depth and we didn’t let it get us down. And we didn’t let falling behind get us down.”
SFGG and Seattle OPSB will both go to Nationals in Pittsburgh, but OPSB will be without Gollings and questions remain on the health of some SFGG players, also.
Note: it was good to see longtime Pacific Coast all-star coach John Tyler at the tournament. Tyler just recently suffered a stroke, but was on the sidelines and enthusiastically taking in the action (and offering advice).
Final: Old Puget Sound Beach 28-17 San Francisco Golden Gate
Semi: SFGG 15-14 Olympic
Semi: Old Puget Sound Beach 64-7 Sacramento
SFGG 56-0 Valley
SFGG 43-12 Sacramento
SFGG 26-5 Eastside
Old Puget Sound Beach 50-0 EPA Bulldogs
Old Puget Sound Beach 50-0 Chuckanut
Old Puget Sound Beach 43-0 Olympic
Sacramento Lions 31-21 Eastside
Sacramento 38-5 Valley
Olympic 33-0 Chuckanut Bay
Olympic 28-0 EPA Bulldogs
Eastside 26-12 Valley
Chuckanut Bay 31-21 EPA Bulldogs