The San Diego Mustangs beat Santa Monica 36-7 in inland Orange County, Calif. to take the Southern California Championship Saturday.
With a back-line that he charitably described as “decimated,” San Diego Mustangs U19 head coach Matty Sandoval put Saturday’s Southern California Youth Rugby League final against No. 1 seed Santa Monica on the backs of his forwards.
And the big pack responded. 290-pound prop Joey Kuperman ran in the first Mustang score six minutes into the match, while lock Grant McGahey added the final try with two minutes left, to lead the Mustangs over the Dolphins, 36-7, in 80+ degree heat in inland Orange County.
In between those scores, “we played big boy rugby,” said Sandoval. The San Diego Forwards held the edge on scrums, rucks and line-outs. Kuperman even attempted an ill-advised pooch-kick and run late, while prop Aaron Mitchell, hooker AJ Talman, and lock Jacob Neeley handled the ball well in the interior.
Chris Sanchez scored for Santa Monica at the 15-minute mark to make the score 14-5, using a scissors move to confuse the Mustangs’ defense. The Alex Walsh kick got the score to 14-7 before the Mustangs methodically chipped away. The teams traded yellow cards in the second half, but neither could move against their short-handed opponent.
With the Mustangs occupied until May 18 (and financially tapped-out, and worn-out afterwards), the coaches agreed before the match that, if San Diego won, Santa Monica would represent Southern Cal on May 25 in the California State Cup in San Francisco. Dolphin Head Coach Charlie Lydon sprung the news on the downcast team immediately after the match, and their spirits seemed to quicken. “My feeling,” said the Coach to the players gathered in the stadium stands, “is we won’t go as a team to San Francisco unless we all go.” The unanimous cheers seemed to indicate that the Dolphins have at least one more game in them this season.
The Mustangs fly to Elkhart, Indiana this Wednesday, May 15, to participate in the Club Championship Bracket of the Boys High School National Invitational Tournament. They are seeded No. 6, with their first match against Northern California’s Danville.
Tries: Joey Kuperman, Alec Barton, Mac Entwistle, Alex Lindsay, Grant McGahey
Pens: Alec Mills
Cons: Mills (4)
Tries: Chris Sanchez
Cons: Alex Walsh