Men's DI Clubs

Written by RUGBYMag Staff    Tuesday, 25 March 2014 15:01    PDF Print Write e-mail
First Place on the Line in NorCal
Clubs - Men's DI Clubs

In what might be the most important match in Northern California this weekend, the Sacramento Lions will travel to Santa Rosa to decide first place in their league, and a first-round bye for the playoffs. The Lions enter the match currently in first, but only by one bonus point, and will have to give it their all to beat a determined Santa Rosa squad which lost only by four to the Lions when the two teams played January 11th, where the Lions escaped with a 24-20 win.

Both teams enter the match with only one official league loss, with Santa Rosa’s at the hand of the Lions, and the Lions losing their sole game by two points in an upset to Fresno.

On paper there seems to be little to separate these two teams, with Santa Rosa scoring an average of 41 points per game, and the Lions averaging 40.7 points per game. Santa Rosa, however, has only allowed an average of 15.7 points per game, while the Lions have allowed 20 points per game.

“There is no way around the reality that we have a big challenge ahead of us this weekend,” said Lions team manager Aaron Frederick.  “It’s not going to be pretty, and we will need a full team effort if we want to get this win on the road.  It is no secret that Santa Rosa is a well-coached and organized team and their results affirm this. We know they have improved a great deal since we last played them.  I believe that we can be successful, but we will need to play some our best rugby to win this game.”

The Lions have a lot of weapons offensively and are known for their aggressive style of play, which has been their Achilles heel, as the Lions have frequently this season found themselves in penalty trouble.

Fullback Peceli Rinakama is the Lions best offensive player and certainly the most exciting, and he is especially dangerous when counter attacking.  18-year-old flyhalf Pate Takiveikata has been in good form, and much will be expected of the young player this weekend.  Scrumhalf Jerry Tavai, center Villiami Finau, and wing Sione Vaka have all contributed greatly to the Lions’ success this season.

In the forwards, the Lions have some young and powerful talent with Rob Kaihea and Mathew Koroi bringing a youthful surge all season offensively and defensively from the loose forward position.  Veteran flankers Eddie Matakibau and Nemani Volavola bring experience and a level of physicality that is hard to match.  Props Pun Laiatea and Ryan Steele have been working hard all season and are powerful players.  Lions team captain, lock Joel Scott, has tallied nine tries in seven games this season.

“We have been working very hard this season to play good rugby and stay organized,” said Lions Head Coach Iferemie Tawake.  “We have the right pieces to be successful and have been trying to put them together to be consistent.  We did a good job last week of minimizing our penalty county, and we will have to be a disciplined team this weekend if we want to secure a win.”

Santa Rosa has some weapons, too.  Scrumhalf Chris Willover has been in solid form, helping feed the ball to the likes of center Mike Rodriguez, who has provided plenty of firepower, and wing Illivasi Navia, who has been a try-scoring machine and put the league on notice when he posted six tries in a single game against SFGG back in February.

Alex Coursey and Tyson Cummings have been brilliant this year as lock/flanker hybrids, and Josh Inong provides a spark as a utility forward and has international experience with the Philippines National Team.  No. 8 Robert Meeson has been playing lights out all season for Santa Rosa, and has been the anchor of a powerful and active forward pack that has taken pride in the effectiveness of their set pieces.

“A great facet of our game has keyed in on set piece play for the forwards,” said Meeson, a Santa Rosa native and former UC Davis stand-out.  “We have had to reevaluate and focus on some basic skills… Playing good fundamental rugby is a key point for our squad for this weekend and the buildup to playoffs.”

When asked about the opposition this weekend, Meeson responded, “In regards to the tough nature of the matches, I think this is always going to be the case between two strong, well established clubs.  As for preparation, we do not take our opponents lightly.  Sacramento is the top team in the league and nothing can be taken for granted in the buildup for Saturday.”

Out of all the Northern California teams who have moved up to Division 1 this season, Santa Rosa has clearly been the most successful of the group in terms of keeping up with the competition.  As a former national powerhouse in Division 2, Meeson explained that Santa Rosa is a club constantly striving for improvement and were eager to be successful at the next level.

“Once you’re making it to the sweet 16s as a second division club, moving up is paramount.  Staying down sends a message of idleness to your team; we didn’t want that at Rosa,” explained Meeson.  “We’re trying to build for something greater.”

In their first season in Division 1, the only thing that stands between Santa Rosa and first place in the league is the Sacramento Lions, who are just as hungry to secure this top spot.  The Lions have been in Division 1 since they formed as a club in 2004, and have made the post season every year since.   However, the Lions have frequently found themselves falling just short.

Tawake isn’t focusing on the pre-game hype, though. Instead, he takes the same approach for every game they play.

“Our goal is to play the best rugby we can and win games,” said Tawake.  “We want to improve as a club and improve the standard of club rugby in Sacramento overall.  Every Saturday is an opportunity to improve and make steps forward, this one is no different. Our goal stays the same.”

Written by RUGBYMag Staff    Saturday, 22 March 2014 19:49    PDF Print Write e-mail
Life Men Upend Old Blue
Clubs - Men's DI Clubs

Life, Old Blue, and Boston have been playing an unofficial series this spring. Mel Burton photo.Paced by 23 points from flyhalf AJ McGinty, Life University's men's club team defeated Old Blue of New York 39-6 Saturday.

"We really need to work on coming out of the blocks better," said Head Coach Tui Osborne on Life's slow start. "We finished well though and got the win for Zach. He's been a great fullback and a great guy for our program here at Life."

Zach would be Zach Simkins, who played his final game with the team.

Life led only 13-6 at halftime, but they defended well, led by hard-nosed lock David Gannon.  Gannon also scored the first try of the game.

McGinty added two tries and 13 points with his boot, most in the second half.

Written by Alex Goff    Saturday, 22 March 2014 17:22    PDF Print Write e-mail
Road Wins Key as Norfolk Takes 1st
Clubs - Men's DI Clubs

The Nofolk Blues are in 1st place in the Mid-Atlantic DI Club Conference after beating Maryland 38-33, and after PAC lost on the road to Schuylkill River.

Baltimore-Chesapeake also won, putting those three teams at 44, 44, and 43 standings points, respectively. Norfolk has two extra games to play and are in prime position to win the league.

Led by a big game from No. 8 Fred Wintermantel and scrumhalf Dutch Jones, and with flanker Cecil Garber also playing well, Norfolk held on in a tough road game.

"Winning on the road is the key in this league because it's really hard," said Norfolk Head Coach Chris Porter. "We work on our depth because we have guys who have to work or have family issues or are in the military. That's just a fact of playing, so we work on being able to fill in for those guys. We've done well. We've only lost two road games all season, so we were happy to come away with a win and a bonus point."

Baltimore struggled a bit with winless NOVA, also on the road.

"They punched us in the face early on and they didn't acquiesce," said Baltimore-Chesapeake Head Coach Steve Elliott. "We just needed some time to adjust to that and play as a team, which we did."

Meanwhile PAC didn't travel well. They were light and the Schuylkill River forwards set the platform all day and controlled the match.

So with the Pittsburgh v Raleigh result not in yet, the standings look like this:

Mid-Atlantic W L T Pf Pa Pd BT BL Pts
Norfolk Blues 9 2 0 376 206 170 7 1 44
Baltimore-Chesapeake 9 4 0 330 240 90 7 1 44
PAC 9 4 0 305 255 50 6 1 43
Schuylkill River 7 5 0 329 256 73 7 1 36
Pittsburgh Harlequins 6 5 0 226 205 21 4 1 29
Maryland Exiles 4 7 0 273 339 -66 6 3 25
Raleigh Vipers 4 8 0 304 288 16 5 3 24
NOVA 0 13 0 206 510 -304 0 1 1

Written by Maikalina Madali    Sunday, 16 March 2014 21:56    PDF Print Write e-mail
Lions Edge SFGG in NorCal
Clubs - Men's DI Clubs

The Sacramento Lions escaped with a win against San Francisco Golden Gate, 21-20, on Saturday at Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay to stay on top of the Northern California DI club league.

The Lions came out of the gate strong and determined, as the visiting team knew that they would have to defeat Golden Gate in order to keep first place and keep alive a chance of a first-round bye in the Northern California playoffs. Now only Santa Rosa stands in their way of clinching first place in their division. Nevertheless, the Lions had to scratch and fight for every point.

Betty Loumoli photos.
Betty Loumoli photos.

The Lions started the game with good ball movement across the field. SFGG managed to wrestle away possession at times, but the Lions kept the ball in Golden Gate's half for the majority of the first half. When the home team gained any possession, the Lions defense prevented them from making much progress past the halfway line.

Finally that pressure produced a try. Golden Gate cleared a kick out of their territory into touch, and from the lineout, the ball was swung wide to Lions fullback Peceli Rinakama, who burst upfield and made his defenders miss.  With one defender to beat, Rinakama played it safe and dished the ball to Villiami Finau, who went in under the posts. Scrumhalf and former SFGG star Jerry Tavai kicked the conversion for the 7-0 Lions lead.

The Lions continued to keep the pressure on Golden Gate and had multiple opportunities near the tryline, but were unable to score. SFGG's goalline defense was solid and held up the Lions in-goal. SFGG found their strength in this game through the scrum, as they pushed the Lions back and on multiple occasions winning Sacramento put-ins.

This began to clearly frustrate the visiting team.

The Lions attempted two penalty kicks from deep, but Tavai was not successful with these attempts. The score remained 7-0 at halftime.

"Our defense and our line up was looking a lot better," said Lions Team Manager Aaron Frederick. "We've been working on raising our overall performance and we've been able to do that because we're talking to each other more on the field. But we couldn’t really find an answer in the scrum, they were pushing us back all day."

Lions Head Coach Iferemie Tawake shared his manager's frustration.

"We were leading the game with our rucks but we had so many missed opportunities to score in the first half," said Tawake. "Golden Gate is a tough team and they've improved since the last we played them. We were fortunate to come out on top today, but we won't be able to win tough games if we can't complete these scoring opportunities when have so much possession in their half."

After halftime, Golden Gate came back more determined, and the second half became a much more spirited effort.

SFGG powered over in the corner thanks to sub wing Jeff Colata to make it 7-5. And soon thereafter, some excellent mauling from SFGG saw them put the ball over. The touchline conversion was good and SFGG led 12-7.

"We were really having a problem with our scrums, decision making, and unnecessary kicks," said Tawake.  "That's something that we need to improve on if we want to build up into the playoffs and be successful."

Five minutes later, Golden Gate nearly scored another try, but knocked the ball on just before the tryline.  The Lions regrouped and managed to get back into SFGG territory, eventually getting over the line, only to be held up again.

From the ensuing five-meter scrum, SFGG was penalized and after a quick tap flanker Nemani Volavola bulled through a group of tacklers. Tavai was good with the conversion kick and the Lions regained the lead, 14-12.

SFGG found an opportunity when they earned a penalty midfield. The Lions were not back ten and after another penalty Golden Gate took the easy points on offer to lead 15-14.

"Rugby is only 80 minutes, so you have to just go on the field and score the tries that you when you work so hard for them. We can't just play a game of catch up," said Tawake.

The Lions found themselves once again knocking on the door. Tavai swung the ball wide to Volavola, who charged into multiple tacklers and threw a high-risk pass that was almost intercepted, but instead landed in the hands of Rinakama, who raced around his defender and scored under the posts. Tavai nailed his 3rd conversion, and the Lions took the lead once more, 21-15.

With about 15 minutes left, the Lions and SFGG upped the intensity and the hits became harder and it was clear both teams wanted this win.

Golden Gate once again injected some offensive firepower with some bruising runs, which tested the Lions defense. With some quick hands out to the sideline, Colata scored again on the wing to make it 21-20.

The kick, though, was from out wide, and missed.

With time ticking down, both teams gave everything left in the tank, but the Lions prevented SFGG from making any more ground. The game ended on an SFGG knock-on in midfield.  

Lions winger Inoke Draunidalo received man of the match for his ability to help create plays throughout the game and some tenacious defense against his much bigger counterpart, wing Jeff Colata.

"He [Inoke] has really improved in the last few games. He was pivotal for us today in setting up good plays and making smart moves for a good performance," said Tawake.

The Lions maintain first place, although did not receive a bonus point in the win. The Lions will have a chance to rest and re-organize with a bye week; and then will decide who takes first place in Northern California as they face off against Santa Rosa on March 29. The Lions close out the 2014 season at home against the EPA Bulldogs on April 5, although this game will not have any bearing on league standings as EPA is not able to compete in the playoffs.

Written by Alex Goff    Sunday, 16 March 2014 16:52    PDF Print Write e-mail
Around the Country in DI Club Action
Clubs - Men's DI Clubs

Here's the latest from the DI club leagues:

Los Angeles keeps on winning in Northern California. LA defeated OMBAC 40-5 to move to 6-0, and are virtually assured of finishing first in SoCal. The only other team with a winning record is San Diego, which beat Belmont Shore to improve to 3-2.

Sacramento v SFGG this weekend. Austin Brewin photo.In Northern California, the Sacramento Lions edged SFGG 21-20 thanks to some huge gains from fullback Ratu Rinakama. The Lions improved to 6-1 and have sold possession of first place in the NorCal Group A.

Santa Rosa lost to the East Palo Alto Bulldogs, and while that has been the story for everyone playing the Bulldogs, the scoreline, 31-22, shows that Santa Rosa is right there with them.

The Bulldogs are ineligible for the playoffs, and while they might end up without losing a game on the field (they were successfully fighting a ban and missed three matches, which might end up being forfeits), they won't be a factor this year or the next.

SFGG drops to 3-5.

In Group B, the East Palo Alto Razorbacks hold onto a slim lead over Fresno, which beat San Jose. EPA's game against Diablo was called off because Diablo has been (so we've been told) suspended for the remainder of the season.

So that means the playoffs are almost set, especially if the Razorbacks get a forfeit win over Diablo. Then the Razorbacks and Lions should get a bye into the semis, with Sata Rosa and SFGG (order to be finalized over the next two weeks) to face Fresno (clinched 2nd in Group B) and San Jose (3rd in B).

In the Red River Conference in Texas, the Dallas Reds took advantage of New Orleans having a bye to get a little closer with a 16-3 defeat of the Dallas Harlequibs. The Austin Blacks beat Fort Worth 65-15 to move to 6-2-1 and stay in the hunt, barely.

Dallas and New Orleans are in a virtual tie for first and have command over the rest of the league, but there are still six weeks left in the season, so plenty of opportunities should one falter.

And in the Mid-Atlantic, it has become a three-team race.  Schuylkill River has lost twice in the last two weeks, effectively taking themselves out of contention. PAC won 40-12 over Raleigh, and Norfolk beat Baltimore-Chesapeake 23-7.

So the league is now down to PAC (9-3, 43 pts), Baltimore-Chesapeake (8-4, 39 pts), and Norfolk (8-2, 39 pts). The observant among you will see that B-C has played two more games than Norfolk, and lost both. PAC has played two more, and gone 1-1.

That's the major factor looking ahead. PAC and B-C have only two more games left, while Norfolk has four, and thus the Blues are in the best shape to win that league.


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