The Sacramento Lions pulled elation out of despair Saturday, as they managed to drag out a playoff place despite losing a key match the week before.
The Lions were 1st or 2nd in the Northern California league almost the entire season, but faltered last week against San Mateo in a key match that dropped them from 2nd to 5th in a league that only sends three teams to the Competitive Region #1 playoffs.
The Lions needed to win in their match against the Sacramento Capitals, and also hope that Golden Gate would love to the EPA Bulldogs and that Olympic Club and San Mateo would not tie.
All of those things happened, as the Lions won 50-30 over their crosstown rivals to claim a playoff spot they had hoped to clinch the week before.
The game was a tactical battle early as both teams were more concerned with giving up points that scoring them, using their kicking game to clear from their 22.
The Capitals were able to score the first points on an early penalty kick. Brett Willis retaliated for the Lions on the outside with a try and conversion kick. The Lions at this point appeared to be dominating the scrums and Epeli Uluiviti found a hole outside to pick up the second try of the game.
As the intensity picked up both forward packs challenged the ball and the Capitals went on attack to draw the Lions in before hitting a quick ball outside to Sione Latu for a try on his breakaway. The score only seemed to spark the Sacramento Lions, who launched another attack from a five-meter scrum that ended with Edward Matakibau touching down.
Penisimani Kaihau added to this with another try to make it 33-10.
Going into the second half the Capitals appeared to have fresher legs as they scored an early try and penalty kick. On a scrum in their 22 the Capitals cleared the ball to chase were they picked the ball on the Lions 22-meter before scoring on an uncontested chip. The Capitals went on to convert the kick and score another try to bring the game to 38-30.
Now feeling they were on the ropes, the Lions made several key substitutions in both the forwards and the backline, and that made a huge difference.
Seremaia Tavai was the chief beneficiary, scoring two tries and adding a conversion to put the game away 50-30.
his game secured the Lions the #3 NCRFU spot along with the #4 PCRFU. On Saturday April 28th the Lions will travel to play Belmont Shore.