It’s been said before that some of the best matches happen when rivals collide. Whether it’s because of the team’s battle history, unfinished business or straight up hatred; players and coaches always seem to want to take it up a notch or ten. At the Pacific Coast Sevens Tournament in Salt Lake City, San Francisco Golden Gate (SFGG) outlasted Old Puget Sound Beach (OPSB) 22-21 in their semifinal match.
SFGG got off to a swift start by taking advantage of their quick hands through the back line out wide. On a particular possession, SFGG made a switch out wide to cut it back in and before OPSB could recover, it was 12-0. OPSB, then, showed why they were one of the tournament favorites when Alipate Tuilevuka took the ball off the kickoff and raced down the sideline. In a matter of seconds, Tuilevuka dished the ball off to Isimela Daveta, who used his stutter step yet again, and was off to the races to make 12-7 at halftime.
“We know this team can hurt you in so many different ways with the players they,” SFGG captain Mose Timoteo said. “One mistake and they take momentum from you, we had to stay focused.”
The second half started much like the first, with a quick try by SFGG took the ball off the ruck from a penalty and squeezed past OPSB’s defense for a 10-point lead, 17-7. But, like any great rivalry, it’s not over until the whistle sounds. Over the next few minutes, both teams struggled to get anything going, and then OPSB got the ball out wide to back Pat Blair broke a tackle and outran two SFGG defenders to get his team with striking distance at 17-14 and provide a little emotional boost for his team.
Shocked, but not shaken, SFGG did what any team strives to do in their position, answer right back. Off a ruck, SFGG took advantage of a skinny weak side OPSB defense to win a one on one battle to go up 22-14 with less than a minute and half remaining. Still, OPSB had a little left in the tank and used it to set up Pat Blair, for his second try, off a switch from Daveta on the outside to outpace three defenders and get players and spectators back in the game for OPSB.
However, even with the kick going right down the middle of the posts, the whistle was heard throughout the stadium and sent a deflating wave over the OPSB sideline. Players were in disbelief and coaches were shaking their heads. The OPSB had found themselves in unfamiliar territory, at least over a four tournament period, and didn’t liking it at all.
“To play like we did against a solid opponent like Beach is a positive boost to our team,” Timoteo said. “It was a gutsy win.”