|Utah's Mike Palefau. Dobson Images|
|Peter Tiberio going to ground. Dobson Images|
|JP Eloff wrangling in an SFGG ballcarrier|
Pool A, better known as the Pool of Death, was highly competitive. Glendale, a well-respected team with a lot of talent and some friendly scalps in their pouch from this summer, went 0-3. And if it weren’t for a forfeit, the pool would have been decided by a three-way tie.
Chicago scored the first big win of the day when they sacked SFGG 26-12. The Lions’ trio of college all stars proved too much. Rocco Mauer, who graduated from Bowling Green in the spring, scored Chicago’s first two tries and Arizona’s Peter Tiberio the last two. JP Eloff of Davenport was integral in the effort at flyhalf.
In the second round of games, Utah, who had handled Glendale easily earlier, faced SFGG in a rematch of the Pacific Coast championships. The hosts won a thrilling contest when Mose Timoteo slammed down the game-winner at the death. But, as it turned out, SFGG would forfeit.
An SFGG player who started the game and subbed out came back on the pitch in the final moments. He did not check in with the fourth official, which is protocol, and the head referee permitted the substitution. There was no blood, so the move was illegal, as pointed out after the match, resulting in a 5-0 win for Utah.
Had the original score held true, SFGG would have still had something to play for in the final round of games. If their loss held, Utah would have needed a win over the Chicago Lions. Despite having already advanced, the Warriors bagged that win, utilizing their superior physicality.
“Chicago’s one of the best teams in the country about staying on their feet in contact. We knew how good they were on their feet,” said Utah player/coach Jason Pye. “We do have a trademark in being physical, and we knew we had to bring that, and I’m glad the guys did bring that to the game.”
If SFGG hadn’t forfeited, they would have needed a big win over Glendale to overcome Utah via point differentia. They got a big win, 29-7, but it wouldn’t have been big enough. Of course, there’s nothing saying SFGG wouldn’t have put the necessary 16 more points on Glendale if it would have meant advancement.
In the end, SFGG did forfeit, and Utah did beat Chicago, taking the Pool of Death. Pye says that more than validation, the win over Chicago gave them confidence.
“It went a long way for us on morale…The guys just hadn’t played well yet all tournament, and we just needed to play well. I was just happy that the boys came out and started from minute one and played a full game of rugby.”
For winning the pool, Utah is rewarded with a quarterfinal match against Marist. Chicago draws Belmont Shore.
Utah 28-5 Glendale
Lions 26-12 SFGG
Utah 5-0 SFGG fft. (original score was SFGG 22-19)
Lions 31-7 Glendale
Utah 12-5 Lions
SFGG 29-7 Glendale