Old Puget Sound pulled off a big upset in stylish fashion, defeating defending Super League champs SFGG 61-35 at SFGG’s home ground.
(Several earlier reports had the score at 60-36, but that was apparently a mistake from the official scorer.)
OPSB produced a wild and free-flowing second half to put the game away, showcasing some outstanding running from a team that boasted Fiji 7s star Ratu Emosi Vucago, USA 7s star Mike Palefau, and try-scoring speedster Fili Botitu.
The teams traded penalty goals early, with flyhalf Russell Armstrong getting one for Beach and flyhalf Volney Rouse doing the same for Golden Gate.
Botitu scampered in for his first try which, with Armstrong’s conversion, made it 10-3.
SFGG hit back with a John Thomas try, unconverted. But OPSB got a momentum-changing play. After a goal line stand, flanker Kellen Gordon intercepted a pass and rambled all the way for a try. 17-8 OPSB. Then Palefau made his presence felt in his first OPSB game, scoring to make it 22-8.
Shaken, SFGG had more to endure. A red card for a dump or tip tackle by fullback Jone Naqica (corrected from previous article) put SFGG down a man for the second half, but still the Bay Area club replied with another try from Thomas.
Mose Timoteo then added a try of his own, and with both of those converted by Rouse, the game was tied 22-22.
But the next twenty minutes belonged to OPSB, notching four tries in a torrid span. Second row Aaron Fry, Vucago, Gordon again, and then sub (and another USA 7s player) Miles Craigwell all scored.
Armstrong converted three.
SFGG prop Paula Fukafuka and flanker Tom Rooke touched down for SFGG but by then they were playing too much catchup.
OPSB ended the scoring to make it 61-35.
San Francisco’s Paul Keeler was philosophical after the game “We made some mistakes early, we gave up some soft tries and there was the game really. Ultimately we try to turn our defense into attack and it is hard to do that against a team that is good at disrupting breaks. You learn more from your defeats than your wins…we got away with some sloppy play recently and still won and we have learned the hard lesson that we are beatable”.
OPSB head coach Evan Haigh had said his team was looking for a Super League title, and this result certainly makes everyone sit up and take notice.
“One of the biggest things we wanted to improve on from last week was the ability to execute when we made breaks and that was the big piece that allowed us to score points,” he said.
Haigh said the defenses on both sides weren’t bad, but there was a lot of turnover ball.
“Big for us today among others were the front row who laid a good platform that enabled us to have go-forward ball.”
The two teams will meet again in the last week of the regular season in what promises to be another intriguing encounter, this time in Seattle.
SFGG, by virtue of getting a bonus point for four tries, stays in firt place at 2-1, while OPSB is right behind them at 2-0.