In a game where bragging rights was the only prize, two champion teams — Glendale Rugby Football Club and San Francisco Golden Gate — put all they had on the line for 80 minutes, to have the honor of claiming the “Champion of Champions” title. In the end, SFGG walked away the victors — by four points.
The 500-plus crowd braved the cold and wet conditions on Saturday to be treated to the finest rugby that the U.S. Men’s DI league and the U.S. Rugby Super League has on offer.
Glendale’s captain and number 8, Nic Johnson, got the scoring underway in the second minute of the game by catching the San Francisco Golden Gate defenders off guard and powering his way over the try line for the first five points on the scoreboard. Despite a nagging lower back injury, which ultimately caused him to retire from the match in the second half, full back James Paterson slotted the ball between the posts for the try conversion.
Ten minutes into the game, a penalty against Glendale allowed Golden Gate the opportunity to get their first points with a penalty conversion by SFGG fly half Volney Rouse. Two minutes later, SFGG added to that score when scrum half Mose Timoteo crossed the line for a try, which Rouse was successful in converting.
SFGG prop Paula Fukofuka smashed through the Glendale defense in the 22nd minute to add another five points for Golden Gate and on-form Rouse assured the try was converted for a total of 17 to Glendale’s 7.
It seemed at this point that SFGG could do no wrong and that they were gaining momentum by the minute. Glendale’s defense was being stretched to the limit but the fact that they had won three of the line outs off of SFGG kept them mentally in the game and showing their true championship mettle by defending their goal line with intense ferocity.
As the clock reached the 28th minute, Golden Gate hooker Patrick Latu, finding a gap in the Glendale defense, crashed over the line; Rouse added another conversion. The scoreboard read SFGG 24, GRFC 7.
With halftime looming, GRFC seemed to react to this fact and finding themselves in a maul with the SFFG defenders near the Golden Gate try line, GRFC’s forward pack put in a huge effort to gain momentum and drive the ball over the line and give Johnson the opportunity to dot down for his second try of the match. The try went unconverted and, as the halftime whistle blew, GRFC found themselves back in the game with only 12 points separating them from SFGG.
Glendale came out firing in the second half and within twenty minutes, scored two tries. Glendale lock Matt Doubek thrilled the crowds with a gallop down the touchline before passing inside to scrum half Daryl Furlong, who sprinted over the goal line for a try. Fly half Nese Malifa, had taken over kicking duties and his try conversion was successful — which brought Glendale within five.
Winger Max Statler, who never ceases to add thrill and excitement to a match, used his electrifying speed to outpace the SFGG defenders and score a beautiful solo try in the left corner to draw the score at 24-24. The try went unconverted. However, Nese Malifa was successful with a tricky penalty conversion in the 67th minute and Glendale found themselves back in the lead by three.
With 13 minutes left on the clock, the pressure was on and both teams were laying it all on the line when Golden Gate center Pone Pamisoni took advantage of a lapse in Glendale’s defense and crossed the line for the winning try which Rouse was successful in converting. The final score was San Francisco Golden Gate 31, Glendale RFC 27.
“Although the outcome was not a success from our standpoint,” said Mark Bullock, director of rugby for Glendale Rugby Football Club, “the match proved highly beneficial to us as a measure of the work we will need to put in to again compete for the right to represent the community of Glendale in the USA Men’s DI playoffs in a month’s time.
“Hopefully the level of competition against a quality club like San Francisco Golden Gate will be a springboard to the USA semifinals down the line.”
Glendale’s Man of the Match went to flanker Mike Kenyon who was stellar in his defense throughout the match. Man of the Match for SFGG was hooker Patrick Latu.
Glendale RFC’s next match is on Saturday, April 21, against the Denver Highlanders. This will be a friendly game leading up to the Western Rugby Football Union playoffs at the end of the month. Kickoff for the game against the Highlanders is at 6 p.m.
Halftime score: GRFC 12, SFGG 24 Full time score: GRFC 27, SFGG 31
Glendale 27 Tries: Johnson (2), Furlong, Statler Convs: Paterson, Nese Malifa Pens: Nese Malifa
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