In a street fight turned track meet, San Francisco Golden Gate (SFGG) got the better of divisional foe and rival Old Puget Sound Beach (OPSB) 36-27 in the opening Elite Cup match for both clubs.
Led by two tries from inside center Mile Pulu, SFGG started the Elite Cup 1-0, and also recorded this victory in their Northern California DI league standings, where they are undefeated.
SFGG got off to a slow start with several basic errors in key spots to keep them from putting any points on the board. First blood came from OPSB captain and flyhalf Russell Armstrong off a SFGG penalty 3-0.
From that point, SFGG went into a different gear, getting tries from Pulu and lock Tom Rooke with one Jone Naqica conversion to jump out in front 12-3. Naqica, originally listed as a sub, ended up starting at flyhalf as Volney Rouse was a late scratch.
OPSB answered immediately off a ruck when scrumhalf Emosi Vucago juked a few defenders and found a clear path for the first of his two tries. This narrowed the deficit to 12-10 with Armstrong’s successful conversion.
Just before halftime, SFGG got the score it needed to keep clear, when outside center Samisoni Pone outpaced the OPSB defense up the sideline to give his team a 17-10 halftime lead.
In the second half, SFGG looked like a completely different team. What seemed to plague SFGG in the first half, errors in the fundamentals, seemed to be their strength in the second half. Coach Karl Thomson said it was all about limiting mistakes and playing within the confines of their game plan.
“We made a lot of fundamental errors in the first half and went away from our game plan and that’s what hurt us,” Thomson said. “We knew we had to get this team on the first tackle and limit their space and mobility.”
SFGG scored quickly after the break when Pulu plunged in for his second try, putting his side up 24-10. OPSB countered once again with Isi Daveta setting up his brother Fili Botitu in space down the sideline to get within nine points 24-15.
Then, in what was the defining moment of the game, SFGG showed some grit in putting the game away thanks to tries from No. 8 Taveta Koloamatangi and wing Jeff Colata for a 36-15 lead. OPSB did their best to climb back, as Vucago and Botitu both touched down, but simply ran out of time, leaving the final score 36-27.
After the game, the SFGG sideline was all smiles and deservedly so after a tough road win.
“One of the keys in the second half was keeping possession and limiting mistakes,” said SFGG captain and scrumhalf Mose Timoteo. “We said if we can keep possession and keep them going backwards, then it will give us the best chance to win.”
For the OPSB perspective, Armstrong said the team wasn’t pleased.
“We beat ourselves today and gave SFGG too many opportunities,” he said. “They’re a very good side, very physical, and they did better than we did at executing.”
Tries: Pulu 2, Kolamatangi, Pone, Rooke, Colata
Convs: Naqica 3
Tries: Vucago 2, Botitu 2
Convs: Armstrong 2