THRILLING DAY 2 AT PACIFIC CUP
Peninsula Green gets ready. Alex Goff photo.
There was a lot of talk about collision courses as Danville and Peninsula Green both won Friday to book a spot in the Pacific Cup Final Saturday.
In the three-day, eight-team, three-games-each tournament, Danville met Red Mountain in one semifinal, and Peninsula Green faced off with Kahuku in the other.
In the consolation semis, CK McClatchy took on the San Diego Mustangs, and Union HS of Rugby Oregon faced the Bay Barbarians, a team made up of mostly Archbishop Riordan players with some from Los Gatos.
In the consolation semi, the Mustangs and McClatchy played to a 17-17 tie, and in overtime, McClatchy scored to win it 22-17.
"We're disappointed, but it's still been a great trip," said Mustangs No. 8 Brandon Cole. "I have been looking forward to this all year - three days to finish up my rugby career with this team, and play with my friends. No we just need to pick it up for tomorrow."
In the other semi, the Barbarians surprised a somewhat beat up Union side with two quick early tries. With props Sam Tofi and Mavaega Maga powering through in tight and showcasing some nifty moves in the backline, the Barbarians were able to make inroads into the Union defense.
"Coach allows us to work in the backline and it works with our pod system anyway," said Tofi, who is not a small person, but showcaed, with Maga, some good passing skills. "I'd just pass and pass and then after they started to drift on that I'd dummy and take the gap."
Union got frustrated early and tried to do a little too much when they still had plenty of time for a comeback. As a result, promising moves often ended with the ball being intercepted as the Barbarians cover defenders did well to cut off the passing lanes. Barbarians won 29-10.
In the first Cup Semifinal of the day, Danville dominated 48-10 over Red Mountain.
"They just played a really, really good brand of rugby, executed well, with superior athletes," said Red Mountain Coach OJ Hawea.
"I was very pleased with how we played," added Danville Program Director Jon Straka.
Flyhalf Christian Toetuu had a breakout game for the Oaks, working the offense nicely and making some breaks.
"It's like a light went on for him," said Straka.
"I felt really good out there," added Toetuu. "I feel like I played a good game, but we all did."
And in the second semifinal, a much-anticipated clash between NorCal DI winners Peninsula Green and Hawaii champs Kahuku went down to the wire. Kahuku had trouble early on winning their set piece - they lost some lineouts and got sloppy ball from others, and scrums were problematic as well - and that, in the end, was the difference. In a very, very physical game played in a very good spirit, Peninsula Green scored in the first five minutes.
After Kahuku lost a lineout, flyhalf Tala Talapusi kicked for space. Kahuku's chasers slipped on the wet grass, and Pen Green pounced, recycling patiently and sending the ball out to the wing.
The game remained 5-0 for some time before another troublesome Kahuku lineout led to the Peninsula Green forwards pounding the ball over the line and a 12-0 lead.
Once Kahuku got some ball they were most impressive, especially with some direct skip passes that wasted no time. One such pass led to a promising Kahuku attack, and then a penalty, and then a maul. Eventually, after another penalty, they scored out wide.
That made it 12-5 at halftime. The hits kept coming, and the players just kept getting up and hitting again. Openside flanker Bo Mailau was superb for Pen Green, making runs, stealing linout ball, and making tackles. He did get a yellow card for repeat infringements, but otherwise had a huge impact on the contest.
Fullback Naima Fualaau was also excellent and his weaving run through and around four Kahuku defenders put PG up 19-5. Kahuku didn't give up and scored a brilliant try to make it 19-12. Pen Green answered almost immediately, and while Kahuku scored once more to make it 26-19, that was it. It was a hugely entertaining, wel-played, aggressive game with no animosity and well controlled by referee Mark Carney.
"We knew coming in that Kahuku would be very physical and we assumed they would be strong in the rucks and the scrums, so we just decided to put a little extra into everyhing," said Pen Green No. 8 Yoshi Warnock. "I was really proud of how we were able to hold onto our intensity."
Now on to tomorrow's games, with Danville playing Pen Green for the final (see more here).
"When we face Danville we've got to polish everything up," said Warnock. "They are a very sharp side."