Big Guys Rule in Pacific Cup Day 1
Kahuku moves the ball against Back Bay. Denise Cavanagh photo.
There were four winners in the first day of the Pacific Cup, but really, observers are most impressed with two of them.
Danville emerged victorious against a strong Fallbrook team 41-7, while Kahuku just dominated Back Bay 53-0. The San Diego Mustangs somehow pulled it out over the Bay Barbarians, a team of mostly Peninsula Green players plus a few extra, and Santa Monica did well to pull away from Red Mountain 34-19. But the buzz seemed to be about the big, physical Danville and Kahuku teams.
Danville's captain, Matt Snyder, was a powerful presence once again, playing lock and No. 8, while Ben Hoffman was all thing s hooker needs to be, stealing strikes against the head, getting around the field, and working nicely with young Austin Strehlow in the lineout.
"We played some strong defense," said Danville coach John Straka, "but we didn't play our best rugby. It was our defense that kept us in it until we started playing better in the second half."
Danville looks ahead to Santa Monica, and Straka said it won't be a walk-over by any stretch of the imagination.
"They are good one through fifteen," he said.
Meanwhile, Kahuku was the biggest team on the field Thursday and certainly played some good rugby, too. It took the Raiders some time to get going, as they lacked a little offensive cohesion, but, as with Danville, Kahuku's defense got them started.
"A lot of our players are defensive players on the football team, and they love to play defense," said Kahuku Head Coach Seamus Fitzgerald. "We started to get some offensive cohesion and stopped dropping the ball, but it all came from our defense."
Kahuku was also guilty of committing a lot of penalties, mostly things like offside or not retreating ten meters. Whether it was over-eagerness or Back Bay seeing that the quick taps were working for them, the Hawaiian team didn't really shake off the penalty bug, but ended up being complimented by the referee for taking it all in stride and not getting upset about it.
"It was our fault," said Fitzgerald.
Flyhalf William Fonokalafi was brilliant. The New Zealand-born pivot is tall and skilled and seemed to just control the tempo. Saitui Moeai played well also, while their big prop, Roman Salanoa, just trundled over people.
"I was really pleased with what we did, overall," said Fitzgerald. "And I was also really impressed with the tournament. It's awesome to play these good teams from California, and our boys were just really excited about it. The whole tournament is really professional, with good referees and assistant referees, as well. To see the breakdown refereed in a tight, safe way was really good. The rucks were tough, physical, but safe."
Kahuku faces the Mustangs, and are favored to win. Everyone is anticipating a Danville v Kahuku collision on Saturday, although Santa Monica might have something to say about that.