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Belmont Shore Books Place in SoCal Final

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Belmont Shore Books Place in SoCal Final

Belmont Shore has not lost in SoCal league play.

Belmont Shore defeated the SOC Raptors 24-17 Saturday to advance to the Southern California HS Club final.

As has been the case this season the games between the top four, this contest was close.

(Games between Belmont Shore, Raptors, San Diego Mustangs, and Thunder were, on average, 30-20, with four of the six games within a try.)

These two teams played an excellent contest last year and this year's playoff game was even better.

SOC Raptors were up 17-12 with 10 minutes to go before Belmont Shore scored twice to win the game 24-17. 

Belmont Shore controlled possession and territory for the most part of the first half, playing for long periods of time in the Raptor half. But the Raptors were first to score off some tough defense, strong tackling, and winning a key turnover. From there Nate Leff raced 60 meters to score and William Lhommedieu hit the conversion for a 7-0 Raptors lead somewhat against the run of play. 

During the rest of the half Belmont applied pressure with a good breeze behind them, and bulling over a try from a pick-and-go to make it 7-5. With about 10 minutes to go in the first half, Belmont Shore punished a defensive mistake by SOC to score and take the lead 12-7.

In the second half Raptors had the wind at their backs and Lhommedieu converted a 30-meter penalty to make it 12-10. Raptors were now playing in Belmont half and scored a converted try off a pick-and-go by lock Waylon Davis, who had an excellent game and was probably the best Raptor forward of the day. Now up 17-12, the Raptors looked to hold onto that lead. Belmont Shore started to move the ball and keep the ball in hand and force the Raptors to make an error on defense. And that's exactly what happened. Shore punished a small defensive breakdown and sophomore center Isaac Pua cut through from 10 meters out to tie the game 17-17 with three minutes to go.

Then Belmont took the restart and moved the ball brilliant through the forwards to go right down and threaten again. With time winding down, prop Joseph Patolo ran a switch move with No. 8 Ikenasio Mikaele that put the loose forward around the adge and he charged in for the go-ahead try. The conversion was good as Belmont Shore had booked their spot in the SoCal final 24-17. Belmont Shore held on from there.

"Tough loss to swallow," said SOC Raptors Head Coach Sam McMillan. "We tip our hat to Belmont; they hung in and made the plays that counted to win. For the Raptors we have 10 days off to Nationals, and while the loss was tough to swallow, we were very happy with the improvement since our league game (against Belmont Shore) six weeks ago. We are making better decisions, our kicking game was strong off Will Lhommedieu and Keegan Hannon."

Belmont Shore Johnny Pua praised his team's consistent defense and attention to detail.

"Hats off to coach Sam and his players as it’s competition like this that enhances SoCal rugby," added Pua. "As both teams respect their opponents raising the bar each time. These are the type of games players love to play, coaches love to coach, and spectators love to watch."