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Danville Over Granite Bay in a Classic

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Danville Over Granite Bay in a Classic

Daniel Bandoni photo.

In a game that lived up to the pre-game expectations, the Danville Oaks won the Northern California multi-school Varsity Gold championship 34-31 over Granite Bay.

Playing at Pat Vincent Field at St. Mary’s College, the #1-ranked HS club (Danville) and the #3 club (Granite Bay) played a hugely dramatic, and well-played final.

Danville in yellow, Granite Bay in green.
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Daniel Bandoni photo.
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Daniel Bandoni photo.
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Steven Lagorio photo.
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Steven Lagorio photo.

Using their forwards Danville powered into the lead early on. With their pack pushing the Granite Bay defense back, the Oaks scored two early tries, one on the left and one on the right, to take a 10-0 lead.

But Granite Bay took some measure of control over that. Their forwards, led by Chase Bixby and with Tyler Rouse, started getting to the breakdown faster than Danville. The result was a series of penalties against Danville for holding on or sealing off, and Granite Bay pressed their advantage, tapping quickly, and pushing the pace of the game.

The Grizzlies also spun the ball superbly, hitting their backs on the trot with wide, flat passes. The result was four scintillating tries, and a 24-10 halftime lead.

“It was on us,” said Danville Head Coach Roy Helu. “We did some stuff we never practice. They tried to quick tap and run some scrum moves we don’t normally do. We lost the ball. Granite Bay’s a good team and they punish that. For the second had we want back to the plan - drive the ball, keep the ball.”

“We got a little flustered, but as soon as we slowed it down and controlled the ball we kind of took it over,” said Danville captain and lock Matt Snyder, who was immense. 

And so it started to roll Danville’s way. They worked harder to keep the ball, and the forwards started running onto Keanu Andrade’s passes. The result was Granite Bay was forced to defend … a lot.

The forwards bulled over for one try, and then some nice work in the backs created another try, and a 24-22 Granite Bay lead.

Then a key momentum-shifting play. After a couple of penalties against Danville, Granite Bay had an attacking lineout in the Danville 22. The Grizzlies’ lineout had functioned well all day, but in this case Danville anticipated the through and stole it. Then the Oaks worked their way out of trouble, and then they patiently turned that movement into a try.

That made it 29-24 Danville, and moments later it was 34-24.

Granite Bay, tired from all the defense they had to play, produced a try of impressive clarity, pulling within three at 34-31.

“It felt great to score that try,” said Granite Bay’s Matt Rogers. “We were down, but that gave us momentum. It gave us something to hold onto and we realized while on defense that the game was within our grasp.”

So then one more big play. Granite Bay had the ball once more and seemed free and away on the left wing. But Kyle Makaiwi raced over and made the try-saving, and, it turned out, game-saving tackle.

“We had a lot of key plays,” said Snyder. “A couple of big scrums, big tackles. It was a nice team effort.”

With time almost up Danville had the ball on their goal line. Most teams would probably think about kicking, but the Oaks just kept working picks and short passes, trying to break out. Granite Bay’s tackling was outstanding, and Danville was getting nowhere. It was all down to this sequence. If Danville had dropped the ball, most likely Granite Bay would have scored, and won the game. Instead, Danville just retained the ball, and eventually sent it to Lorenzo Richardson, who was an animal all day long, and the hooker found a little gap and raced out to near halfway.

“It was scary,” said Snyder. “We got a great run by Lorenzo. We hadn’t really kicked it all year; we figured someone was going to break it.”

“I don’t know what happened,” said Richardson. “It was just one of those things where I knew I had to get out. It was awesome.”

And it was. With the ball out to midfield, Danville kicked to touch and that was the game. 

Danville won by holding not the ball and trusting their power game. But Granite Bay showed a brave side to their game and unleashed some exciting back play.

Both will be going to major invitationals in May. Both have reason to be very optimistic.