SoCal: Raptors, Mustangs
SoCal: Raptors, Mustangs
In a result that could well shake up the HS club rankings, or at least give rankings and Nationals seeders some pause, the South OC Raptors defeated previously unbeaten Thunder Rugby 24-21 in Southern California league play.
Thunder, which had been pushed by the Raptors earlier in the season, led 21-17 only to see SOC score late to win it.
A Little Bit of Everything
The game had a little bit of everything. It was physical, hard-nosed, but also played in a good spirit as many of the players are friend, having toured together with the SoCal Crusaders.
The game started with SOC Raptors controlling the ball and territory for the first 10 minutes, but could not convert the advantage to points. The next 20 minutes belonged to the Thunder, using their forwards and a territorial game to control the ball. After a period of pressure prop Liam Parker picked up at the base of the ruck and dove over. Scrumhalf Solomon Williams converted to give the Thunder an early 7-0 lead. For the next 10 minutes Thunder controlled the game but SOC Raptors came up with the stops. Then, 25 minutes in, prop Jake Merklinger crashed over after a sustained period of pressure and after Williams converted it was 14-0.
With 10 minutes to go the Raptors moved the ball side-to-side for the remainder of the first half, and on the last play of the half Marcus Nguyen capped off some interplay between Lochie Treister, Sam McMillan, and Asher Hannon to score.
that made it 14-5 at halftime and maybe a lifeline for the Raptors. The period right after the break belonged to the SOC Raptors and was capped off by a brilliant try by Manny Borboa after the Raptors moved the ball quickly. Hannon converted and it was 14-12. With 20 minutes to go the intensity ramped up. Thunder used their size and power and Alexander Aumua went over. Williams converted and it was 21-12 for Thunder with 15 minutes to go. The momentum continued to go back and forth. The Raptors made some key defensive stops late to stop a surging Thunder team. And then fullback Michael Lewis kicked through nicely, chased, and eventually scored off the next phase to close the gap to 21-17.
Another big defensive stop, this time from Hannon, kept the SOC Raptors in the game. And after that the Raptors held onto the ball just looking for a chance.
It came down to the last play of the game. Thunder was penalized and the Raptors sent it out to Hannon, who fed Lewis. He was tackled but McMillan cleared out and Treister was there to pick up and dive over for the game-winner. Hannon converted and that was it.
The SOC Raptors forwards put in a massive defensive effort against a big and mobile Thunder pack, with Ashbjorn Ross, McMillan, Treister, Troy Norman, Isami Hoopi, Addison Barrette, Bryson Smith, Graham Wyckoff, and Caeden Chase all deserving notice. Hannon had a brilliant evening and Lewis was influential in everything he did—kicking, tackling, and scoring. On the Thunder side, Kingston Vivao carried strong all night and Connor Malauulu was also a force.
Mustangs Keep Pace
Also in SoCal, the San Diego Mustangs beat Back Bay 36-10 to keep pace with Thunder and the Raptors. The Mustangs struck first when Back Bay repeatedly infringed with their backs to their tryline and the referee awarded the Mustangs a penalty try.
The Mustangs took the ensuing restart and again marched down and punched another try in from in close for a 12-0 lead. After that it was third verse same as the first, with the Mustangs taking the restart, and working it through the forwards down to the tryline, and scoring to make it 17-0.
The Mustangs built on this lead when shifty fullback Tate Nelson danced through for a 22-0 halftime lead. Back Bay came out of halftime energized and their backline sent it wide early and scored in the corner. The Mustangs answered with a converted try to make it 29-5, and the two teams traded tries to finish it off 36-10.
"We've squared off against Back Bay many times over the years and it's always a special matchup" said Mustangs head man Ramon Samaniego. "They always have a stout side, and we felt fortunate to punch a couple in early and give us a little breathing room."