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SoCal Round-Robin Opens HS Rugby Door

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SoCal Round-Robin Opens HS Rugby Door

La Jolla on their way to a try. Photo Brian Jackson.

Southern California's boys high school season will be a little different this year but it's still inching its way forward, and this weekend three teams met for a series of shortened games to get the party started.

On the weekend, the Tri-City Thunder, La Jolla, and the OC Raptors met up to play two shortened games each. The games were refreshingly close, with all three matches being decided by a try or less. The Thunder won both of their games, beating OC 12-7 and La Jolla 21-14. La Jolla beat OC 26-19.

For the Thunder, Connor Malauulu and Dayen Joyce each scored two tries on the day and played well overall on attack. Dillon Wilson put in a massive effort defensively while halfback Solomon Williams was very effective as a playmaker and was named player of the game against the Raptors by the OC players. Jake Merklinger and Eddie Nelson also got notice from the opposing coaches.

Orange County flyhalf Asher Hannon was effective all day. Hooker and captain Sammy McMillan put a huge effort in on both attack and defense while prop Addison Barrette scored an impressive try against Carlsbad.

"Both games were physical for early in the season; one mistake away from turning the result around," said Head Coach Sam McMillan.

Meanwhile, La Jolla came out of the day feeling pretty good at 1-1. "For all the game to be close was really good, and we played some decent rugby," said Coach Ethan Willis. Dirk Germon, Max Smith, and Marty Jellison helped La Jolla through the day and all played well.

A New-Look SoCal

With this mix of teams from mostly one school and club teams, this meeting was a harbinger of how the SoCal season will look. There will be a Boys Open Division that will welcome the top teams from clubs and school teams, and promises to be a very competitive league with the likes of Back Bay and Belmont Shore, as well as the San Diego Mustangs, joining the three who played each other this weekend. San Clemente and Los Alamitos are also expected to play in this group.

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How this all plays out in a season, and especially as the SCIRF league starts around the same time (SoCal's first week of league games is April 10, and SCIRF's is April 23-24), remains to be seen. Not every team, even teams that had significant success last year, will be able to play. Servite HS, for example, which made SoCal's Varsity White final in 2020, losing to Carlsbad (which is the main feed for the Thunder) won't be able to fit in a rugby season among all the other sports that have been bumped to April and May.

And since Southern California's season separates school-supported and club seasons, this year we will see teams have to make a decision. Will they play as a club, or as a school team?