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SoCal: Thunder Wins Big, SOC WIns Close One

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SoCal: Thunder Wins Big, SOC WIns Close One

The SOC Raptors huddle up.

Southern California's Boys HS Clubs got back into preseason action this past weekend, with the South OC Raptors and Thunder Rugby coming out victories, albeit in two very different ways.

It was a runaway for Thunder against La Jolla, with Thunder winning 84-13.

Eager to show their strength, Thunder came out thundering and with Alex Partolo-Aumua, Dayen Joyce, Solomon Williams, and Kingston Vivao all playing exceptionally well they put up a marker, and a warning to the rest of the region.

It was a lot closer, with the Raptors edging the San Diego Mustangs 19-16.

Troy Norman, Nate van Buskirk, and Leo Jay all scored tries for the Raptors and Asher Hannon converted two.

It was a very physical battle between the two teams and a tense encounter. The Mustangs enjoyed most of the ball and territory in the first half, scoring early off a pick-and-drive. But they would be their last try of the day. Riley Elliott converted that try and added three penalties on the day, and in fact those three penalties staked San Diego to a 16-0 first-half lead.

But the wind was a factor and with the wind at their backs the Raptors took flight. Wing van Buskirk capped off a period of sustained pressure for the first SOC try. Then Norman, playing flanker, broke through at midfield and charged in for a 50-meter run and try.

That made it 16-12, and over the next 10 minutes or so the teams went at it with increasing intensity. Something had to break and finally, with five minutes to go, a snappy linkage from scrumhalf William Lhomedieu  to hooker Sammy McMillan to prop Addison Barrette set up Jay on the wing to go over in the corner.

Hannon put over the tough conversion to make it 19-16 for SOC. The Raptors then held on desperately in the final moments before McMillan sealed it with a turnover to allow SOC to run out the clock.

The Mustangs enjoyed impressive performances by flanker CJ DeVaults—who was all kinds of trouble in the rucks and continuously forced turnovers—and scrumhalf Judd Berman, who kept the Mustangs moving and was a constant threat to run. Berman also shone on defense.

Along with the try-scorers, the Raptors saw Hannon control the attack with calm and intelligence. Center Marcus Nhuyen made several key defensive plays and ran will, and fullback Mike Lewis held handle San Diego's kicking game, positioning himself smartly and countering well. McMillan at hooker had an instrumental role in every try and was massive on defense. Due to injuries on the team (from other sports) he had to move to prop later in the game and didn't miss a beat.

"It was a true team effort," said SOC Head Coach Sam McMillan. "With a limited set of healthy players, it was a gritty effort by the SOC boys against a very well-coached Mustang team."