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West End Thumps West Shore

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West End Thumps West Shore

Rachel Thorne photo.

In a result that has many raising some eyebrows, defending Virginia champion West End defeated West Shore United out of Pennsylvania 51-5 in a preseason game.

Both teams were missing top players who were with select sides playing at the Las Vegas Invitational - several of them the teams’ most electric attackers. So maybe this was a test of depth, and if so, West End passed.

West End started the game quickly, scoring three tries in the first nine minutes, with center John Freeman scoring two of them - one was a ramble of 70 meters. 

West End in the stripes, West Shore in gray. Rachel Thorne photos.
West End v West Shore Rachel Thorne photo 2016

West Shore reasoned, probably correctly, that the way to get back into the game was to challenge at the breakdown and exert some physical superiority. But West End’s speed and slickness of ball-handling were too good, and flyhalf Logan Emory seemed to have the game on a string. West End scored a fourth try near halftime to make it 22-0 at the break. 

At the beginning of the second half, West End started quickly again, and went on to run in five more tries to one from West Shore.  Coach Jeff Rupp wants his team to play a 15-man style where the backs can ruck and the forwards can handle the ball in the backline. A good example of that came when newcomer prop Travis Elder lined up outside Freeman in a wide channel, took a pass and raced in from 20 meters just as if he was a fullback - a really big fullback - slotting into the line.  Elly Malave was a force up front also. Normally a lock or flanker, he was moved up to tighthead prop in part to give him more experience at every position. He was excellent in the lineout, and all kinds of problems for West Shore with ball in hand.

“They whupped our butts pretty good,” said West Shore Coach Sean Robinson. “West End just played much better rugby and were able to exploit our inexperience in the backline and forwards. West End is the real deal.”

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West Shore No. 8 Sergio Acala continued to play hard throughout the game and was a key ballcarrier for his team, but he had to leave the game in the second half. Second row Eugene Rodgers was rock solid as well. But West Shore needed the experience of their Vegas guys.

“It was a nice win,” said West End's Rupp. “But we have to take it with a grain of salt because they were missing guys.”

West End were missing flyhalf Jacob Estes, wing Dmontae Noble, and back Ieuan Israel. 

West End in the stripes, West Shore in gray. Rachel Thorne photos.
West End v West Shore Rachel Thorne photo 2016

“The great thing for us is we have a lot of returners who are back and we’ve got some good new recruits who are athletes and are smart,” said Rupp. “We did have a high penalty count, but they were penalties of being to aggressive, like being offside, and that’s not so bad. For us, the big emphasis at halftime was to have no letup, and we actually scored more in the second half. That was really good.”