OXY CLAIMS SOCAL TITLE, ADVANCES TO PACIFIC COAST CUP
By Anthony Avila
LOS ANGELES – Last weekend Occidental R.F.C. entered the Southern California College DIII semi final and National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO) playoffs with the goal of keeping their unbeaten record intact. A win on Saturday meant a trip to northern California to face Puget Sound University, a loss would cut the Oxy rugger’s season short. Oxy (7-0) accepted the challenge by not only defeating Whittier College, but by also beating Pepperdine on Sunday to claim Southern California’s number one seed.
Saturday’s game against the Poets of Whittier College (4-1) was a match-up of the only unbeaten teams in the region. Whittier cruised their way into the playoffs averaging 43 points per game. Oxy started the scoring quickly, with fly half Barnaby Audsley (London, England) kicking two penalty goals for the early 6-0 lead. Whittier was not dissuaded, responding quickly with a try of their own to take the lead 7-6. Oxy regained the advantage as they closed out the half with two tries by prop Oscar Flores (Orange, CA). The first came following a breakaway run by wing Jacob Sertich (Exeter, CA) that finished with Oxy’s forwards using quick pick-and-gos to advance the ball until Flores added the final push. Flores’s second try set the halftime score at 16-7. Occidental had several more scoring opportunities in the period but were unable to capitalize as penalties and miscommunications hindered them from hitting full stride. "We made several unforced errors in the beginning on the match, which certainly halted our momentum,” said Occidental Head Coach Dallen Stanford. “Our forwards then dominated in the red zone, and scored two well worked tries."
The second half began with dominant forward play by Oxy, resulting in a try by scrum half Max Horten (Portland, OR) as he received a pass from 8-man Sean Sabean (Belmont, CA) and dove across the try-line. Whittier was not shaken and responded with their own brand of rugby, using their size and powerful runners to push through for their second try of the day, closing the gap 23-12. "Whittier had several very physical players and tested us near the end of the clash," commented Stanford.
A penalty kick by Audsley was all the offense Oxy could manage for the remainder of the game, as they focused on defending Whittier’s attack. The Poets took advantage of tap penalties and overlaps to cut through Oxy’s defense and shorten the lead 26-17. Whittier continued to threaten as Oxy made all seven of their substitutes, with the final score remaining 26-17.
Game two of the playoffs faced Oxy against the Pepperdine Waves (4-3) in a rematch of their regular season battle, which Oxy won 29-19. Oxy took an early 14-0 lead following tries from Audsley and Sertich, but Pepperdine responded following a tap penalty within Oxy’s 10-meter line to cut the lead in half 14-7. The score would remain there going into the break. The match proved to be a tale of two halves as Occidental scored three tries in the first ten minutes of the period and never looked back. “It was an excellent finish from the squad and allowed us to get our substitutes valuable game time," Stanford continued.
The first try came following the opening kick-off as inside center AC Zepponi (Sebastopol, CA) wrapped up the ball carrier in a perfect open field tackle allowing Oxy’s forwards to ruck over and force a Wave turnover. Horten then sent the ball to Audsley who recognized an opening in the Pepperdine defense, kicked a grubber into the try-zone, sprinted after it, and touched the ball down to expand the lead 21-7. Fullback Joey Maloney (Sebastopol, CA) broke loose in the half scoring twice, ending a three game scoring drought. Horten had a break out game as well adding two tries of his own, the second followed an Oxy scrum in which the he deceived the opposing scrum half with a dummy pass, creating a gap that he exposed, galloping thirty meters untouched for the try. Flores and Sertich accounted for the other tries. Flores used his size to bulldoze his way into the try-zone following a ruck within the 5-meter line, and Sertich dove on a lose ball to add the final try. By the end of the game, Oxy’s second half surge amounted to 38 points placing the final score at 52-12.
"I'm very proud of the team's commitment, and excited to see how we match up against Puget Sound on the weekend,” Stanford concluded. “I also want to say congratulations to the gentleman of Pepperdine who will also represent Southern California in Vallejo."
The Pacific Coast Cup Qualifier will be hosted by California Maritime Academy in Vallejo, CA.
Saturday March 23
11AM - California Maritime Academy (Northern California Conference Champion) vs. Pepperdine University (Pacific Mountain West Conference Runnerup)
1:30PM - University of Puget Sound (Pacific Northwest RFU Champion) vs. Occidental College (Pacific Mountain West Conference Champion)
Sunday March 24
11AM - 3rd Place : Semifinal losers
1:30PM - 1st Place : Semifinal winners
3PM - Presentation of NSCRO Championship, Runnerup and MVP Trophies
Occidental Rugby - https://www.facebook.com/occidentalrugby
NSCRO - http://www.eteamz.com/nscro/