In as dramatic a game as you could want, Belmont Shore defeated San Francisco Golden Gate 30-29 in the opening weekend of the 2018 Pacific Rugby Premiership.
Playing at SFGG’s Ray Sheerhan field as part of the PRP Week 1 Tripleheader, these two teams went down to the final seconds, with Belmont Shore scoring on the final play to win it.
The game was tight throughout, with wild momentum shifts, some mistakes, and some impressive play on both sides of the ball.
SFGG scored early, with former USA 7s Eagle Jack Halalilo capping off an attack. But Halalilo, while used to some effect from the fullback position, was also hampered by an injured knee (from which he is recovering), and his elusiveness suffered.
Belmont Shore unleashed their explosive No. 8 Keni Nasoqeqe. The Shore loose forward continually tested the SFGG defense, and he broke through for a try in the first half to tie the game 5-5. Kameroan Moeller converted to put his side ahead, and made it 10-5 Belmont Shore with with penalty later in the half.
Little and big mistakes precent either side from scoring further. Belmont Shore kicked away too much possession, while SFGG kept committing penalties, with a series of them leading to Nasoqeqe’s try.
In the second half, Halalilo got a yellow card, and somehow that seemed to energize SFGG. With wing Lisiate Huihui laying in some massive tackles, and scoring a try, they handled being a man down just fine.
But with the teams at even strength, Belmont Shore marched its way down the field through about a dozen phases and put flanker Sean Gorman in at the corner. The SFGG defenders looked tired at that point, and in serious trouble. Somehow they turned it around. Belmont Shore kicked away possession again, and some key subs energize the hosts. Fynn Williams burst through thanks in part to some excellent work from front rowers Neil Barrett and Nathan Sylvia (the latter playing in his first senior men’s club game).
Barrett converted that try, and then sub lock Sam Peri stretched over, and Sylvia burst through for another. Within the space of seven minutes, SFGG surged ahead 29-18.
But at that point, Belmont Shore resolved to fix things.
“We just got together and said, let’s not kick away possession anymore,” said longtime Belmont Shore lock Sam Lilley. “We were doing well with the ball in hand and we just need to stick to that game plan. In our preseason games or training camps, we know when we’re in that deep, dark place, we’ve come together.”
Another long series of phases ended with Ezekiel Dunn going in at the corner to make it 29-23. With only a minute or so left, Belmont Shore got a lineout near the SFGG line, and put together a superbly patient attack. The plan, said scrumhalf Jonathan Gray, was to score under the posts to make the game-winning conversion kick an easy one. And so they bashed at the SFGG defense, back and forth, but never too far from the middle of the field.
Eventually, with time up, Maze Masoe powered over.
That made it 29-28, with the kick to come. Belmont Shore took too long to get the kicking tee on the field, and Moeller had to take the conversion as a drop kick. No matter, it went over, and Belmont Shore had won 30-29.
“It was a great game, and our guys put a lot into it,” said SFGG head coach Neil Foote. “I’m OK with it. We knew it would be really close and we learned a lot about ourselves.”
Foote started soon-to-be Eagle Brendan Daly at flanker but took him off at halftime, replacing him with Opeti Okusi. Sylvia was a revelation for SFGG (or would had we not warned you about him already). So was Nasoqeqe at No. 8 for Belmont Shore.
“They put our backs to the wall, and those last ten minutes was pretty much a slugfest,” said Belmont Shore’s Gray. “We had to suck it up and take it through the 80th minute.”
SFGG takes two bonus points, one for four tries and one for a close loss, and stay well in the hunt anyway. Belmont Shore comes away with a valuable road win.
Belmont Shore 30
Tries: Nasoqeqe, Gorman, Dunn, Masoe
Convs: Moeller 2
Pens: Moeller 2
Tries: Halalilo, Huihui, Williams, Peri, Sylvia
Convs: Barrett 2