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San Francisco Golden Gate wasn’t able to breathe easy until the final minute but held on to defeat the visiting Life West Gladiators 30-22 on Saturday at Treasure Island.
The victory improved SFGG to 2-1 and Life West to 1-2 in the Pacific Rugby Premiership. For the Gladiators, it’s been a rough couple of weeks after an opening-weekend victory. Hit by injuries, and with two players off to USA duty (prop Huluholo Moungaloa, who scored a try for the Eagles on Saturday, and scrumhalf Devereaux Ferris), Life West was a bit shorthanded but battled regardless.
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Golden Gate, of course, was missing an Eagle of its own in lock and captain Brendan Daly, meaning each team had to make the best of what it had at its disposal.
Life opened the scoring with a try from scrumhalf Antony Munoz (usually the fullback) in the first three minutes. SFGG wing Fatai Villa equalized five minutes later, and the game went on in that vein.
Powerful prop Fancy Namulauulu thundered over to give Life West the lead again, and SFGG flanker Opeti Okusi replied to tie the score at 12-12. Guillaume Cazenave slotted a penalty to nudge Life West ahead at halftime.
Golden Gate pulled ahead with a try and two Colby Stevens penalties, but with four minutes to go Life West hauled itself back to within a 23-22 deficit when flanker Charlie Brennan scored and Cazenave converted. Clearly the next score would decide it, and SFGG put Viliami Huihui over in the final seconds to seal the game.
“I am very pleased with the performance,” SFGG head coach Neil Foote said. “We really wanted to retain possession a bit better — that was one of our critical objectives. It was a physically intense battle and I was really impressed with the attitude of Life West, considering they have been decimated with injuries. This is definitely a rivalry in every sense of the word.”
Foote said his team is getting more fit, and the strong finish showed that.
“I thought our forwards as a unit were outstanding on both sides of the ball and our composure under pressure was exceptional,” Foote said.
Tries: Vailala, O. Okusi, E. Okusi, Huihui
Convs: Stevens 2
Pens: Stevens 2
Life West 22
Tries: Munoz, Namulauulu, Brennan
Convs: Cazenave 2