UPDATE (April 14, 2016, 4:15 p.m PDT): Last Saturday’s game was NOT the NorCal championship but a semifinal into this Saturday’s final. Per NorCal VP of Competitions Jon Straka:
Danville and Amazons were penalized for abandoning their match two weeks prior and not notifying the league or referee beforehand. The ref drove 7 hours round trip to officiate the match, only to show up and find nobody there. The circumstances warranted and demanded the match be played, but last weekend (semifinal weekend), was the only time to make up the game. The competitions committee decided to have the match be played as a semi-final and award Pleasanton a semi-final bye for playing all their matches and not abandoning games …
The aforementioned scenario was the one originally reported in the game’s preview, but was contradicted by Rugby NorCal Girls Chairman Karen Chance. Therefore, the Sacramento vs. Pleasanton game this Saturday, April 16, is the NorCal championship. The article has been amended to reflect the update.
One of the most anticipated high school games of the season occurred on Saturday in the NorCal play-in to the final, pitting Danville and Sacramento against each other. The pair has jousted for dominance in recent years, and after the Amazons’ 26-7 victory, 2016 is favoring Sacramento.
The Amazons entered Saturday’s game with fewer games played than Danville, which had traveled out of the region for higher-level competition. Therefore, Saturday’s game was to offer the first substantive insight into the Amazons’ strength.
“The recent rankings gave the girls incentive to remind everyone how hard the Amazons work and always stay humble no matter what the rankings are, and let our game do the talking,” Sacramento coach David Tausinga described the team’s mindset.
That game hinged on physicality and possession. Thirty-five minutes passed before the scoreboard lit up, as the sides challenged each other in the breakdowns. Lani Finau helped garner some momentum, finding and taking a hole in the backline defense for the game’s first score. Flyhalf Mele Tausinga built on the lead, grubbing behind Danville’s fullback while wing Tommi Noble chased it down in the try zone for the dot-down. Tausinga added one of her three conversions for the 12-0 lead.
Danville needed to get points on the board, and that call was answered by Mata Hingano, who finished off a couple of solid phases with a try. The conversion pulled the Lady Oaks to within in five, 12-7, but that point differential did not hold.
“Our forwards did a good job crashing the ball, which drew in some of Danville’s defense and left some openings for us to attack,” Tausinga explained. “Our backs put a lot of pressure on their backline while trying to keep the ball away from their High School All American players, Mata [Hingano] and Daisy [Manoa].”
Two more tries came in the form of Hevani Tupou, who finished a line-break; and Noble, who scored her second off a set backline play. Tausinga’s conversions capped a 26-7 win.
“First-year player Tommi Noble and second-year player Oshaya Jefferson stood out and were chosen as players of the match,” Tausinga recognized exceptional performances. “Both did very well running the ball and stepping up on defense. Naomi Tupou, one of our utility players, also had a great game playing in both the backs and forwards. And [scrumhalf] Maryjane Pasioles did a great job controlling the game.”
The NorCal title is more than a goal achieved. With three league teams competing at high school club nationals, these results will affect seeding. Sacramento will play Pleasanton, the third NorCal side heading to Central Washington in May, in the NorCal championship. The Cavaliers received a bye into the final, despite losing both league games to Sacramento and Danville, as a “reward” for contesting all of its league games this season.
Winning nationals is the ultimate goal, but for now, Sacramento is savoring the NorCal victory.
“We want to thank all of our coaching staff and our sponsors Sac Pal for the season and going into nationals as NorCal champs,” the coach concluded.*
* Read update at beginning of article.