The Los Angles Rugby Football Club (2-4) traveled south on Saturday to square off with long-time divisional foe San Diego Old Aztecs (5-1) in a re-match of a hotly contested season opener. The scene at Dusty Rhodes Park resembled the famed Boston Garden, as the Saint Patrick’s day crowd donned their finest green, and drunken chants of “Beat LA” filled the air.
It was only fitting that resident Irishman, and OA winger, James Niblock set the tone for the day, dotting in an early 3rd minute try off the OA set piece. Niblock proved to be the ignition to the OA’s engine as the home side attacked early and often in an explosive 1st half performance.
Although the San Diego side found themselves up 10 -0 early after the try conversion and a penalty kick, they came into a bit of trouble in the 10th minute as the LA side had the ball inside the OA 22 and were showing signs of a threating attack. However, the home-side was bailed out after a Lucas Edwards strip tackle, allowing #13 Connor “Showtime” Mariani to find himself with the ball and turned on the jets to take it 80 meters to the try zone.
The Old Aztecs continued to bully their way through LA defense as both prop, Malaetasi Toilolo, and scrum-half Tim Howard used their strength and considerable size to rumble in two tries each on the day. Toilolo dotted down tries in the 20th and 42nd minute. While Howard bowled over an LA defender under the posts in the 38th minute and scored another short yardage rumbler in the 47th.
The LA attack had several opportunities in the 1st half but turnovers and penalties squandered good scoring chances for the visiting side. LA had to settle for 3 in the 34th minute after knocking at the try line for what seemed like an eternity. In the 40th minute LA Center Sione Kaileaa was able to turn an OA turnover into a quick try making the score at half 36-10.
The Old Aztecs continued to dominate possession and territory in the second half with solid ball handling and a strong set piece. The OA’s were able to bring fresh legs off the bench and continued to contain the LA attack.
The game had appeared to wind down until the 75th minute when “Showtime” Mariani took a dummy switch pass untouched into the try zone. Living up to the moniker, Showtime had known where the team photographer was, and in an unabashed display of self-promotion, pointed at the camera before even crossing the try-line. The brazen act immediately drew an intense reaction from the crowd. While a blanket full of young women swooned, a nearby mother was seen covering her child’s eyes, and another observer was overheard declaring that “Saint Patrick’s Day is ruined”.
The crowd had little time to recover, however, as shortly after the backline combination of Niblock and winger Utah Mann put the cherry on Shirley Temple with dazzling try. Coming off another set piece Niblock sent a high arcing, long distance pass that hit Mann in stride on the run for the final OA try of the day. The LA side continued to fight and scored a team try in the 80th minute and fly half Omar Gonzalez hit the conversion to make the final score 57-20.
-This colorful commentary was brought to you by Joe Ramonas
Next up the Aztecs travel to Back Bay to take on the Sharks (1-4) and LARFC takes on Oceanside (4-1) at home.