The picturesque Peninsula Park in Newport Beach, CA, was the setting for last Saturday’s tilt between the San Diego Old Aztecs and the Back Bay Sharks. Nestled between the bustling boardwalk and the sands of the Pacific Ocean, the pitch more closely resembled a greeting from a postcard, than the site of the grinding, physical rugby match that occurred.
While beach-goers and tourists packed sunscreen and bathing suits, the San Diego side packed their lunch pails and hard hats, keenly aware that this was to be no vacation. In the week’s lead up to the match, Head Coach Jarod Faul preached a workman-like mentality of discipline and mental toughness. Down several key contributors, the OA side knew they would have to rely on their grit and experience in order to grind out the necessary result.
In the first half, the OAs not only battled a reinvigorated Back Bay side, but also the elements, as the Aztecs played into the wind and struggled to maintain continuity in attack. The OAs struck first however from a Utah Mann try in the 15th minute off a penalty restart, but Sharks responded with three tries and a penalty conversion to lead 18-5 at the half.
The game proved to be a story of two halves, as the San Diego side came out of the half time break inspired, and ready to get back to work. True to their blue-collar approach, the OAs did not drive themselves to work – they took the bus. The visiting team leaned on their experience, and hitched their wagon to player/coach/president/future-Hall-of-Famer/irritated short person, Jacobus “The Jaco-Bus” Breytenbach. The veteran scrum-half pulled out all the stops, producing lighting quick ball (LQB) at the rucks, and executing his patented form-perfect tackles® on defense. Despite being one of the smallest men on the pitch, Breytenbach bulldogged his way over with two short yardage tries to give the Old Aztecs the lead.
The OAs defense held strong down the stretch, and with tries from #12 Des Wellington and #5 Joe Ramonas, the Old Aztecs were finally able to put the game out of reach. A Back Bay Penalty in the 78th minute made the final score 31-21 in favor of the Old Aztecs. While it was not the prettiest of matches, the OAs were happy with the result. Assistant Coach Grant Ford was unusually candid after the game, describing his team’s effort as “pretty alright”.
Next up, the Old Aztecs (6-1) take on the Oceanside Chiefs (6-1) at home, in a battle for first place in the SoCal division. Be sure to catch the action, 11am, Saturday, April 7th at Robb Field in Ocean Beach. This will be the Old Aztecs last home game of the regular season, and an early start to accommodate for a huge day of Old Boys’ Appreciation, Hall of Fame, and of course 40th anniversary festivities.
-Joe Ramonas again with the eloquent words