The #RevengeTour continues, as Old Aztecs have one last name to cross-off.
(Joe Ramonas has truly kissed the Blarney stone with this one…)
The Old Aztecs wandered through Las Vegas’ McCarran airport on Friday night, through throngs of drunken frat boys, and bachelorette parties. Although not strangers to the lure of the Vegas Strip, the Old Aztecs did not travel to the high desert in search of a good time and cheap thrills, they were there for the Grand Prize; a trip to the Southern California D2 Championship Final.
Standing in their way were the formidable, 10-1 Las Vegas Irish. The Irish were riding a 10-game winning streak, and touted a 43-37 win over the Old Aztecs at Robb Field back in early February.
Prior to the match, many of the OA players talked about avenging the early season loss, but native Northern Irishman and OA winger James “Jimmy the Mick” Niblock had his own motivations. In a Sunday morning interview with Niblock at Rosie O’Grady’s Pub on Adams Ave, Niblock explained his (corned) beef with the Las Vegas Irish.
“It’s cultural appropriation, aye” Niblock said, sipping a Guinness. “They’re laughin’ at us, mate. They all think we got foockin 4-leaf clovers up our arses” Niblock continued as he ordered yet another round of Jameson. “Mi grand- mudder would turn over in hur grave if she knew how we was treated, I’m sick o’ all the stereotypes!” Niblock stewed, as his face grew redder from both the booze, as well as wicked sunburn from the weekend’s game. Unfortunately, the interview was cut short, as Niblock was soon kicked out of the establishment for starting a fight with a priest, who was seated at the other end of the bar.
On match day, the Aztecs started hot out of the gates, in typical Las Vegas style, with two quick shots in the form of tries from #8 Jeff Diggs and #9 Jaco Breytenbach. However, as any Vegas-goer knows, days on The Strip are a marathon, not a sprint. The Irish were not deterred by the sudden deficit, as they quickly countered with two converted tries of their own, making the halftime score 14-12 in favor of the Irish.
In the second half it was Niblock who ran wild on the Vegas defense. Fueled by open space, and centuries of oppression, the true Irishman ripped off several huge runs, and dotted down a go-ahead try in the 51st minute, to make the score 17-14.
In the 73rd minute a Sione Letoi touched down a try and the conversion looked to put the game away, as the Aztecs went up 10 with only 7 minutes to play. The Irish, however, were not ready to roll over. They were able to grind out a try in the 79th minute, and the conversion put them within 3, with time left on the clock.
The Irish almost immediately pushed the ball inside the OA 10-meter line, and began a relentless onslaught on the try line. Although time was well beyond the 80-minute mark, the OA defense continued to give up penalties. The defense held strong, however, and after a seemingly endless barrage of pick-and-go’s from the one-meter line, the Aztec defense proved too mighty for the Irish to crack. The final play of the game ended in a Las Vegas knock-on, and when the whistle blew the Aztecs were the team left standing.
After the game Niblock was proud to have exacted some revenge for the sake of his native people, but also showed respect for the Las Vegas side, “Yeah, I would rate them quite high. At the least bit, I’m glad they’re a hard bunch of lads. You must be to call yourself Irish.”
The Old Aztecs will now continue on to face the Oceanside Chiefs in the Southern California Championship game and National Round of 16.
They will be desperate to get back to the Elite 8 where they came so close in 2016 against a Life West side that boasted current coach Jarrod Faul. With the season series tied at one game apiece, the match looks to be another hard-hitting thriller. Kickoff is scheduled for 2pm at Valley Middle School in Carlsbad on May 12th.