The OMBAC lads came into Saturday hissing for a contest. Having had three consecutive matches canceled or postponed, they finally had the opportunity to capitalize on some hard weeks of training. The Old Aztecs presented a strong physical challenge, a side known for playing running rugby and testing the narrow channels of the defense.
The teams battled back and forth for the first 10 minutes of the match, OMBAC answering the OA’s carries with good line speed and solid tackling. A string of penalties found the boys defending the goal line, and after a few phases, they forced a knock by the OA’s in the try zone, winning a goal-line dropout. However, the kick did not go 5m, and the OA’s scored a try from the resulting scrum.
The following 20 minutes saw OMBAC build phase play and drive down the field several times, only to be stopped by a knock-on or penalty at the breakdown in the crucial moments. The OA’s drove over a scrum inside the 22m line, and faced another stout goal-line stand from the OMBAC defense. The OA’s inched over the chalk for a second try despite some powerful tackles from the loose forwards and centers. Soon after, an offsides penalty saw the OA’s kick for points to make it 13-0.
Late in the first half, OMBAC drove down the field through some quick phases, great game management from the 9/10 pairing of Drew Strobl and Joe Burson-Ryan, and brutal carries from Lole Veimau and Seppi Zapataoliva. The OA’s were penalized repeatedly at the breakdown, resulting in a yellow card, and OMBAC capitalized on the man down, scoring their first try in the corner through prop Saeed Kodaimati to end the half.
OMBAC attacked the second half with new energy, making try-saving tackles and winning turnovers at the breakdown. Bringing on some subs to replace injuries and inject pace into the attack, the Beach Boys looked to be gaining momentum. Some tactical kicking from the OA’s and a lost lineout later, OMBAC found themselves down 18-5. They hit back with some explosive plays from Ari Flink and Paul Saccomano, who broke the line off a maul and took it 40m to score OMBAC’s second try and make it 18-12 after the conversion. Continuing to apply the pressure, the boys drove down the field with some expansive play, only to have a potential third try held up in the try zone. After the near-miss, neither team could gain an advantage, and the match ended 18-12 Aztecs.
It was a tough defeat, a cross-town rivalry match that we are always intent on winning. However, there were plenty of bright spots of play, as well as lessons to be learned from the loss. The boys returned to training on Monday with a determination to grow together as a team and put in the work needed to produce better results. Head Coach Mike Saunders continues to install a game plan that will allow OMBAC to pick apart less mobile opponents, and the team is looking forward to its matchup with the Oceanside Chiefs on February 5th. Stay tuned for more!