The San Diego Mustangs U19 youth rugby club completed an undefeated season with a 17-12 victory over Back-Bay Rugby Club on Saturday afternoon at Cal State Fullerton, capturing the Southern California championship. The win made it 12 straight for the Mustangs, a team comprised of athletes from local high schools, primarily Torrey Pines and Cathedral Catholic.
The tone of the match was set from the opening kickoff. Mustang kicker and standout prop David Lederer sent the opening kick deep, and Back Bay immediately revealed their strategy of picking and jamming, the rugby term of handing it to the big boys and charging at the Mustang forwards. Although outweighed by 40 pounds per man, the Mustangs met the challenge, led by sure tackling hooker, Ryan Hoffman, and always active flanker, Jonathon Raby.
The Mustangs backs were similarly outsized, but courageously launched repeated attacks at the Back-Bay defense. Brian Hollenback, the Mustang flyhalf, along with centers Lucas Zender and Billy Maggs, the high school All American out of Torrey Pines High School, absorbed hit after hit. The defensive first half ended in a 5-5 tie, both sides scoring one try.
The Mustangs got the wind for the second half, but an early mishandled pass led to a turnover and try by Back Bay, awakening their boisterous fans. The Mustangs answered back with an unconverted try to standout player Brian Holllenbeck to make the score 12-10 to Back Bay. As the clock ticked down to five minutes, the Mustangs got the break they needed when fullback Bryce Hageman burst through the line, stepping one defender, and outrunning the other from forty meters to the goalposts for the try converted by Jess Krauss.
With little time remaining Back-Bay fought back with fury. Mustang captain Brent Sander rallied his troops to defend and counter-attack with equal vigor. With a complete team effort the Mustangs managed to hold out Back-Bay and claim the Southern California championship with a 17-12 victory.