By Tim Pickwell
A physical La Costa Canyon Varsity Rugby team took its first loss of the season, 41-12, Feb. 2 at the hands of a more experienced, tactical Torrey Pines Varsity Club. Torrey Pines trailed for the first time all season, after LCC Flanker Jake Galloway scored over the middle five minutes into the match (kick failed). But, Torrey Pines Head Coach Matty Sandoval patiently used the skills of Senior Fly Half Alec Mills who connected on four consecutive penalty kicks over the next 20 minutes to put Torrey Pines ahead, 12-5. Mills dealt with swirling winds at the Torrey Pines Football Stadium to nail kicks of 25, 32 and 25 yards, along with a point-blank shot between the posts.
The Torrey Pines squad is 6-0, and the No. 1 seed from the San Diego County “White Division” in Southern California Youth Rugby. Torrey Pines will host the No. 2 seed, Long Beach Wilson, next week in the first round of the playoffs. LCC (5-1-1) will face Desert Sands (7-0). The Southern California Youth Rugby High School Championships for all divisions (Red, White, Blue) will be held Saturday, Feb. 15, at Cathedral Catholic High School.
Torrey Pines and LCC are intensely competitive in all sports, which helped explained the ferocious, football like hitting, the three yellow cards (2 LCC, 1 TP) and physical play.
“Rival games always concern coaches, and this one was no different,” said TP Coach Sandoval. “The beauty of rugby versus other sports is that afterwards, the boys become brothers. And of that, I am most proud. The game was fast, violent, and there was a lot of mouthiness. But, I told both teams, I know you are rivals in everything, but in rugby, we’re all winners, we’re all brothers.”
Torrey Pines prefers a wide-open style — getting the ball into the hands of its large and fast centers and wings, where it frequently finds mismatches in talent, speed, experience and numbers. But it wasn’t until just before half-time that wing Harrison Cohen was able to break free for a winding, long run that culminated in a quick pitch and try in the corner by Mason O’Rosky, a junior playing the critical “Number 8” position in place of injured Dean Karam. The white-hot Mills nailed the conversion despite a severe angle, to make the score, 19-5 at the half.
Play continued with Torrey Pines’ USA U17 All-American junior Toran Raby (playing outside center) setting up wing Jeremy Fleet (No. 14) for a score, to put the home team up, 24-5.
Moments later, a ball squirted out of a Torrey Pines scrum and an alert Maverick, Ryan Becker (No. 8), ran up the middle for a quick score. Becker also nailed the conversion. 24-12, Torrey Pines.
Torrey Pines responded in minutes when it’s biggest forward, 6’ 5” senior Pierre Pretorious picked a ball up directly out of a ruck and went between the posts. Another Mills conversion had the team up, 31-12. “Pierre was the ‘Man-of-the-Match,’” for us, said Sandoval. “He was in danger of losing his job in the front row not too long ago, and I moved him to Prop. He said, ‘If it keeps me in the starting line-up, I’ll do it.’ And, today he was everywhere for us: tackling, rucking, running, a fantastic game.”
With only 14 players on the field for both squads, thanks to yellow cards, Mills hit a late penalty kick, and inside center Jake Goena then went 80 yards untouched on the games’ final play to set up another Mills conversion. Final, 41-12.
Torrey Pines Varsity is ranked No. 19 nationally by Rugby Magazine. When the high school season ends in two weeks, the TP Varsity morphs into the San Diego Mustangs U19 Club with the same coaches, but the Torrey Pines players are then joined by veteran teammates from Cathedral and other campuses. The Mustangs U19 Club is currently ranked No. 6 nationally by Rugby Magazine.