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Sunday, June 19, 2016

San Francisco Beat San Diego For First Road Win

Photo: Connie Hatfield
By Derek Sagehorn

San Francisco Rush squeezed out a close away win against the San Diego Breakers Saturday evening, 24-19. The visitors scored three tries to the host’s two in an entertaining mix of creative attack and hard-nosed defense.

San Francisco opened the scoring in the eighth minute as when Orene Ai’i broke the line with a clever dummy. The center looked off a defender towards the outside and then passed inside to Jérémy Lenaerts who ran over untouched for a try under the posts.

San Diego took possession and earned a penalty in San Francisco’s half but Kurt Morath’s kick sailed wide. The outhalf himself two minutes later with another penalty from the same angle to bring the score to 7-3 San Francisco.

Take the jump to read more.

Unfortunately for the Breakers, they lost scrumhalf Charlie Purdon to injury after a San Francisco foray into their corner. Off the ensuing scrum, San Diego cleared their lines but failed to find touch. Martini Talapusi darted through a gap and connected with Mils Muliania, who put Mike Haley over for a try in the corner. Rouse made the difficult corner kick and extended the Rush’s lead 14-3.

San Diego strung several promising phases together within San Francisco’s half and earned a penalty in front of the posts. Morath made it easily, and shortened the lead 14-6. San Francisco regained the 11 point lead three minutes later when Rouse made a penalty kick. The penalty kick exchanged ended with another Morath nailing another one a minute later. Rouse missed a penalty shortly as the first half wound down. Into the shed, San Francisco led 17-9.

After the break, Ryan Matyas found open field in San Francisco’s half. A crisp cut out pass to Ben Leatigaga should have found the wing in the corner, but Matyas’ pass hit dirt and several phases later the Breakers were bundled into touch. San Francisco turned the ball over quickly and cleared their lines. San Diego attacked that corner again, but the Rush’s Michael Reid poached a ball a meter from the whitewash. San Francisco cleared their lines and a few minutes later Phil Mackenzie knifed through a disorganized kick chase. San Diego attacked the corner again, but lost the ball in contact five meters from the try line. San Diego finally found pay dirt when Kalei Konrad cut out three defenders with a long pass to Leatigaga from the base of the ruck. The wing finished well, bringing San Diego to within three, San Francisco 17-14.

Tired of defending for 15 minutes, San Francisco gained possession and marched down to San Diego’s five meter. Patrick Latu bulldozed over but could not touch down. The Breakers forced a turnover off the resulting scrum and then cleared their lines. In the 66th minute, San Francisco took a clean lineout and broke San Diego’s midfield defense. Two quick phases saw San Diego stretched thin again in the midfield. Ai’i attacked the line, double-clutched and popped to Bill Fukofuka. The number broke, made contact with cover defense offloaded cleanly to replacement David Tameilau for a try under the post; San Francisco 24-14.

To their credit, the Breakers kept attacking and forced their way into Rush’s 22. San Francisco defended furiously but Kurt Morath’s no-look, inside pass to Pono Haitsuka gave San Diego hope, 24-19. The comeback attempt was too little too late, however, as San Francisco turned San Diego over to finish with their first away win.

San Diego, already thin due to the loss of internationals, suffered from the loss of Charlie Purdon and Zach Pangelinan. They will look forward to a week off to recover. But full credit to the Rush, especially their goal line defense. Brendan Daly worked hard in defense and in the coalface to clean things up for San Francisco. And Orene Ai’i continues to impress with creativity and flair. They will face Ohio next, looking to extend their winning streak at Fortress Obetz.

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