Sunday, July 24, 2016

Late Run Propels Sacramento Past San Diego

Photo: Connie Hatfield
The Sacramento Express put in a late surge to beat San Diego 35-27 in an absolutely thrilling match at Bonney Field on Saturday. The win now puts Sacramento one point behind San Francisco in the race to avoid the Wooden Spoon with the two teams set to square off next week. The loss ends the season for San Diego and see them finish with seven straight defeats. That's a big turnaround for a team that was pushing for the top of the table early in the season.

It was only fitting that the match started for with Kurt Morath penalty for San Diego. He was able to pick up seven more points on the day to add to his league leading total. However, fitting their season San Diego nearly immediately gave up a penalty that Mirco Bergamasco connected on to make it 3-3 with five minutes played. Harry Bennett had a chance to add to that total a few minutes later thanks to Morath kicking the restart out on the full and then a penalty on the Breakers in the scrum but his long attempt went off the post.

The next ten minutes or so were dictated by set plays as each team committed a number of infractions. San Diego did have a nice spell of pressure led by Andrew Suniula nearly claiming a nice chip but Jope Motokana did well to tip it back to himself and relieve the pressure.

Take the jump to read more.

Around the 20th minute mark Sacramento finally began to find their groove and using their forwards worked the ball close to their line. A penalty temporarily bailed San Diego out but the Express were able to earn the ball back and did well to keep possession. After several more phases Val Lee-Lo did well to pick the ball out of the ruck and rumble over for the score. Bergamasco would miss the conversion and Sacramento would led 8-3.

The Express maintained the pressure after the try and when John Quill made a break he would eventually cross over for the second try in just a matter of minutes. This time Bergamasco would hit the conversion and the Express would lead 15-3 at halftime.

With the heat making an impact each team made some subs to start the second half which helped pick up the pace. That lead to a penalty for Sacramento and then a few minutes later a try for San Diego with Mikey Te'o scoring. Showing great hands San Diego did well to keep the ball alive and when they earned a penalty Te'o showed a great heads up play to go quick and score when Sacramento were caught napping. The conversion missed but San Diego were back within ten at 18-8.

Bergamasco would add another penalty to extend the lead to 21-8 but then next fifteen minutes would  belong to the Breakers. It began when Suniula was able to break through the defense before finding the supporting Te'o for his second try. The conversion sneaked over and San Diego were within a try. The pressure kept coming and soon they had their third try of the half when the ball was fed out to the wing to Taku Ngwenya for the try. Like that San Diego had the lead back at 22-21. A third try came with about 15 minutes to go when Ryan Matyas was able to slip through the defense. San Diego now lead 27-21 after the conversion missed.

At this point in the match it would have been easy for Sacramento to pack it in and wait until next week. But a credit to their attitude they regrouped for a great final portion of the match. They retook the lead with ten minutes to go. Keeping the ball in hand the ball went out to Garrett Brewer in stride. From there he juked Morath to the ground and was in for the try. It was a great response for the Express while the at the same time disappointing for San Diego who visibly looked let down after giving up the lead.  With only one point separating each side both had chances, including a great run from Ryan Koewler. In the end it was Kyle Sumsion going from the back of a ruck to score the match's final try.

For San Diego they will now head into the offseason with a list of questions as to why their season came off the rails. With the large number of internationals on their roster they were expected to do better but that also might have been their downfall. June was brutal for the team with injuries and absences taking the toll. When the internationals did return the rhythm was gone. For Sacramento it was a solid win and indicative of the direction they've been heading over the second part of the season.


Tries: Lee-Lo, Quill, Brewer, Sumsion
Conversions: Bergamasco (3)
Penalties: Bergamasco (3)

San Diego

Tries: Te'o (2), Ngwenya, Matyas
Conversions: Morath (2)
Penalties: Morath

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