Referee: Freitas, Larry
I drove down from Aptos to CSUMB mid-morning Saturday for another game pitting two fairly new programs against each other, as St. Mary’s of Moraga’s Gaels would take on Cal State Monterey’s Sea Otters. The skies were partly cloudy, and the big puffy ones hung over the various coastal ranges that ring the inland crescent of the Monterey Bay, leftovers from the last cold front that only produced some sprinkles the previous night.
My dashboard’s thermometer read 57F arriving a half hour before the match. I made the long walk to the pitch and did my pre-game preparations.
The pitch itself was in fairly good shape, given the season’s rain, the games played previously in wet conditions, and the fact it is used for training. The field certainly was dried out from the quick-moving storm of Wednesday night and early Thursday morning.
Kick off was at 11:05, and right away I could see that St. Mary’s had a game strategy laid out that would lead to a number of tries as the game wore on: the forwards running the ball straight up the field, and with any contact having the next player up scoop the ball and advance it further up the field. There really weren’t many rucks then as opposed to a St. Mary’s tackled player just leaving the ball behind and having the next teammate pick it up and run on. Finally, enough space would be created in mid-field that the ball was spun wide as defenders were sucked into the forward’s rushes. Katy Conway, St. Mary’s outside center, did score the first try of the match seven minutes into play, but it was a try scored from a turnover by CSUMB, when their inside center mishandled and pass that was scooped up from the ground just inside CSUMB’s half, and St. Mary’s had the chance to counterattack for a quick 7-0 lead. Eight minutes later the Lady Gaels scored a forward’s try after minutes of pressure deep in the opponent’s half. In fact, much of the first half was played in the Monterey end of the pitch. Another key player for St. Mary’s was Katy Whiting, their scrum-half, who was to switch to flanker in the second half of play. She’s very accurate with the boot, converting the first four tries for her team for a 28-0 lead, some from not the best angles for any kicker. Her coach told me after the game she spent the first semester of the school year at Oxford and did make the Oxford second team. Pete Dawkins would be proud.
Before the half ended CSUMB would get on the scoreboard. Near the halfway line and from the left-hand side of the pitch CSUMB’s scrum-half would score following a set scrum when the ball was passed on to the flyhalf, who proceeded to run wide and pass the ball behind her in what appeared to be a planned scissors move. The problem was that the inside center wasn’t close enough to receive the pass that fell harmlessly to the ground. Scrum-half Sabrina Bacuangan was close enough to scoop the ball up and start a sprint, leaving defenders behind, as she scored. The try wasn’t converted, and I was in a spot of bother, as I felt that hamstring pull that’s been bothering me lately when I dashed off behind the runner. St. Mary’s would score a few minutes later, the forwards using a few phases to finally crash over the goal line. Halftime score was 33-5. I had the CSUMB trainer attend to my right hamstring, and I was able to complete my refereeing duties with a wrapped leg.
The second half started with CSUMB finally able to penetrate St. Mary’s half and put pressure on their defense. Several times I awarded five-meter scrums to the Otters, but they couldn’t capitalize. I awarded a try and immediately disallowed it seeing that a St. Mary’s pair of hands had kept the ball from being grounded by a CSUMB player, just held up inches from the ground. I called a penalty when CSUMB’s scrum-half double played the ball close to the goal line as she was tackled and tried to crawl forward to score. St. Mary’s finally ended quite a few minutes of this constant pressure when they cleared their lines, the clearing kick made by a forward. For the rest of the match, CSUMB didn’t really threaten St. Mary’s territory. As for St. Mary’s, Conway, their center, would score two more back-to-back tries, as the ball was moved wide to the backs. Three more tries ended the match when St. Mary’s number 8, a second-half substitute, took off on some long runs to score, two of these from lineouts from halfway.
Final score: St. Mary’s 62, CSUMB 5. One positive note for CSUMB was that they did try to vary their offensive approach to the game, using their fly-half to kick deep into space behind St. Mary’s backline when the opportunity arose and making St. Mary’s retreat to cover. St. Mary’s also had a fly-half adept at this tactic, though much more often than not the ball was kept in hand, whether by backs or forwards.
I stuck around for the CSUMB v Sonoma State match. I was going to referee that match as well, but my hamstring was telling me no. Fortunately, Jeff Carlile, St. Mary’s coach, is certified, and he offered to referee that match. I owe him a pint.
|12:00 pm||West Coast Collegiate Women's Division II||2015-2016||02/20/16|