Eastern Sierra Rugby Club was tougher on defense in its rematch with the Belmont Shore club, but still fell in its final game of the regular season, March 31.
The Jacks matched the same number of points, 12, scored against Belmont during their first meeting and held the top ranked team to 16 fewer points.
The 46-12 loss puts the Jacks into an equally tough first playoff berth, on the road April 21.
Belmont started the scoring nine minutes into the match when a missed tackle allowed them to score in the right corner of the Jacks’ goal area. The conversion kick was unsuccessful, but Belmont was up 5-0.
Five minutes later, Belmont’s Leo Hunt went to the weak side from a set scrum and was able to feed his back line for another score in the corner. Again the kick was wide but Long Beach’s home team took a 10-0 lead.
The Jacks finally got going with a series of “pick and jams” in the forwards that lead to two Belmont penalties. Jacks scrumhalf Manny Terrazas took quick penalty kicks and, when Belmont failed to retreat the required 10 yards each time, they were again penalized.
Now close to the Belmont try line, Terrazas fed the ball to the big Jacks forwards who inched closer until a set scrum was called at the 15 yard line. Terrazas picked up the ball from the back of the scrum and went to the weak side, breaking a tackle enroute to the first Jacks try of the day. The conversion kick by Terrazas was good and the Belmont lead was reduced to 10-7.
Their confidence raised, the Jacks pressured Belmont for the rest of the half, moving the ball to the home team’s 20 yard line.
A Belmont off sides penalty allowed Terrazas to set up a play to breakaway Pomo Saulque. Saulque went into contact at the 10 yard line where he managed to make a perfect pass to left wing, Eric Eddy. The quick winger dove into the goal area for his first try of the year. Terrazas missed the difficult angle kick but, as the half came to a close, the Jacks had the lead 12-10.
“It was probably the best half of rugby we played all season,” said Jacks coach, Rick Frey.
Sensing that they might actually get upset at home, Belmont inserted several fresh players for the second half. Unfortunately, the Jacks only had 15 players make the trip and the Eastern Sierra team couldn’t match the home team’s second half pressure.
Belmont scored six tries in the second half, converting three of them. Almost all of the scoring was due to Jacks missed tackles and poor cover defense.
“Several of our guys were injured and we had no one to bring in,” said Frey. “And Belmont didn’t cut us any slack, bringing in so many fresh players. We played as tough as we could under the circumstances. We made two courageous goal line stands that prevented scores, and our prop, Joey Camacho, actually touched down a try for us that the referee missed. I was proud of every one of them.”
Despite losing to Belmont twice, which is the first time the Jacks have lost to the same opponent this season, Eastern Sierra made the playoffs for the second time in its two year history. The Jacks play the first-place team from the southern section of Division IV of the Southern California Rugby Football Union, the undefeated SoCal Blues, in Lawndale on Saturday, April 21.
“If we can get by the Blues,” said Frey, “we’ll probably get another lick at Belmont. Maybe three will be a charm for us. But first we need to take care of business on the 21st.”