NYAC, OPSB set for RSL Final on Saturday

In Seattle, Old Puget Sound Beach defeated San Francisco Golden Gate 39-6 in the second Rugby Super League semi final today.  In the earlier game, New York Athletic Club defeated Life University 38-12. The 2012 Rugby Super League final will be hosted by Old Puget Sound Beach, tentatively scheduled for 5 p.m. June 2. Old Puget Sound Beach almost got off to a dream start, first with Nick Hawkins (stopped just short) and then Mike Palefau (slipped) threatening the San Francisco Golden Gate line. Not to be outshone, SFGG's winger Jeff Colata displayed nice running and deft handling on a long run down the sideline.

But it was OPSB on the board first, fullback Mike Palefau scoring after some nice work in the centers by Alipate Tuiveluka among others. SFGG replied through a penalty from Volney Rouse, the penalty awarded after a support runner appeared to be impeded while going through. Minutes later SFGG appeared to be on the verge of scoring, but a crossing call brought them back.  Both sides were looking very dangerous with the ball in hand in the early stages as the play moved around the field.

Another Volney Rouse break was halted by an illegal tackle which earned the offender a stern lecture from the referee, and Rouse hit the penalty to give SFGG the lead at 6-5.  With ten minutes left in the first half, OPSB scrumhalf Emosi Vucago slipped through the defensive line from the base of a ruck and scored under the posts to restore OPSB's lead at 12-5.  Minutes later Nick Hawkins latched onto a long skip pass to cross the try line for OPSB's third try. With the half closing out, Vucago kicked a penalty in front of the posts, and OPSB went into halftime with a solid 20-6 lead.

OPSB started the second half on a positive note, with Hawkins scoring his second try of the day, again finishing off a move
punctuated by crisp passing. For the next fifteen minutes, SFGG camped inside OPSB's 22, repeatedly striking towards the try-line and forcing defensive penalties.  Impressive work from second row Nick Civetta and the entire SFGG back row was on offer throughout this time.  But the defensive line held and SFGG came away with no points from the period of pressure.  On the contrary, OPSB's Miles Craigwell intercepted a pass near his own line and raced the length of the field to score between the posts.  The simple conversion made the score 32-6 and effectively put the game out of reach.

OPSB's number 8 Matt Trouville finished the scoring for the hosts with his side's sixth try after twenty five minutes.  SFGG kept plugging away, and almost had some semblance of a reward for their efforts, but a knock-on on the goal line epitomized the day for the visitors.  With both benches emptying, the home crowd was treated to the sight of Fijian legend Waisale Serivi taking the field to close out the last ten minutes of the game for OPSB.

"Everything lined up well for us this year between the players, management, recruiting" said OPSB representative Tim Zern, "and the opportunity to host a semi final and now a final is great, very exciting".  SFGG's coach Paul Keeler reported "we felt like we were in it, but we had too many unforced errors  today. (OPSB) had a great defense and speed out wide and they used it....  We wish both teams the best of luck and it should be an exciting final."

On a very hot day in New York, NYAC punched their ticket to the 2012 Rugby Super League Championship game, defeating Life University 38-12. Life had the first opportunity of the day, turning down a possible kickable penalty for a kick to the corner, but the resulting lineout was botched.  Life made amends soon after, getting on the board with an Aaron McMaster penalty.  NYAC claimed the restart and quickly attacked the Life line, but the final pass did not come off and Life managed to clear, but only as far as the '22.  NYAC takes the lineout, and in a pattern that would be repeated several times throughout the afternoon to great effect, the NYAC forwards pounded away for several phases and crossed for the first try of the game.  

Alan MacGinty made the difficult conversion for a 7-3 lead, midway through the first half.  Five minutes later NYAC takes advantage of a Life turnover in the NYAC half, bringing the ball all the way back for NYAC's second try, scored by center Toby L'Estrange.  MacGinty again converts. Life pulls back a couple of three pointers by McMaster, as Life is forcing penalties and free kicks at the set-pieces.  The second penalty also earned ten minutes in the sin bin for NYAC flanker Neil McMillan for the team infractions.  Life makes some promising breaks, notably by Brendan Thomson and Tui Osborne, but the NYAC defense holds. Despite being down a man, NYAC again rolls off a series of pick and go moves, with the pack gaining big chunks of ground and scoring another forwards try.  MacGinty hits another difficult conversion for a 21-9 halftime lead.

The second half resembled the first in many ways, with NYAC playing mistake free rugby, maintaining possession and starving Life of many scoring opportunities.  When Life did make breaks, such as ones by Benny Mateialona and Alfred Qaranivalu, NYAC was able to recover and snuff out the threat.  Life did score first in the second half, another penalty by McMaster, but NYAC replied with another forwards oriented try to stretch the lead to 28-12.  Twenty five minutes in, second row Brian Doyle rumbled down the touchline to score a try in the corner.   Doyle joined his fellow forwards James Denise and Neil McMillan on the try scorer sheet. NYAC would add another try as the game wound down to leave the final score at 38-12.

Life's James Isaacson said of NYAC, "They kept the ball and we didn't, and they did their job and made us defend for 60-70 minutes and with those weather conditions you are not going to win any game on the planet if you have to defend that long.The main positive we can take from it is that we managed to defend decently for 50 minutes then we collapsed and the points started coming in. We had decent resistance but they got through us in multiple phases to score, and full credit to them for pressuring us and that's the hallmark of a good side". NYAC's Lou Stanfill said the conditions made it tough on both sides "there were a couple of lulls in the game, but between the lulls there was some good rugby played.  We played some good defense, we didn't let a try in...but we still killed ourselves with penalties, but we reacted much better in getting back ten and the maturity is coming into it more."  Teammate Mike Petri added that he is "happy with the win and looking forward to next week."