Life West rugby’s pursuit of a second consecutive Pacific Rugby Premiership title began in earnest Saturday at Bodnar Field on the Cal Maritime campus in Vallejo, California. The Life West men overcame both a talented Glendale Merlins squad and an hourlong numbers disadvantage with one man down to prevail 35-26.
Life West sprinted to a 15-0 lead in the game’s first 19 minutes, thanks to a successful penalty kick by Mike McCarthy and tries by Langilangi Haupeakui and Sione Finefeuaki. The home team found itself in a precarious situation moments later, though, when starting scrumhalf Travis Benson received a red card. As a result, Life West was forced to play without him for nearly 60 minutes.
The Merlins capitalized on the man-up opportunity with back-to-back tries that brought them back into the game. But the Life West team regained their composure after the red card and scored several times to take a 30-19 lead into halftime.
In stark contrast to the offensive explosion that took place in the first half, both defenses shined in the last 40 minutes of play. It took more than 30 minutes for a squad to score, and Glendale got on the board first to cut the Life West lead to 30-26. However, Life West quickly countered with the final score of the game, which came on a plunge by Dan Pusack with less than seven minutes remaining.
“I was really pleased with the heart we showed out there today,” Life West head coach Adriaan Ferris said after the game. “We talk about being a brotherhood and being a family. They really worked for each other.”
Life West’s PRP team will travel to rival Belmont Shore on Saturday for a 1 pm tilt. The game is a rematch of the 2019 PRP final, which Life West won 36-27 to advance to the national semifinal. Next weekend’s slate also features action for Life West’s D2 and D3 teams. The D2 squad will travel to Santa Rosa, while the D3 unit will face the Bay Area Baracus Rugby Club.
The Life West women were slated to host the San Jose Seahawks on Saturday and won via forfeit. Now 1-2 on the 2020 campaign, they’ll return to the field on Saturday, Feb. 22, in an 11 am road game against the Sacramento Amazons.