Torrey Pines High School dominates Saints on sloggy rugby pitch

By Tim Pickwell

The rain let up early Saturday morning, but the Torrey Pines Rugby Club never did. They were relentless in pounding St. Augustine, 48-7, in a San Diego Section, Gold Division, High School Rugby match.

The game was played at OMBAC’s hidden gem of a field next to the San Diego River Bed in a far corner of the Qualcomm Stadium parking lot. The water table at “The Little Q” is just a few inches below the manicured pitch, making for a muddy, slow field. But, Torrey Pines’ young and energetic forwards were able to defend the middle of the pitch and get the ball out quickly to a series of fleet backs. Senior Wing Michael Cahill took a pitch from Fullback Bernardo Olivas, and streaked down the left side of the field for the first score. A few minutes later, Cahill did it again to put the Torrey Pines squad up by two trys.

After a lapse on offense gave the Saints an interception and a quick, cheap score, it was the other Wing, Junior Jake Goana, who took a pitch, turned the corner, and ran for a long try. The forward pack kept St. Augustine’s larger forwards from getting any momentum, repelling every advantage at the point of tackle. Rugby, unlike football, is continuous play and the ball carrier can keep the play alive by presenting the ball to a larger teammate from the turf. This is called a ruck, and makes for an exciting, albeit tense struggle between the forwards.

The experienced Saints dominated the line-outs, but the Torrey Pines pack pushed the Saints off the ball all day in the scrums. The real advantage was in the backline, as the Torrey Pines backs proved more athletic as the game wore on. Scrum Half Seth Hill added a score, as did Senior Center Chase Pickwell, and rookie Senior Dillon Loyek, a recent Varsity football player.

“This team worried me, especially after our sloppy effort last week,” said Head Coach Matty Sandoval. “And I don’t mean St. Augustine. However our boys paid great attention in practice, and executed our game plan perfectly. If we play every game like we did today, this group can be very special.”

Kicker Alec Mills rebounded from last week’s slow start, and hit on a number of difficult conversions. In rugby, the “point-after-attempt” is not placed in front of the goal posts, but is placed based on where the try (i.e. “touchdown”) was scored. A score in the corner of the try zone can make for a technically challenging angle kick. Mills showed power and aim in converting 7 out of 9 kicks.

The defense was paced by senior Jonathon Raby, who was all over the field making tackles and disrupting the Saints offense. He may have been inspired by the presence of the St. Mary’s College coaches. St. Mary’s is a collegiate rugby powerhouse, and on the short list of college programs Raby is looking to attend. Mike Cox, another experienced TP forward lent his always steady hand in setting up the defense, and recycling the ball in the rucks. Beefy, hard-hitting newcomer Miles Ahles looks to be a natural born rugger, after earning his first start.

Torrey Pines will take a breather for the Christmas Holiday break, and resume play Jan. 5 against Point Loma High School. Although every team is a test, Cathedral Catholic looms ahead also starting the season 2-0. That game will be hosted by CCHS on Jan. 19.