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By Joe Naiman
Village News Correspondent 

Fallbrook Girls Rugby sixth and fourth in Las Vegas sevens tournament


Last updated 3/29/2018 at 9:06pm

The Fallbrook Rugby Club's under-18 girls team took sixth place among the 28 teams in the under-18 Girls High School Open Sevens division at the Las Vegas Invitational Tournament March 1-3 while Fallbrook's under-16 girls placed fourth among the 10 under-16 teams.

"We learned a lot," said Fallbrook co-coach Craig Pinnell. "Overall we came out of it as a stronger group."

Fallbrook's coaches utilize early-season tournaments to provide experience for the girls and determine what preparations need to be made for the Southern California Youth Rugby League season and the National Invitational Tournament.

"We were just trying to understand each other," Pinnell said.

The under-18 squad had 14 players and the under-16 Warriors had a roster of 13 girls. The under-18 total does not include Bella Devore, who is part of the Fallbrook Rugby Club but played with the Atlantis all-star team in the tournament. Atlantis won the Girls High School Elite Sevens championship.

Pool play for the under-18 girls took place March 1. "The first day we started off really well with our defense," Pinnell said.

Fallbrook opened with a 24-5 win over Tennessee Tri Star. Morgan Bitner had two tries for the Warriors; Nathalie Belis had one try; Abby Savin had one try and a conversion, and Savannah Simmons kicked one conversion.

Fallbrook next faced the Junior Pandas club based in Edmonton. The 19-5 Fallbrook victory included a try apiece by Belis, Savin, and Monica Saltz along with two conversions from Simmons.

A 26-0 shutout win against the East Angels team from Colorado concluded pool play for the Warriors. "We had a really good game on defense," Pinnell said.

Savin, Natalie Weber, Samantha Oksne, and Phoebe Anderson each scored a try while Olivia Sonia kicked three conversions.

That gave Fallbrook first place in the pool. "A tournament is a tournament. It's not just one-day rugby," Pinnell said.

The seven teams which won their pools and the second-place team with the best showing advanced to the March 2 quarterfinals. Fallbrook's quarterfinal match was a 15-7 loss to the East Ontario Rugby Union squad. Sonia scored the try and the conversion.

The loss placed Fallbrook in the competition for fifth place, but the Sacramento-based Land Park squad prevailed by a 19-12 score in that March 2 match. Savin had a try and a conversion and Bitner had one try.

"They didn't get their heads in the game on day two as they should have," Pinnell said. "The competition gets more difficult and your body gets more tired."

Although the March 2 losses indicated the need to work on various defensive issues, the Warriors still finished in sixth place. "It wasn't a bad finish," Pinnell said.

The 10 under-16 teams were divided into two pools which competed in that round March 2. British Columbia beat Fallbrook by a 43-0 score in the Warriors' opener. "They had a wake-up call in the first game," Pinnell said.

Fallbrook followed that defeat with a 29-0 victory over the Alberta-based Celtic Black team. "That was a much improved game," Pinnell said.

Shelby Tiptin and Tiahna Padilla each scored two tries for the Warriors with A.J. Haughey scoring one try. Jordyn Duncan kicked two conversions.

The under-16 Warriors concluded pool play with a 7-5 victory over the Upright team from Dundas, Ontario. Padilla had both the try and the conversion for Fallbrook.

The 2-1 pool record gave the Warriors second place in their pool and a March 3 semifinal against Carson. A 19-5 Carson victory relegated Fallbrook to the third-place match. Padilla had the try for the Warriors.

The third-place match March 3 between Fallbrook and British Columbia ended as a 14-0 victory for the Vancouver-based team. Pinnell noted that the game was closer in the second match against the Canadians. "It was a huge improvement," Pinnell said.

The Southern California Youth Rugby League includes under-14 competition but the Las Vegas Invitational did not, so under-14 players competed on the Warriors' under-16 squad.

All of the seven-a-side games consisted of seven-minute halves or 14-minute matches. The tournament's youth matches were played at Heritage Park in Henderson.

"All in all a pretty good weekend which gave us a good understanding of where we need to go for the season," Pinnell said.


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