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By Jeff Pack

Fallbrook Girls Rugby bring home SCYR U18 title


Last updated 5/17/2019 at 6:17pm

The Fallbrook Girls Rugby Club Under 18 team traveled to Torrey Pines High School Saturday, May 11, to take on a familiar foe in the championship match for Southern California Youth Rugby.

On a cold and rainy morning, the Warriors took on the rival South Bay Spartans – a team they lost to in the NorCal Invitational finals in Livermore just a month earlier and had beaten two months earlier in their first matchup of the season.

But this time, it was the Warriors who brought home the hardware, pulling away late to beat the Spartans 22-5.

The battle between arguably the two best high school girls rugby teams in the nation was a physical one, and several players on both teams left the field with injuries and several with bandages over wounds or ice packs pressed onto muscles.

The Warriors earned their spot in the finals with a 74-0 victory over the Rancho Bernardo Mustangs at Ingold Fields, May 4. The Spartans topped Coastal Dragons to earn their spot in the finals.

Coming into the contest, the Warriors were without one of their co-captains, fullback Abbey Savin, who was tabbed to play with USA Rugby’s High School All-Americans team at the NexGen Sevens Tournament in Langford, British Columbia, in Canada.

But the Spartans were without one of their stars as well, center and fly-half Punipuao Skipps.

Freshman Tiahna Padilla opened the scoring for the Warriors in the first half, but the Warriors missed the conversation and led 5-0 until the Spartans fought back for a try of their own.

The half would end in a deadlock.

Senior Morgan Bitner broke the tie with a try and Shelby Tippin converted the conversion to make it 12-5. It was senior Nathalie Celis that scored next, extending the lead to 17-5.

As play continued, Tippin kicked through to put pressure on the Spartans and sophomore Analiese Dalton tackled the receiver, causing a turnover that senior Nathalie Celis scooped up before offloading to Tippin’s sister, Julia, who powered over for another try.

Head coach Craig Pinnell pointed to a total team effort.

“Team dedication to the cause with everyone putting their bodies on the line,” Pinnell said of the victory.

He singled out Julia Tippin for being “Very disruptive on opposition ball and never gives up – (she has a) very high work rate.”

The Warriors were scheduled to leave for Murray, Utah, Thursday, May 16, to compete in the National High School Girl’s Club Rugby Championships over the weekend.

The SCYR title was the second for Fallbrook Girls Rugby Club this season, as the Under 15 Warriors brought home the SCYR U15 7s title after winning three games out of four, including a head-to-head win over runners-up Empire Rugby.

Pinnell said A.J Haughey was “instrumental in disrupting opposition ball from the set-piece and stealing the ball at the breakdown. She has good speed. Dakota Flaherty showed determination in her chase and cover tackle on a number of occasions to shut down try-scoring opportunities for the opposition.”

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at


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