Mendo Rugby runs out of time, loses to Redwood 19-26
Mendocino Steam Donkey rugby is known for two things: hard hits and looking out for each other on the field. This week, they lost one of those battles, made a few costly mistakes, and ran out of time to end in a 19-26 loss against Redwood Empire Rugby.
As the morning began, the weather was fantastic and the fans were bountiful. The Ukiah Wildcats, a new High School rugby team, was in attendance. Erick Fackrell from Double Standyrd sang the national anthem a capella.
Coming from a close win over Shasta last week at an away game, the Steam Donkeys entered this week’s season opening home game against the Redwood Empire Rugby with great expectations. “Saturday’s a rugby day” is a common expression, and it felt like the day and game were there for the taking.
The first half of the game was dominated by hard hits. While the Steam Donkeys have hard hitters of their own, the Redwood Empire Rugby team had some particularly big boys. One man in particular looked to be about 6-5 and about 275 pounds of muscle. It took multiple Mendocino players to tackle him, creating opportunities for their other players in the wings.
Additionally, Redwood Empire played as a tight family unit, and was able to openly and secretly discuss their plans on the field throughout the game by speaking in a Polynesian dialect. In a game without breaks for huddling, fast communication is key and this seems to have given them an edge.
This is not to say the Steam Donkeys were helpless. As the second half began, Redwood began to look tired and the home team grew stronger by the minute. Due to better conditioning and having warmed up as a team unit, Mendocino began a second half push.
With each sequential drive, the Steam Donkeys were pounding toward the try line to score. First a crack to the middle, followed by a cut back, and then a quick pass outside. There was a thrill in the air as the crowd felt the tide change. But just as a Mendocino win felt inevitable, the whistle blew ending the game.
It felt like there should have been 20 more minutes of play, but the game ended in a 19-26 loss for Mendocino, with 3 tries and 2 conversions by the Steam Donkeys, and 4 tries and 3 conversions by the Redwood Empire Rugby team.
With many new players on the field, the Mendocino Steam Donkeys are improving with each game as they learn to play to each other’s strengths and styles. In a fast paced game like rugby, sometimes the final score reflects being able to think faster than your opponent, which comes down to knowing each other, which comes with time.
Until then, a few of those lessons are being learned from hard hits, both given and taken. Mendocino may have lost the match, but with all the new teammates the squad has recruited this year, the team has a bright future.
The team is currently 1-1 in league play. For more information, visit www.mendorugby.com.