Mendocino Steam Donkeys edge State of Jefferson Elite
Submitted by LUKE KUHNSOn Feb. 22, the Mendocino Steam Donkeys rugby team piled into a van in the darkness of the pre-dawn hours and set out on a 5 hour journey to Yreka, the home of the State Of Jefferson Elite Rugby Club. After what can only be described as too-long-in a-van, the players arrived ready to shake off the hours on the road and play some rugby.
The game kicked off at 1 p.m., with both sides ready for action. The teams seemed to be evenly matched in the opening minutes of the game, with neither team turning possession into points. Yreka threatened to score first with the Steam Donkeys backed up in their own try line for several minutes. Yreka sent wave after wave of attacking play towards the Steam Donkeys, but the defense held strong and an eventual penalty against Yreka negated the threat.
Minutes later Yreka capitalized on a Mendocino penalty and converted a kick at goal. This is similar to a field goal and is also worth three points. Mendocino soon regained the momentum with effective offensive play, capped off with a galloping run by Robert Garbocci for over 30 meters. A penalty occurred shortly after and Manny Griego was able to convert a kick at goal for the Steam Donkeys. The score was now even at 3 points each.
The teams continues to exchange scrappy play until Michael Wellington was able to make something out of a broken play and evade several Yreka defenders on his way to an impressive try. The kick after was missed and the score sat at 8-3. Shortly after, another try was scored by Luke Kuhns on a short run after a penalty. Manny Griego converted the kick after goal and the score was now 15-3 in favor of the Steam Donkeys. As the game progressed, Yreka was able to take advantage of a tiring Steam Donkey defense and create some long runs and eventually two tries. Mendocino was able to answer back with a try of their own and the score finally rested at Mendocino 22 and Yreka 13.
The match was physical, with a lot of big tackles and bruising runs from Mike Mondo, Devin Campbell, Manny Natividad, and Pete Scoggins, among others. The Steam Donkey forward pack took control of the scrums, a battle for possession after certain infringements. Yreka was just as physical and had some stellar play of their own, but the experience of many of the Steam Donkey players helped Mendocino to their third victory of the year.
Afterwards, handshakes and “good game” congratulations were exchanged, with both teams feeling battered, bruised, and tired. As is customary, the teams headed to a post-game social. Players mingled, ate, drank, sang songs and enjoyed the camaraderie that is rugby. The Man of the Match for Mendocino, which is chosen by the opposing team, was Robert Garbocci. He displayed strong scrimmaging and defense, but ultimately shined with several long and aggressive runs.
The Mendocino Steam Donkeys will play The State of Jefferson Elite again on April 12, at home, at the north Pomolita fields behind Mendocino County buildings, with kickoff at 1 p.m.
On March 1, the Steam Donkeys played another home match, this one against Humboldt Old Growth in the battle for the Emerald Cup. Mendocino won handily by a score 41-7.
The Steam Donkeys will be home again this Saturday, playing the Shasta Highlanders at 1 p.m. at the north Pomolita fields. All are welcome. It is a family friendly event. Come out and support your local ruggers.