USA Super League Opening Day
Brian Lowe
March 16, 2003

Winter weather across the United States tested teams on opening day of the 2003 USA Rugby Super League championship, but the new season got off to a great start in spite of mother nature.

Round One winners: OMBAC, Potomac Athletic Club, Old Blue New York, Aspen, Dallas Harlequins, Belmont Shore and San Francisco Golden Gate. Chilly conditions in the east, dry heat in the Midwest and Texas and clear skies in northern California, were all outdone by an absolute deluge in southern Cal.

A large storm front moved in from the Pacific and dumped on San Diego just in time for the Blue Conference match-of-the-round between OMBAC and the Olympic Club Blues of San Francisco.

The early going was all in OMBAC's half of the field as the O-Club mounted several raids in its search for first points, however, the pressure amounted to naught when the visitors missed a shot at goal in the third minute. OMBAC capitalized on the wayward kick and got on the board in the fifth minute when center Siaa Taveuveu was fed the ball from a five-meter scrum and darted over beside the posts. Fullback Alister Steele converted for an early 7-0 scoreline.

Because of the wet conditions and greasy ball, the first half was a little scrappy with many unforced errors. Steele uncharacteristically missed three kicks at goal that he ordinarily would have slotted blindfolded. The first forty minutes were also punctuated by niggling, off-the-ball incidents and referee Pat McNally sin-binned OMBAC eightman Henry Schaaf just on halftime as a result of a scrap in a ruck.

As the second half began, the heavens opened and multi-phase play became virtually impossible. At the 10-minute mark of the period, Schaaf, who'd only just returned to the fray, crashed over the line out wide for OMBAC's second score. Steele's conversion ricocheted in off the post and the homeside was up 14-0.

Six soggy minutes later the San Diegans went in again when Steele finished off a movement on the right flank to make the score 19-0. However, he left himself a difficult kick at goal and his attempted conversion sailed wide. The Olympic Club tried hard to right the ship, but time was running out and at the 36th minute OMBAC put the final nail in the coffin with their fourth try. Skipper Conrad Hodgson grounded the ball over the line, the score was unconverted, but OMBAC secured a bonus point with the 24-0 victory.

"I don't think the score was a true indication of what really happened," noted Hodgson. "Both teams came out really strong and I think it was really hard contested."

For the Olympic Club, scrumhalf Andy Armstrong, lock Chad Givens and center John Buchholz all played well in a losing side. Buchholz, in particular, showed why he's in the USA Eagles squad with a couple of superb, ball and all, try-saving tackles.

"Give credit to OMBAC, they capitalized on all of our mistakes and the better team on the day won," commented O-Club captain Alex Walterspiel. "We have a goal to make the playoffs this year that we set from the very beginning, and we're going to build and come back strong from this loss."

Elsewhere, the Potomac AC scored three tries en route to edging out Boston 22-19, while Old Blue New York blanked Philadelphia-Whitemarsh 30-0. OBNY's Pete Pereira scored three of his team's tries. Defending champions the Gentlemen of Aspen picked up from they left off last year by running in seven tries and topping the Kansas City Blues 43-25. Aspen winger Brian Hightower scored a hat-trick.

The Dallas Harlequins had a big second half in which they scored 20 unanswered points to overpower the New York Athletic Club 33-17. 2002 championship finalists Belmont Shore overcame a torrential downpour in Los Angeles to beat Old Puget Sound Beach 23-10, and in a high-scoring affair, San Francisco Golden Gate outlasted the Denver Barbarians 38-32.

Red Conference
San Francisco Golden Gate (1-0)
Old Blue New York (1-0)
Belmont Shore (1-0)
Denver Barbarians (0-1)
Old Puget Sound Beach (0-1)
Philadelphia-Whitemarsh (0-1)
Chicago Lions (0-0)
Washington RFC (0-0)

Blue Conference
Aspen (1-0)
Dallas Harlequins (1-0)
OMBAC (1-0)
PAC (1-0)
Kansas City Blues (0-1)
Boston RFC (0-1)
NYAC (0-1)
Olympic Club (0-1)

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