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Colusa County thumps Highlanders, improves to 3-0
An early season showdown between two of the top teams in the Northern California Rugby Football Union West Conference turned into a 31-13 rout Saturday at Egling Middle School.
Colusa County (3-0) remained undefeated after overcoming a slow start to beat a veteran Shasta Highlanders club.
Shasta capitalized on penalties and scored on two kicks early in the first half for a 6-0 lead, but Colusa emerged from a ruck in the 18th minute with a try by Cody Beckley and took a 7-6 lead after a successful kick.
Lukas Polit dove forward for a try in the 40th minute and Colusa went into halftime up 12-6.
One minute into the second half, Michael Ohumukini broke free up the sideline for another Colusa try and, seven minutes later, Beckley scored for the second time and a 24-6 lead.
Shasta scored their first try of the match and Ohumukini responded with 10 minutes left in the game with his second try and cemented the score at 31-13.
Rafi Alami, one of Colusa's coaches, said the team played progressively better opponents each week this season, which helped them prepare for Shasta.
"(The Highlanders) were set to go deep into the playoffs last year, so we were coaching them up pretty deep in the last two games to prepare for this match. This is going to set the tone for us," Alami said.
Alami joins Sean Peters on the sideline and both bring years of coaching experience at different levels of the sport. Peters coached Elsie Allen High School's rugby team into national prominence, and Alami coached at the club and collegiate levels as well as overseas in Slovakia.
"Our goal here is to take a team that has the potential right here, that's got everything we can't teach, and then come in with some coaching and then build them up. It's remarkable for a community this small to put out such good rugby, it's just good dedication," Alami said.
What Colusa lacks in experience, the players make up for with strong rugby skills, athleticism and a willingness to learn, according to Alami.
That dedication is what drew Peters, Alami and a handful of players from the Highwaymen, a social rugby team which draws players from around the West Coast, to the team. Colusa's appreciation for the social side of the sport helped too, Alami said.
"These guys put out such a great party atmosphere and such love for the camaraderie of the sport, which is a big element of the Highwaymen."
Shasta, a team Alami coached at one point, used experience to their advantage early in the game, drawing penalties and relying on their strong kicker to take the early lead.
"This team is smart, they have a kicker and this kicker comes from a foreign country and he's been playing rugby since he was five," Alami said. "That's all they really had, so after about 20 minutes we started playing Colusa rugby."
Colusa has a bye on Saturday and plays next in Arcata against Humboldt Old Growth RFC on Feb. 16. Their next home game is Feb. 23 against State of Jefferson.
CONTACT Kirk Barron at 458-2121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.