Fallbrook High School’s girls rugby team won the Fullerton Youth Rugby International Tournament which was played March 22-23 on the field across from Ladera Vista Junior High School.
“We were excited as a group to have achieved what we did,” said Fallbrook co-coach Craig Pinnell.
The 2014 Fullerton tournament was the 10th annual tournament with girls squads and the sixth Fallbrook has entered. It was also the fifth consecutive Fullerton Youth Rugby International Tournament the Fallbrook girls won. “It was nice to keep the cup,” Pinnell said. “We didn’t have any injuries, so we were happy.”
The Warriors had four pool play matches March 22. International youth rugby rules limit under-18 teams to 90 minutes per day, so each of the four matches consisted of 11-minute halves or 22-minute games.
Fallbrook’s emphasis on endurance gives the Warriors an advantage in full-length games. “We have a pretty high athletic ability,” Pinnell said. “That’s the way we can overcome those teams.”
The Warriors were still able to dominate the shorter matches. Fallbrook opened the tournament with a 60-0 win against Desert Sands, which is in the Palm Springs area. The Warriors then defeated Cold Lake (Alberta) by a 55-0 score.
Fallbrook’s next pool play contest was a 26-0 victory over Pleasanton, which is in Alameda County. Fallbrook and Pleasanton had not faced each other prior to pool play in the tournament. “They were similar to us, our style of play,” Pinnell said.
Fallbrook concluded pool competition with a 37-0 triumph over Back Bay, whose home field is in Newport Beach. “We haven’t played them this year in our league,” Pinnell said.
“I think the main thing is that we were able to play different teams,” Pinnell said.
The large leads also allowed Pinnell to give his reserves some game experience. “We put in all our subs pretty much,” he said.
Teams were allowed to bring 26 players to the tournament. Each side is allowed 15 players on the field at a time, so Pinnell couldn’t substitute all of his starters although the reserves played most if not all of the second half of the pool games.
“What was good about that is that most of the reason we go to this tournament is to try to build our depth,” Pinnell said. “From that point of view it was satisfying that we could get our subs in early.”
Another reason Pinnell likes the tournament is to assess his new, on an annual basis, squad. “It’s always new because you have new players coming through,” Pinnell said. “Every season we lose seniors and rebuild and it’s always hard to judge where you actually are.”
Playing multiple games in a day also has its advantage for a Fallbrook team which has not only qualified for the under-19 national championship tournament in each of the past three years but has also won those national championships and also has a runner-up finish in the national tournament. “It’s sort of a lead-up and a dummy run to nationals,” Pinnell said.
The semifinals and final March 23 utilized 15-minute halves, or 30-minute games. Fallbrook and Fullerton faced off in one of the semifinal matches. “That was a tougher game. We had played Fullerton the week before in our league,” Pinnell said.
The March 15 Southern California Youth Rugby League game at Fallbrook High School ended with the Warriors on the preferred end of the 75-5 score. That game consisted of 35-minute halves.
“That was why it was good to play them away,” Pinnell said.
The Fullerton squad normally plays their home games at a different junior high school.
In the tournament semifinal, Fallbrook had a 12-0 halftime lead against Fullerton. “They came at us,” Pinnell said. “It was a pretty good game.”
The final score was 36-0. Fallbrook’s backs scored all six tries. “It was nice to see them kick in,” Pinnell said. “They were on fire in that game.”
Pleasanton also won its semifinal match, setting up a final between Fallbrook and Pleasanton. Fallbrook led Pleasanton by a 7-0 score at halftime. “It was another bit of a grind in the first half,” Pinnell said.
The Warriors concluded their tournament championship with a 19-0 victory over Pleasanton.
“We were able to do what we practiced, and I think all in all it was a good weekend,” Pinnell said.