PENDLETON — The Columbia County Operators’ sideline steamed as Pendleton’s Nathan Boozer barreled across the tryline for the second time in the game’s first 15 minutes.
Boozer’s tries gave the Pendleton Sasquatch rugby team a 12-5 lead on the visitors from St. Helens. He was elusive, but with the kind size that helped him break tackles while charging up the field.
For the remaining 55 minutes of the match, though, the Operators turned Boozer into a ghost, limiting his success and with it, the Sasquatch scoring. Columbia County rallied for six straight tries to pull away for a 62-17 victory Saturday at Grecian Heights Park in Pendleton.
The Operators’ scoring explosion came on a few long dashes toward the in-goal area, but many of the tries resulted from pounding through a line of defenders and reaching across the tryline with the ball. Columbia County moved full piles ahead meters at a time and consistently won post-tackle rucks by pushing the Sasquatch players off the ball.
“We got started off good but it just went downhill from there,” said the Sasquatch’s Boozer, a junior at Pendleton High. “They were just a real physical team, really strong. They weren’t real big, but just played big.”
Any time an Operator player went down to a Sasquatch tackler, Columbia County supporters quickly banded together in a ruck to regain possession of the ball. Columbia County scored four tries off of rucks within a few meters of the tryline.
“The coaches have been telling us to just ruck before the guy even hits the ground,” said Columbia County flanker Lathan Badger, who scored three tries in a 12-minute window that overlapped halftime. “Everyone linked up and supported each other so it became almost like a 5-on-1 scrum.”
The referee allowed rucks to continue longer than usual looking for smooth match continuation and that played into the Operators’ quick-rucking hands.
“We should have been able to reconfigure,” Sasquatch coach Eric Gabriel said. “This is what’s being allowed and we should have made sure we weren’t letting that work against us.”
The Sasquatch scored only once after halftime, a Cody Mudget try near the right corner — setting up a near impossible, steep angled conversion kick for Pendleton’s Kelvin Lopez. After the missed kick, Pendleton trailed 17-43 and failed to close the gap any further.
Pendleton heads to Polk County in Portland for this week’s match, their second to last of the regular season.