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By Erik Stordahl | SportStars   With the rugby season already a month old, Michael Dominguez likes what he sees.  The Diablo Rugby head...

By Erik Stordahl | SportStars

 

With the rugby season already a month old, Michael Dominguez likes what he sees. 

The Diablo Rugby head coach, now in his third year at that position, looks to improve on last year’s fourth place finish at the Northern California Tournament. 

“Honestly, we didn’t expect that (finish) last year,” Dominguez said. “We had quite a few new players, but they picked up the game pretty quick. So last year’s outcome was pretty unexpected.”

Despite losing top players, Jeffrey Dominguez and David Walton, the coach is pleased with a roster led by his son, Kelil Dominguez (Clayton Valley), Uai Manoa (Concord), Saldy Santos (Clayton Valley), Luis Ostalaza (Olympic), LJ Leapaga (Olympic) and Cesar Luengas (Clayton Valley).

“Uai has the most experience, he’s been playing for about seven years,” Michael Dominguez said. “He’s got the most knowledge. Kelil is our speedster, probably one of the fastest wings in the area and a good tackler. LJ is a beast. Luis’ got a great motor. He always hustles around the ball; same with Saldy. This is (Cesar’s) fourth year. He is a little guy with a huge heart and he hits like a truck.”

Dominguez is also confident with his new guys. And what better players to recruit than some of the top football players in the East Bay?

“We picked up a lot of the best running backs from the area,” Dominguez said. “Olito Thompson (Concord), his brother Willy, Mister Cotton (Pittsburg), Fe’ao Vunipola (Pittsburg) and Joe Protheroe (Clayton Valley).”

The draw for football players is simple: hitting people. 

“The (football) guys like the contact but it’s also an opportunity to improve tackling,” Dominguez said. “A rugby tackle is a great football tackle.”

Dominguez added that the linemen in particular love rugby because they get a chance to run with the ball, which is what makes rugby an intriguing sport. Everybody has multiple roles on the field.

Dominguez explained how rugby clubs keep opening in the Bay Area with some totaling more than 200 players. And with more football players joining, rugby may become the leading offseason program for them.

Diablo Rugby is off to a satisfactory start of 1-1. They lost their season opener on Feb. 4 to Danville Rugby, a team more seasoned than the raw talent on Dominguez’s roster. But they bounced back and knocked off San Francisco-Golden Gate on Feb. 11. The team won’t play again until March 3 against Lamorinda. 

In the mean time, Dominguez will continue to teach the fundamentals and do’s and don’ts of rugby.

One thing he won’t have to teach is his players getting along with each other.

“Our team is based on camaraderie,” Dominguez said. “When I coach football, it’s the same as rugby: I want to teach these guys how to be men. I think winning will come as extra credit. If we do things that make us a better team, we’ll be better off.”

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