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MVP Timo

Wednesday Jun 3, 2009 in Elite Level Rugby Rugby Super League

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(Alex Goff photo.)

June 2, 2009 – What do you get for the rugby player who has everything?

Mose Timoteo has done pretty much all of it. He’s won national XVs and 7s all-star championships, been capped by the USA 31 times, and played in 19 international 7s tournaments. But a club title? Only in 2000, when with Hayward he saw Aspen come back to defeat them in the DI final, did he come close.

Close, that is, until this past weekend.

Timoteo not only helped SFGG win the 2009 Super League title, he was captain, and MVP of the championship game.

“Mose was huge,” said director of rugby Paul Keeler. “He’s just such an experienced player, and such a great leader. When you watch the game you see he was switched on. Mose and Jone [Naqica], you could see they were used to playing in front of cameras and in stadiums. They performed the best.”

Timoteo in many ways goes against the grain of the humble, quiet Polynesian rugby player. Not that he isn’t humble, but he’s not afraid to talk about playing well. Timoteo often serves as a father-figure to younger Polynesian players, something some say is a partial by-product of his military experience.

Whatever the reason, all players wisely look to “Timo” for guidance, and at the beginning of this season, they also saw in their captain a look for confidence.

“The beginning of the season and the preseason we had some good players and I felt like the runs we had earlier went really well,” Timoteo told ERugbyNews. “I had a great feeling. I told [assistant coach] Grant Wells, ‘I feel like this is the season.’”

Timoteo said it all came down to the commitment from the players. He was driving 45 minutes from Hayward to train. Others drove in from Sacramento.

“We knew everybody has to be there and everybody has to be doing the work,” timoteo said. “The preparation, the commitment has to be there.”

For Timoteo as well it had to be there. Felled by injuries in 2006 he had hoped to break back into the national team setup in ’07. He didn’t, losing out on a World Cup place. It was a disappointment, but he kept at it and still feels he can contribute.

But without the stresses of national team play for the first time since 1999, Timoteo concentrated instead on getting a Super League title.

“I felt like it was different for me,” Timoteo said. “I felt strong, I was back in form. I felt like the personnel around me was really good and that gave me confidence. With the system we have, it’s a very basic system. People can tell what we’re doing but they have to defend it, and our guys are hard to defend. They are very athletic and there are a lot of things they can do. My role is to keep the guys staying on pattern and keep them going, playing an attacking game and putting people into space. It all worked out.”

It certainly did. Timoteo was bouncing all over the place, eyes darting across the field, mouth urging forwards in, forwards back, everyone into position. You got the sense he knew this was the big chance for his club, and he wasn’t going to let them drift mentally.

He started off the scoring with the classic Brumbies move – scrumhalf drifts out with the ball and than slips a backhand pass to a forward.

“I’ve been doing it all season,” said Timoteo. “It’s just a read, and it’s important to have the right timing too. It was second or third phase ball and it was a mad rush defense from Life. As I approached the ball and looked at the defender on that side and looked at his positioning, and he was at least one step away from that ruck. So I pretend I am going to pass to the flyhalf, and I look at his first step. If he takes a step out I know it’s on and it’s a quick pass back inside. And JB came [that’s Jason Bowden] out of nowhere and he was at pace.”

Shouting all the way through the game Timoteo knew he couldn’t let up. The game was very tense, and SFGG led 13-10 with just a few minutes to go. Then, deep inside Golden Gate’s half Life got a penalty.

“When they decided to go for goal I was excited,” said Timoteo. I saw then they could tie it, but I knew at that point that there’s a chance that we can win this game. If they had gone to a lineout we were in trouble. If they score a try then we can’t kick a goal to win it. But with it tied I knew we could kick to their end, play in their end and come up with a penalty.”

It all happened how Timoteo pictured it, except that Rouse missed the kick. SFGG had to exert pressure again. Again Golden Gate got the penalty, and Timoteo could be seened yelling at Naqica, getting him in position to hit a drop goal, reasoning that if he missed then they’d go back to referee Chris Henshall’s advantage call.

But even then, Rouse had missed a few penalties. Could he get the one that mattered?

“Volney has been kicking incredible the whole season,” said Timoteo. “His percentages are good. Once I saw he could kick them from 50 meters, that gave me confidence. Now I knew anytime we’re close I will give him the chance. I was so proud of him. I just told him to do what he’s been doing all season and I walked away.”

That was the winner, and SFGG finished it with a torrid minute of defense that led to Seta Palamo’s try, ably and fittingly set up by longtime SFGG servant Toshi Palamo.

“The whole season we’ve been training our defense,” said Timoteo. “We resolved to not just be a defensive team, but a defensive attacking team. We defend and right away it can be an attacking weapon, but our mentality is that of a defensive team. At that last lineout I told the forwards to go at it, get out there and defend this thing. We knew they were going to attack the outside lanes.”

And Palamo scored the try to put the game away, and a special moment for one of American rugby’s great players.

“Winning this was very important to me,” the scrumhalf said. “I set my standard early this year. I was trying to make a comeback. My knee’s gotten a lot better. And I did get picked [for the national team] so I decided I was just going to work hard and try to get San Francisco back up there.. I knew this was going to be the year.”

- Alex Goff © www.erugbynews.com

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