Players from as far back as the club’s first team in 1978-79 joined the victory celebration. | Credit: John Zant

Thanks to a late try and conversion, the Santa Barbara Grunion Rugby Club earned a championship-clinching 27-27 draw with San Luis Obispo on Saturday at Elings Park.

Both sides came into the match with 8-1 records, but Santa Barbara claimed the Southern California Rugby Division 3 title by virtue of a superior points differential over the course of the season. Trailing 27-20, the Grunion’s Willie Main broke away to score a try, and Julian DeRaffele kicked the ball through the uprights for the final two points.

Coached by former South African rugger Tiaan Bezuidenhout, the Grunion won their first title since 2006. Joining in their victory celebration were former players from as far back as the club’s first team in 1978-79. The Grunion will play in a regional qualifier for the USA Rugby Nationals in two weeks at Palo Alto.

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