MLR Week 2 Update: Seawolves Drop Game in San Diego; NOLA Goes Top of the Table; Utah Get First Win: MATCH VIDEO
Seattle went 1-1 on the season with a 17-13 loss to San Diego in their first road trip. The game was played in a deluge of rain in muddy field conditions. Seattle were down 14-3 at the half, due to a strong Legion scrum and a few mental lapses by the Seawolves. One play they would like to have back was a dreadful clearing kicking by #10 Suniula that nearly went sideways out of bounds. Seattle players were slow to react and Legion took a quick throw-in that met little resistance. Not the sort of the play you would expect at this level.
Last year Seattle were the best scrummaging team in the league, this year San Diego brought in Paddy Ryan, a 30 year old Australian tighthead with over 100 caps in Super Rugby, he was a factor in San Diego's early dominance.
Seattle came back in the second half but it wasn't enough and a few key handling errors hindered the comeback effort. Seattle remain tied in second with San Diego, both with 5 points. The full match video, Seattle lineup and MLR match reports are below.
NOLA went top of the table with a perfect 2-0 record and a 40-31 win over Glendale. Canada's Hubert Buydens started at loosehead for NOLA. In other action Utah played their first game of the season and got a 17-9 win over Austin.
San Diego Legion vs Seattle Seawolves Match Video Match Reports from MLR Rugby
NOLA GOLD 40 – 31 GLENDALE RAPTORS
New Orleans subjected Glendale to their second successive loss this season. Nate Osborne’s side opened the scoring just four minutes into the game with JP Eloff kicking a penalty. Eloff was kicking from the tee just seven minutes later, this time the USA international was converting Taylor Howden’s powerful try, the New Zealand-born centre bumping off two of his opposite numbers to burst over the try line.
William Munro then benefitted from the hard work of John Ryberg and Dylan Taikato-Simpson on the left wing, flyhalf Robbie Petzer converted the score. Gold kept ahead when Zack Stryffeler latched onto the ball at the back of a driving maul, the openside flanker’s try went unconverted.
Glendale began to get a foothold in the game — Eloff split the sticks after the Gold went in at the side of a ruck. John Ryberg scored a second try in two weeks as the Raptors scored from the back of a scrum, Petzer was unable to convert for the visiting side. Eloff nudged the Gold ahead further with a penalty that brought an end to the first half.
The second half started much like in the first half did. Taylor Howden treated the fans in Louisiana to another mesmerizing score, this time the centre threw off his opposition by faking a pass on two occasions to drift through and touch the ball down, Eloff converted his teammates score.
Glendale then scored two unanswered tries; Luke White powered over the line for a converted try after continued pressure in the NOLA 22 meter channel, Monro scored an impressive try, even dragging over two of his opposite numbers with him to register an effort.
NOLA hit back with two quick-fire tries. Australian Scott Gale raced through, going virtually unchallenged as he dotted down to give NOLA the advantage, Eloff did not convert the try. Gold would be at it again just three minutes later, this time Tristan Blewett, NOLAs offseason signing linked up with former Australian Sevens regular, Con Foley, to gift Eloff another conversion.
Brendan Daly, the Glendale lock, made it a nervy ending, scoring a try in the 73rd minute. The big lock was driven over the line, allowing Taikato-Simpson a conversion to give NOLA a nine-point lead. It was a seriously physical ending. Several players were forced off for both sides, but it was NOLA who held on to make it two wins from two.
SAN DIEGO LEGION 17 – 13 SEATTLE SEAWOLVES
Fans who made the journey to the Torero Stadium on Saturday afternoon weren’t treated to vintage San Diego weather. A continuous downpour through the game even translated to the pitch, but the game was still as competitive as MLR fans have become accustomed to.
There weren’t too many highlights for the opening quarter of the game, there were plenty of scrums due to handling being hampered by the wet conditions. Joe Pietersen was forced off for the Legion after a high hit from William Rasileka. Phil Mack was sin-binned for not rolling away at a ruck and minutes later fans got their first score of the game.
Paddy Ryan got the better of Olive Kilifi on several occasions in the scrum, resulting in the referee awarding Legion a penalty try. Seattle must have gained some motivation from their opposition getting the rub of the green, making a charge forward that was halted illegally at the ruck. Brock Staller took full advantage of the situation, slotting the kick to bring the Seawolves back into contention.
San Diego extended their lead further with a Mike Te’o try. The former USA Sevens regular took a quick throw in the Paddy Ryan, who fed the ball back to Te’o who used the wet surface to slide in over the try line. This presented Nick Boyer with a difficult conversion on the right touchline, that the Eagles scrum-half dispatched to give San Diego a 14-3 lead at half-time.
Over half time the rain intensified, making the players readjust when they came back onto the field. It took ten minutes until the first score of the second period. Boyer kicked a penalty to increase the San Diego lead.
San Diego began to lose their control, Seattle slowly managed to turn the tide. Eventually scoring through a strong Rasileka try. Staller converted the try, but the Seawolves still had seven points to make up. Seattle would reduce the deficit to four points with another Staller penalty, but San Diego held on for a hard-fought win.
UTAH WARRIORS 17 - 9 AUSTIN ELITE
When the Utah Warriors showed up to Dell Stadium to take on Austin Elite Rugby on Friday night, it was apparent that they had put their week of observation to good use.
“For sure,” Utah head coach Alf Daniels said of whether having the first week off was an advantage. “I mean, we were an unknown this week having not played against any of the MLR teams in the preseason, so we were definitely at an advantage of being an unknown team and I guess we got to see a couple of things about them that we thought we could exploit tonight and I thought that showed especially in our set piece with our scrum, our lineout, and our maul work.”
The Warriors (1-0) jumped on the Elite (0-2) early and never looked back, even with Austin nipping at their heels for a majority of the match and it was largely in part to, as Daniels referred to, their defensive scrums and their ability to gain ground with their mauls.
Unfortunately for Austin, the difference came down to the inability to score tries. What makes the result even more frustrating is the fact they were on the other side of the equation just a week earlier as the held the visiting Houston SaberCats tryless but still found themselves on the losing end after Sam Windsor hit all seven of his penalty goals to defeat Austin 21-20.
Utah got the scoring started early on when inside center Tim O’Malley broke the line and rumbled into Austin territory. After sucking in the defense with some quick pick-and-goes, wing Fetu’u Vainkolo spun the ball wide to flanker Arawa Elkington who took the ball in for a try. O’Malley nailed the conversion to give the Warriors a 7-0 lead.
Austin answered back with back-to-back scores of their own in the form of penalty kicks from fly-half Timothee Guillimin to cut Utah’s lead to just one before the 20-minute hydration break.
Just like at the beginning of the match, Utah came out of the break swinging and that ultimately resulted in Lance Williams slipping out of the side of a big driving maul and in for the try to give the Warriors a 14-6 lead after O’Malley’s conversion.
Austin’s big troubles on offense began at the 27-minute mark when Utah began to cause trouble defensively with their set pieces. After bypassing a makeable Guillimin kick, they elected to scrum and coughed the ball up after Utah forced them into a penalty. The same issues spilled over into an Austin lineout just a few minutes later when the ball went over the top and into the hands of the Warriors.
After realizing some of the problems they were having with their set pieces, Guillimin knocked a penalty goal through the posts to give Austin a fighting chance as they went into the locker room down 14-9.
Unfortunately for Austin, that’s where the scoring dried up and according to their captain Ben Mitchell, that falls squarely on their own shoulders.
“I think it was something we made mistakes on,” Mitchell said on his team’s inability to finish sequences. “We didn’t really hold the ball on, didn’t get much momentum going forward in the pack and that’s where we kind of hurt ourselves really. We gave away some penalties at the wrong time and our set-piece didn’t function as we would have liked, and we were kind of starved of good possession of the ball.”
Both teams settled in and played some solid defense throughout the second half, but it was the mistakes that Utah avoided and the ones that Austin couldn’t that propelled the Warriors to victory.
For as good as Guillimin was in the kicking game in the first half, his struggles in the second half, and a questionable call on a kick that appeared to sneak in on the right side of the left upright, didn’t do Austin any favors.
Even with Guillimin’s second half struggles, Austin still had plenty of opportunities to jump out in front of the Warriors who were handed two yellow cards in the last 15 minutes of the match.
“I thought we were very good on defense tonight again,” Mitchell said. “I thought we brought a more physical and aggressive edge to the game than we did last week and that was definitely something that we were looking to improve upon. Definitely a lot of things to work on on attack and sort of our game management side of things.”
Perhaps Utah’s biggest opportunity came after O’Malley nailed a penalty goal to give Utah a seemingly comfortable 17-9 lead. Austin then took the ensuing kickoff deep into Utah territory and forced a penalty. After trying to play quickly out of the penalty, Brendan Rams stumbled an knocked the ball on just two meters short of the try zone in what pretty much summed up Austin’s night offensively.
“I think last season we probably would’ve allowed some of the yellow cards, those turnover counter attack opportunities to end in points, but the boys showed a lot of heart to get back defensively and to get back in and stop them from scoring. The fact that they didn’t score a try tonight is probably especially pleasing to us as a team.”
Guillimin wasn’t able to hit any of the three kicks he attempted in the second half and the Elite ultimately fell 17-9.
Austin will get back in the saddle next Friday when they host the Toronto Arrows while Utah will enjoy a week off before heading over to San Diego on February 17.