Raptors Hold Off Legion to Remain Unbeaten
Raptors Hold Off Legion to Remain Unbeaten
By: Colton Strickler, MLR Correspondent
Photo: Seth McConnell
The Glendale Raptors and the San Diego Legion wrapped up Week 4 for of the Major League Rugby season in exciting fashion on Sunday evening.
The Legion (2-2) gave the Raptors (4-0) about as much as they could handle in a match that featured seven lead changes and one tie. By the time the dust settled, Glendale escaped with a 31-27 victory.
“That’s exactly what we expected from them to be honest,” Glendale Raptors head coach David Williams said after the match. “They’ve got numerous Eagles, numerous good players. I thought it was going to be a bit more free-flowing game, but that’s just mistakes on both teams for not allowing that free-flowing nature of the game that I thought it was going to be.”
The Raptors got the see-saw of a match started with fly-half Will Magie’s penalty kick, but the 3-0 lead would be short-lived as San Diego answered back with a try. Prop Sione Tu’ihalamaka was the first member of San Diego’s front row, all three of which scored a try on Sunday evening, to punch one over the line when he took a pick-and-go off a ruck. Fullback Dylan Audsley nailed the conversion, and the Legion took their first lead of the evening.
Not long after, the Raptors hit back with a try of their own when fullback Maximo de Achaval danced his way through San Diego’s line and dotted the ball down right between the posts setting up an easy Magie conversion just before the 20-minute mark.
San Diego attempted to tie the match at 10 with a penalty kick on the heels of the hydration break, but Audsley pushed his kick wide left. Legion hooker Pat Blair made up for the miss with San Diego’s second try of the match made possible by a huge maul off a lineout. Audsley nailed the conversion and the Legion took a 14-10 lead into halftime.
The Legion came out of the gate swinging in the second half. They used their forwards to pound away at the Raptors’ defense, and it resulted in a pick-and-go try from prop Dolph Botha. Audsley’s conversion gave San Diego a 21-10 lead, and Williams knew that something had to change. Fortunately for him, something did.
“It was just accuracy around the breakdown,” Williams said of the changes that his team made in the second half. “Simple as that. The forwards did the work and the backs just coughed the ball up too much. That’s not good enough.”
Glendale began to dig their way out of an 11-point hole with a try from one of their props. Kelepi Fifita took a flat ball on the run from scrum-half Seth Davies in for a try. Magie knocked his conversion through, and Glendale was right back in it.
If the Raptors were going to win the match, it was apparent that they were going to have to make a play on defense. That play came in the 58th minute when, with their backs against the wall, wing Mika Kruse laid a big hit on a San Diego ball carrier and forced the Legion into a penalty.
Glendale turned that momentum into a try when they sent a hands ball through the backline to wing Seth Halliman who flew down the touchline. Magie’s conversion gave the Raptors a 24-21 lead, but the Legion proved they weren’t going to do down without a fight.
The Legion retook the lead with back-to-back Audsley penalty kicks. With a 27-24 lead with just under nine minutes to play, the pressure was again on Glendale to make a play. That play came when Raptors’ flanker Zach Fenoglio finished off a sequence of phase play with a try. Magie converted and the Raptors held off San Diego’s final attack to hang on to the win.
Both Glendale and San Diego picked up the bonus point in the match. The first place Raptors picked up a total of five points in the standings with the win while the Legion picked up one point in the loss, dropping them down to third place behind the Seattle Seawolves. Seattle holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over San Diego.
San Diego will enjoy a week off before traveling to Austin to take on the Elite while Glendale will enjoy back-to-back bye weeks.
Tries: Maximo de Achaval, Kelepi Fifita, Seth Halliman, Zach Fenoglio
Penalties: Will Magie (1/1)
Conversions: Will Magie (4/4)
San Diego Legion
Tries: Sione Tu’ihalamaka, Pat Blair, Dolph Botha
Penalties: Dylan Audsley (2/3)
Conversions: Dylan Audsley (3/3)
Colton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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