Round Twelve Recap
Austin Completes Season Sweep of Houston, Holds Texas Cup for 2021
The Austin Gilgronis completed the season sweep of the Houston SaberCats to retain possession of the Texas Cup, at least until the teams meet again in 2022.
The teams both threatened with long breaks and possession in attacking territory throughout the early going but were unable to come up with points for the first 27 minutes of the match. Austin finally broke the ice when Bryce Campbell made a break, found Conner Mooneyham, who offloaded to Kurt Morath for the game’s first try. Houston fly half Sam Windsor hit a PK just before halftime and these rivals headed to the shed with the AGs up 7-3.
With a man in the bin Austin’s ill discipline cost the team another three points when Windsor hit his second PK at 49’ to tighten the gap, 7-6. However, Austin finished the game on a 21-3 run to seal this one up.
It’s an important win for the AGs, who earn five league points to stay a game behind Utah and snap a two-game losing streak.
O’Keefe’s Miraculous Tackle Keeps East in ATL’s Hands
It took the defensive play of the year and all 80 minutes but Rugby ATL escaped the Gold Mine with a huge victory. The defenses played incredibly throughout, as only 15 points were scored in this one. The first try came from a brilliant chip by ATL fly half Adriaan Carelse that was downed by a diving Jeremy “The Missile” Misailegalu.
NOLA Gold responded when Cam Dolan recovered a chip to put the hosts deep in ATL territory. Atlanta earned the turnover as it had done so many times throughout the evening. Before the visitors could clear the ball, Dolan responded to the Sir’s “ball’s out” call and dove on the pill at the back of the Atlanta ruck, in the try zone, to score a key one for NOLA just before halftime. The successful conversion made it 7-5 to the home team.
That score held all the way into the 70th minute. After beating back attack after attack from NOLA, Atlanta was gifted an offsides penalty on a Gold high ball. Carelse calmly slotted the go ahead points to give ATL the 8-7 lead and set up a tense final ten minutes. No play or goal line stand more epitomized the ATL defensive spirit than Mark O’Keefe’s try-and-match-saving tackle.
NOLA fullback Kyle Rogers appeared to be away for the game-winning score. However, as he crossed the line and went to dot the ball down, O’Keefe wrapped him up from behind, planted his feet in the ground and tossed the fullback backward in a move Stone Cold Steve Austin would have been proud of.
Atlanta is firmly the hottest team in the MLR with a six-game win streak. ATL has another marquee matchup next week with the East on the line versus Rugby United New York. The winner of that match has to be considered the favorites to win The Shield, as they are the two teams to knock off LA out West.
Early Lead, Late Run Secures Three-Game Win Streak for Legion
The San Diego Legion secured a third straight bonus point win Saturday with a 40-30 victory over the Toronto Arrows. Two early Joe Pietersen penalty kicks made it a quick 6-0 lead for the Legion before scrum half Ethan McVeigh scored the game’s first try with a beautiful support line to make it 13-0.
Toronto was not going to throw in the towel and responded with two penalty kicks to close it back to a one-score game. Pietersen just started to show off then, slotting a smooth drop kick at 23’ to make it 16-6.
With a man in the bin and the clock well past 40 minutes San Diego chose to keep playing in search of extra points in the first half. The strategy backfired when Toronto recovered a high ball then found just the slightest of gaps on the outside and took the ball all the way into the try zone. The Taylor Adams conversion was successful, then the Arrows’ fly half made it 16 all early in the second half.
The Legion wasted little time in getting the lead back when lock Josh Furno finished off a break for the centered try to make it 23-16 San Diego. Toronto came right back, however, to tie the game at 23 apiece 54 minutes in. It took only another six minutes for Furno to score his second to put his team back on top, 30-23.
It looked like it would be a difficult end to the game for San Diego when Dan Pryor was given a yellow card, but the Legion were able to extend the advantage while they finished the game off a man down. Tian Loots scored a key try that was answered by Toronto, but Pietersen sealed the game with a penalty kick for the game’s final score, 40-30.
Comeback Bid Slips out of Old Glory’s Fingertips
A spirited comeback attempt by Old Glory DC came up short last night as the potential game-winning try slipped away.
New England used well-executed set pieces to build an early lead with the first try coming off a maul. The second got a little fancier with a deep ball completed to a streaking #12 Aleki Morris-Lome who took it all the way inside the 5 before eight man Vili Toluta’u picked and finished.
DC answered back with young flanker Corey Daniels’ try, then it was prop Erich De Jager capitalizing on another lineout play for the Free jacks. An Old Glory maul closed it to 17-12 at 49’ but New England kept playing well into the 43rd minute and was rewarded with flanker Tera Mtembu’s first career MLR try. Fullback Beaudein Waaka’s conversion made it 24-12 heading into the break.
Moments after New England had an apparent try taken off the board, Waaka intercepted Old Glory fly half Jaseon Robertson’s try and took it between the posts to make it 31-12 early in the second half. DC struck right back with rookie Sam Cusano’s crashing try, then Robertson atoned for his interception with a try and conversion to make it 31-24.
A penalty try was awarded to New England as Old Glory tried to prevent the maul, putting seven more points on the board for the Free Jacks and sending DC lock Api Naikatini to the bin.
Old Glory then used its speedy wings to make things interesting late with a wide ball to D’montae Noble, then Cusano’s second making it 38-34 with two minutes to play.
Robertson looked like he had put the cape on to steal this one with a hard cut and sprint up the field as the clock struck 80 minutes. However, he tried to find support as he was tackled by the last defender and his offload to Danny Tusitala just went off the hands for a heartbreaking — or exhilarating, pending where your allegiance lies — end to the game.
The win keeps the Free Jacks right in the thick of things, up to third over NOLA via tiebreaker and four points behind New York for the second playoff spot in the East. The loss drops Old Glory to 5th in the Conference.
Utah Staves off Seattle’s Spoiler Attempt in Dramatic Fashion
For 80+ moments it looked like Seattle was going to pull the upset of the weekend and knock off the #2 team in the West. Olive Kilifi and the Utah Warriors had other ideas.
Utah prop Franco Van den Berg notched the game’s first try in the opening moments, but Seattle’s Riekert Hattingh came right back at 5’. Then it was the Warriors, and Seattle responded at 31’ with a beautiful stab through from AJ Alatimu that was recovered at pace by Ross Neal. The successful conversion made it 14-12 Seawolves.
As the teams neared halftime, Seattle hit Neal on a crash off the scrum to get the team close to its third try. Flanker Nauli Awai was able to crash over the line shortly after and the Alatimu conversion made it 21-12. Utah was able to notch a penalty goal before the halftime whistle blew for a key three points to keep the deficit to a single possession.
The big boot of Seattle fly half JP Smith came into play all night and set Seattle up ten minutes into the second stand. The Seawolves stole the Utah lineout from deep in its own end and the ball soon found Neal for his second try and the conversion made it 28-15. Utah mauled the ball in ten minutes later to close it to 28-22 and setup a dramatic final 20 minutes.
The Seawolves had a number of opportunities to extend the lead to two possessions but they all went begging, including two missed penalty kicks. Utah did what contenders do and found a way to win this one, driving the ball into Seattle territory well into stoppage time. Olive Kilifi eventually got across the line and Clavin Whiting’s conversion sealed the win, 29-28.
The victory keeps Utah in second place in the West, 5 points over Austin and seven over streaking San Diego.
We’re disappointed and saddened to announce the withdrawal of the New York
(Nov. 27, 2023) – Major League Rugby (MLR), which represents the highest
Written by Joe Harvey | Photos by Davey Wilson When Jayson Potroz
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