San Diego Picks Up First Win Over Utah
San Diego Picks Up First Win Over Utah
By: Colton Strickler, MLR Correspondent
It was apparent from the opening kick off that the San Diego Legion wasn’t going to have a repeat of last week.
The Legion (1-1), who dropped their Week 1 matchup against the Seattle Seawolves (largely due to three penalty tries for illegal scrummaging) jumped out to an early lead in their 31-24 victory over the Utah Warriors (0-1) on Sunday evening.
The Legion wasted no time getting the scoring started. They turned a successful maul into phase play which allowed Sione Tu’ihalamaka to dot the ball down before two minutes of game time had passed. Tadhg Leader kicked the conversion and the Warriors were down 7-0 before they could even blink.
San Diego took advantage of another maul deep into Utah territory which resulted in a quick try for Tony Purpura. Leader pushed his conversion attempt wide right, but the Warriors were all of a sudden down 12-0 in the first nine minutes of their first regular season match.
The Warriors needed the first 27 minutes to knock off some of the rust, and relentless phase play eventually led to a try from their scrumhalf Joseph Nicholls. Kurt Morath nailed the conversion and the Warriors were right back in the match.
Utah worked their way back down into San Diego territory, and when presented with a scrum, caught the Legion napping with a pick from their eight-man Saia ‘Uhila. ‘Uhila planted the ball down right between the posts for Morath, and the Warriors had taken a 14-12 lead.
San Diego had one more opportunity to retake the lead before heading into the half, and they made the most of their opportunity. A long sequence that eventually resulted in a Devin Short try on the touchline gobbled up five minutes of stoppage time. Leader couldn’t hit the tough conversion, but the Legion took a 17-14 lead into the half.
The Legion opened up the second half scoring with one of the wildest tries of the young Major League Rugby season. San Diego’s attempt at a box kick was deflected and knocked up into the air by a Warrior. San Diego’s inside centre JP Du Plessis tipped the ball to outside centre Anthony Salaber who was off to the races for a long try. Leader nailed the conversion and the Legion jumped out to a 24-14 lead.
Utah answered back with a Morath penalty kick, but San Diego came back with another try. Leader exploited some space behind Utah’s backline with a chip over the top. Legion wing Ryan Matyas caught the ball in-stride and placed it down for San Diego’s final try of the match and the ultimate difference maker. Their conversion made it 31-17, and the Warriors would have to work quickly to close the gap.
After working their way down into Legion territory, Utah’s Ben Nicholls took a quick tap in for a try on the base of the posts. Morath kicked a quick conversion and the Warriors would have at least one more chance to close the 31-24 gap.
Their next two chances were halted by knock-ons and San Diego walked away with their first win of the season.
The Legion will welcome the Houston SaberCats to town on Friday night while the Warriors will head back to Salt Lake City for a bout against the first place Glendale Raptors.
San Diego Legion
Tries: Sione Tu’ihalamaka, Tony Purpura, Devin Short, Anthony Salaber, Ryan Matyas
Conversions: Tadhg Leader (2/4) Dylan Audsley (1/1)
Tries: Joseph Nicholls, Saia ‘Uhila, Ben Nicholls
Penalties: Kurt Morath (1/3)
Conversions: Kurt Morath (3/3)
Colton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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