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Chait Kicks Penalty at Final Whistle to Give RFCLA Win

May 10, 2024 - Major League Rugby (MLR)
Rugby FC Los Angeles News Release

Rugby Football Club Los Angeles came into their match against the Dallas Jackals in Arlington, Texas on Friday, May 10, trailing the home team by 14 points in Major League Rugby's hotly contested Western Conference. The Jackals were in fourth place with seven matches remaining. Rebounding off a tough loss against the New England Free Jacks, RFCLA had a 1-6-1 record; the Jackals were 4-5.

After a grinding battle led by the two teams' No. 8's in 82 degree heat, RFCLA came away with the win, 29-26.

RFCLA got off to a quick start as scrum-half Niall Saunders (No. 9) burst through the defense in the third minute, offloaded to wing Andrew Coe (No. 14), who passed it off to a charging hooker Ben Strang (No. 2). Strang chased his own kick, touching it down in the corner for the try. Fly-half Dan Hollinshead (No. 10) made the conversion for the 7-0 lead.

Hollinshead and Saunders tried to gain territory with some well-placed kicks in the first ten minutes but failed to capitalize. The Jackals caught a break in the 11th minute when RFCLA knocked on a kick, and a minute later, were awarded a penalty, taking them to the 10-meter line. Coming into the match, Jackals hooker Dewald Kotze (No. 2) enjoyed a 92 percent success rate in the lineouts compared to Strang's 72 percent, but RFCLA came away with the ball after a maul. A stolen scrum seconds later gave RFCLA the chance to kick their way to midfield.

RFCLA kept the ball close to the pack before spinning it out to the backs on both sides of the field. A strategic kick by RFCLA inside center Jason Emery past the Jackals' 22-meter line was booted right back by the home team all the way to the RFCLA try line. RFCLA held the Jackals but in the 19th minute, Kotze made a throw-in at the 5-meter line, and after a quick maul, got the ball back and charged through for the try. The conversion was good, and the Jackals, the top try-scoring team in the MLR, were tied at 7-7.

In the 21st minute, Andrew Coe made a try-saving tackle on Jackals scrum-half Juan Dee Oliver after a 50-meter run but No. 8 Sam Tuifua kept the momentum and scored. The conversion made it 14-7, Jackals.

The Jackals kept up the pressure, but RFCLA's defense fended them off. The visitors found open space in the backfield for some short runs, and in the 27th minute, Hollinshead kicked for touch after a penalty and moved RFCLA deep into Jackals territory. "They're methodically eating up the meters here," said commentator Lincoln Rose, as the ball went out to the backs for another series of short runs.. After five minutes of pressure and an RFCLA lineout followed by a maul, No. 8 Jason Damm scored his fourth try of the season. Hollinshead missed the kick, but the Jackals' lead was cut to 14-12.

RFCLA benefitted from some Jackals penalties towards the end of the first half and the visitors shook things up by keeping hooker Strang out on the wing after lineouts. In the 39th minute, Strang caught a cross kick from Hollinshead and moments later, hit Damm at the back of a lineout with a perfect throw. The No. 8 went over the try line, Hollinshead made a conversion from the sideline, and RFCLA led 19-14.


RFCLA came into the match with twice as many yellow cards as the league's second-worst offender with 16, and in the 42nd minute, inside center Emery was given a red card for an off-the-ball collision to the head of Jackals outside center Mitchell Richardson (No. 13). RFCLA would be down to 14 players for 20 minutes; Emery would not be able to return.

The Jackals countered immediately with a try by No. 8 Tuifua, and the conversion gave them the lead, 21-19. RFCLA's pack wouldn't back down, pushing their opposite numbers backwards in mauls and letting the backs find space even as Hollinshead was tended to on the field leaving them with 13 men. Hollinshead walked off in the 50th minute with an injury, replaced by JOrdan Chait (No. 22). A yellow card in the 52nd minute sent Jackals prop Juan Pablo Zeiss (No. 3) off for ten minutes.

RFCLA's backs had some strong runs in the second half but couldn't capitalize as the Jackals' kicked themselves out of trouble and drew some penalties. "It has been a battle," said commentator Rose as the teams paused for a water break in the 58th minute.

RFCLA's forwards made some crucial crunching tackles to stifle the Jackals' backs, Strang was near-perfect in the lineouts, and RFCLA won most of the scrums. Turnovers - including one by the RFCLA hooker inside the Jackals' 22 - proved costly for the visitors. "Both teams are looking to grind this one out," co-commentator Colin Hawley said in the 66th minute. RFCLA couldn't contain a series of drives by the Jackals forwards' and open side flanker Makeen Alikhan (No. 7) took the ball into the corner for the try. The Jackals missed the conversion, but RFCLA trailed 26-19 with 12 minutes remaining.

Jackals penalties kept RFCLA in the game. A yellow card gave RFCLA a one-man advantage for the last eight minutes, and in the scrum after the penalty, substitute scrum-half Tas Smith (No. 21) let No. 8 Damm take the ball himself and score. Chait's kick made it 26-26 with six minutes left.

RFCLA looked dangerous in the 79th minute with a team effort culminating in a run by lock Michael Amiras (No. 6), but the Jackals kept them out. Another Amiras run took them to the 5-meter line, and after a failed drop-goal attempt, Chait got another chance and kicked a penalty for the win, 29-26.

RFCLA, now 2-6-1, will play Anthem RC at American Legion Memorial Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, at 7 pm on May 18, 2024.

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