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LA Giltinis Secure Home MLR Championship Final with 17-13 Western Conference Final Win

July 26, 2021 - Major League Rugby (MLR) - LA Giltinis News Release

Major League Rugby's newest team have reached the Championship Final thanks to a 17-13 win over the Utah Warriors in the Western Conference Final. In a highly contested match between the two rivals, it took a late Ryan James try to guarantee victory and a home Final.

Just like the night before in Georgia, there was very little between LA and Utah going into the break. Both sides had their bright moments, but neither was able to establish their dominance at the scrum or lineout, the intensity from each team cancelling one another out.

This isn't to say that there weren't scoring opportunities, with a try for Giltinis wing John Ryberg disallowed as a result of a forward pass from Luke Burton in that passage of play.

Not long after, LA prop forward JP Smith was forced to leave the field with an injury, the South African replaced by Australian, Charlie Abel.

It took until the 35th minute for a legitimate breakthrough to be made, LA dragging in the Warriors defense before spinning the ball out wide, Adam Ashley-Cooper evading three of his opposite numbers to score a try, Matt Giteau adding the conversion. Unphased by going behind, Utah piled the pressure on their hosts, their efforts justly rewarded by Hagen Schulte's penalty kick, the Warriors trailing 7-3 at half-time.

A high intensity restart to the second half, Schulte resumed the scoring with a penalty, LA's advantage reduced to a solitary point with plenty of time still left to play. It was time used well by Utah, whose kicking found them good field position and disrupted the LA lineout, leading to a series of close-range carries.

These carries were eventually finished off by Sama Malolo underneath the posts, the hooker scoring his 11th try of the season for Utah under the posts, meaning his team took the lead for the first time.

Suddenly, a switch was flipped by both sides. LA kept the ball tightly in their own possession, whilst Utah put in thunderous challenge after thunderous challenge, the only question being who would falter first. After numerous phases of play, it was Utah who gave away a penalty, Saia Uhila not allowing Harrison Goddard to play the ball at the ruck. Kicking to the corner, LA were not able to make full use of the set-piece, but the home team were suddenly in the ascendency.

Like with their first try, LA dragged in defenders with a series of strong carries close to their try line and once the space was available out wide, Goddard spread the play to Ryan James  who wrestled with Mike Te'o and Logan Tago to score the try.

Burton's conversion was missed, Utah maintaining a narrow lead with just over 10 minutes still to play. When LA next had the chance to score points, it was much the same story, Luke Carty's penalty drifting wide of the uprights.

James would be the Giltinis' savior once more, the former USA U20 international fed the ball by Goddard close to the touchline, darting past Logan Tago and Te'o to score an unconverted try. Defense eventually won the game for LA, a monster hit on Malolo seeing the ball fall into Giltinis hands. Seeing out the clock, Carty struck the ball out of play when given the all-clear by JP Doyle, sparking an outpouring of emotion for MLR's newest side, who have made it to the big dance at the first time of asking.

"Look at the crowd here, they give us energy, add to that sense of never giving up and it has been pretty special to have them cheering us on," Harrison Goddard said after the game.

"To get one more chance in front of our fans next week, we have got to do it for them and the Giltinis brand."

The LA Memorial Coliseum will host the MLR Championship Final clash between the LA Giltinis and Rugby ATL on Sunday, August 1st. The game will kick-off at 4PM ET and will be broadcast live on CBS for viewers in the US, with viewers elsewhere able to stream for free on The Rugby Network.

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