Last Chance for the Gold to Make Playoffs
On Sunday Night at the Starfire Stadium in Seattle, the NOLA Gold suffered a disappointing 30-6 loss to the Seattle Seawolves. While this outcome damaged NOLA's playoff chances, it did not knock the Gold entirely out of the playoff race. NOLA's fate is still in their hands as they face Rugby United New York next week for the final playoff position in the Eastern Conference.
In Seattle, the Gold got off to a slow start. While struggling to get their offense going, NOLA relied on their defense to keep the game close early. The Gold could not take advantage of the Seawolves' mistakes early in the game as they failed to capitalize on multiple possessions inside Seattle's five-meter line. After twenty minutes, there was still no score, but the Seawolves looked ready to strike.
After a penalty by the Gold, AJ Alatimu hit a perfect penalty goal from 15 meters out to give the Seawolves a 3-0 advantage (22'). Another handling error from the Gold allowed the Seawolves to get in position for another three points. Alatimu again hit his kick right down the middle from the 22-meter line to extend Seattle's lead over the Gold to 6-0 (36').
With only four minutes left until halftime, the Gold needed to put points on the scoreboard before the halftime break. In the 38th minute, this is what the Gold was able to do. After a penalty by the Seawolves on the kickoff, Carl Meyer scored a penalty goal from right outside the 22-meter line to cut Seattle's lead in half, 6-3. With this score only two minutes before halftime, the Gold looked as if they would keep the game close going into the halftime break.
However, only seconds before halftime, the Gold suffered a significant setback. Following a Gold turnover, Seattle began to move the ball towards NOLA's try zone. A beautiful switch play between Seattle's AJ Alatimu and Lauina Futi moved the Seawolves inches away from the try zone. James Malcolm was able to pick the ball up and move it over the try line for the first try of the game, giving the Seawolves a 13-3 lead and taking momentum away from the Gold only seconds before halftime (40+3').
Following the halftime break, the Gold knew they needed to step up their intensity to get the needed result from this match. In the first minutes of the second half, the Gold came out with the determination necessary to get them back into the game. The Gold moved the ball downfield, resulting in a penalty goal attempt for Carl Meyer in the 45th minute. Meyer hit the kick perfectly, cutting Seattle's lead to 13-6, leaving NOLA trailing by only one possession. Unfortunately, this was the last of the Gold's momentum in Seattle.
After a penalty by NOLA inside their five-meter line, James Malcolm pushed through the defense and crashed into the try zone for his second score of the game (48'). Following Alatimu's conversion, the Seawolves extended their lead to 20-6. The quest for the bonus point for losing by seven points or less was still a realistic goal that the Gold was aiming for.
However, following another lineout by Seattle within the Gold's five-meter line, Malcolm passed to a cutting JP Smith, who found a slight gap in NOLA's defense and ran into the try zone under the goalposts for the seven-point try (59'). This try expanded the Seawolves' lead to 27-6. Unfortunately, the Gold continued struggling to move the ball and could not score further points in this match.
Seattle would score their final points in the 76th minute after they won NOLA's lineout, and the Gold was penalized for going off their feet at the breakdown. The Seawolves' Kieran Joyce scored the penalty goal from 25 meters out to further extend Seattle's lead to 30-6. This kick would be the game's final score as Seattle's last kick into touch in the 80+2 minute clinched the 30-6 victory for the Seawolves.
While this loss does not end hope for the Gold to make the playoffs, it significantly impacts NOLA's chances. Next Saturday at 1 PM CT, the Gold will travel to New York to oppose Rugby United New York at Saint John's University for their final regular-season match. The match will be televised on Cox Sports Television. To qualify for the playoffs, the Gold must score more than four tries, not allow New York to score four tries, and the Gold must win by 19 or more points. Just last week, the Gold had a historic victory, and with many players back from the international break, there is no reason to think they can not get it done!
By: Bobby Lehman
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