NOLA Prepares for Los Angeles
On a windy Saturday afternoon in Weymouth, Massachusetts, the NOLA Gold defeated the New England Free Jacks 17-9 to keep their playoff hopes alive. After this vital victory, NOLA remains in third place in the Eastern Conference, four points behind Rugby United New York for the final playoff spot.
From the first whistle, the weather created challenging conditions for the Gold. With the wind blowing against them in the first half, the Gold battled these strong gusts which made kicking very difficult and hampered their ability to move the ball. The Free Jacks took advantage of the weather and dominated field position with the wind at their backs throughout the first half.
After the Gold committed a penalty during a scrum in the 10th minute, the Free Jacks' Beaudein Waaka hit a penalty kick from just outside the 22-meter line, scoring the first points for New England. With the wind not letting up, the Gold continued struggling to move the ball during the 1st half. While their offense struggled, the Gold's defense bent but never broke, keeping the Gold in the game.
Following Dino Waldren's yellow card for the Gold, Beaudein Waaka scored another penalty kick for the Free Jacks, giving New England a 6-0 lead over NOLA in the 24th minute. Another penalty on the Gold in the 28th minute, this one coming for a high tackle, gave the Free Jacks an additional penalty kick attempt. Waaka continued his outstanding first half, hitting the kick right through the uprights. Down 9-0, the Gold continued to struggle to maintain their offensive pattern as the first half came to a close. But NOLA was able to keep the score 9-0 at halftime, knowing the wind would be behind them in the second half.
Going into the second half with their season on the line, the Gold left the halftime locker room determined not to let their season end. This is exactly what the Gold were able to do. After Cam Dolan received a lineout inside the 22-meter line, the Gold created a powerful maul that pushed Dolan into the try zone (46'). With Carl Meyers's conversion, the Gold trailed only 9-7.
With momentum now on NOLA's side, the Gold needed one more score to take the lead. In the 52nd minute, the Gold created the opportunity that they needed. Carl Meyer broke through the defense and found Joeli Tikoisuvato to his left in stride. As Tikoisuva ran to the corner of the try zone, he was hit with a high tackle. After some discussion amongst the referees, the penalty try was given to the Gold! Following Meyer's conversion, the Gold took the lead 14-9. Less than 15 minutes into the second half, with the wind finally at their back, the Gold took their first lead of the game.
After their second try, the Gold turned up their defensive intensity. As the Free Jacks' struggled to move past NOLA's defense, the game was focused in New England's defensive territory. A penalty by the Free Jacks in the 73rd minute gave the Gold an opportunity to make it a two-possession game. Carl Meyer hit the kick perfectly from nearly mid-field, giving the Gold a 17-9 lead.
The game concluded following a skirmish between the two teams as the Gold defeated the Free Jacks 17-9. For New England, this loss all but ended their chances of making a late-season playoff run. However, this win keeps the season alive for the Gold, maintaining their place four points behind Rugby United New York in the Eastern Conference standings. With only three matches left in the Major League Rugby regular season, the Gold's victory keeps their playoff hopes pushing forward.
Following the game, the Gold players were elated with the victory. After an exceptional performance in his first game back from over a month's absence due to injury, Carl Meyer said, "It was amazing to finally be back out on the field with the boys and get another win on the road in our push to the playoffs! Our focus right now is taking it one game at a time, and to keep building on our momentum and the rest will take care of itself."
The Gold continues their six-match road trip next Sunday, July 4th, traveling to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to oppose the LA Giltinis. The match will kick-off at 9 PM CT and will be nationally televised on Fox Sports 1.
Images from this story
NOLA Gold emerges from a scrum
NOLA Gold make a stop vs. the New England Free Jacks
NOLA Gold celebrate vs. the New England Free Jacks
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Major League Rugby Stories from June 30, 2021
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- NOLA Prepares for Los Angeles - NOLA Gold
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