Round Five Recap
April 19, 2021 - Major League Rugby (MLR) News Release
One blowout proved the outlier in Week 5, as four other matches were decided by a single possession. LA had to come back to remain undefeated, while another Western Conference team is enjoying its best start in franchise history. Read along to get caught up on all the action.
Toronto Flies Past Seattle, 52-7
The Toronto Arrows made quick work of the Seattle Seawolves in a blowout win over a road-weary Seattle team. It was a point-a-minute pace in the early going, with Toronto up 17-0 by the 17th minute.
Seattle threatened with its best moments of play around the 20 minute mark, getting deep into Toronto territory. However, a turnover inside the two meter line allowed the Arrows to escape the threat. The moment had a "now or never" feeling for Seattle if the team was going to make this one competitive, and it ended up being never; Toronto scored again moments later and the rout was on.
Not to take anything from the Arrows, who put in a complete 80-minute shift and clicked in all phases, but this one may have been over before it started. Seattle encountered massive delays in its flight from Seattle to Georgia, which was compounded by the early 10:30 kickoff. Andrew Duratalo clued followers in on the nightmare trip over Twitter. The delays easily could have impacted his early exit with a leg injury. His situation will need to be monitored heading into Week 6.
NOLA Earns Narrow Victory in Slop at the Gold Mine
New Orleans earned a thrilling win over New England in very sloppy field conditions at the Gold Mine. What must have been a deluge earlier in the day in New Orleans didn't stop these teams from combining for 69 points and playing some exciting rugby.
Fullback Carl Meyer, whose boot was key throughout the day, got the scoring started with a penalty kick, then NOLA extended the lead with a well-executed maul that saw flanker Tesimoni Tongauina dot down.
Wing Mitch Wilson scored New England's first points as the offenses heated up. That was followed with another Meyer PK, this one all the way from the 50M line that made it 11-5, then Dougie FIfe scored for the Free Jacks off a well-designed lineout play to give the visitors their first lead, 12-11. NOLA wing Julian Dominguez came right back with a long try, and the conversion made it 18-12 to the Gold heading into halftime.
New England scored first two minutes in the second half with a crafty pick from scrummy John Poland just as the Free Jacks' maul went to deck, and the Beaudein Waaka conversion made it 19-18. NOLA was right back with a try in the corner from #13 JP DuPlessis, then Fife's second put the visitors back on top 24-23.
Number 8 Cam Dolan, who were the "C" on this chest this game, came up with the key play for the Gold. He broke the line with a powerful run, then picked to score off the back of the ruck a phase later. The conversion proved pivotal, and was good from Meyer, 30-24 NOLA.
New England gave itself a chance with a try in the right corner from Harry Barlow, but the conversion was no good. NOLA did what it was not able to do a week ago; the Gold played solid defense and grinded the final moments out of the clock for the 30-29 win.
The one point margin proved pivotal, as New Orleans now stands secondÂ in the Eastern Conference, a point behind New York.
San Diego Secures Much-Needed Win Over Utah
With the Legion moving from San Diego to Las Vegas and back, it has been a choppy start for the preseason contenders. The hope in the locker room is that this the win over the Utah Warriors proves to be the start of a turnaround.
Legion #13 Cam Clark notched the game's first points in the opening minutes. Utah spilled the ball after a scrum in attacking territory and the loose ball eventually found the hands of fullback Cecil Afrika. Afrika found the space made the break offloaded, and the ball eventually found Clark, who scored between the posts.
Mikey Te'o came back for Utah with a "revenge try" against his former team. The Legion came right back at 12' when Afrika found Ryan Matyas in the corner. Then it was the Warriors' Tyler Fisher with his first try of the season in his return to the number 12 jersey, and it was 14-12 San Diego 23 minutes in. The Legion scored again just moments later to make it 19-12. The defense settled in a bit from there, and the score held into the halftime break.
Hagen Schulte's personal 10-0 second half run gave Utah its first lead at 57'. Schulte banged a penalty kick through, then put on a great display of individual brilliance. The fly half juked his defender and turned on the jets to score a 40 meter try between the posts.
Nate Augspurger made an impact off the San Diego bench when he picked off the back of the maul, found space week and took it most of the way down the sideline. His offload found Dylan Audsley, who nearly took it the rest of the way, but it would take another pick from Jasa Veramalua to get the score and regain the lead.
San Diego essentially sealed this one with a converted try at 74' to make it a two-score game, 31-22. Utah fought through to get the bonus point though with a try from Bailey Wilson in stoppage time. The successful Schulte conversion made the game's final score, 31-29.
San Diego jumps back into the thick of things with the victory, now 2-3 and in the middle of the Western pack. Utah now needs to do some soul searching as it's on a three-game skid after a 2-0 start to the season.
LA Survives Stiffest Test Thus Far, Remains Undefeated
The LA Giltinis had to hold off a feisty Houston SaberCats squad in order to move to a perfect 4-0. Things went to script for the favored visitors, as a fancy passage of play saw the Gilitinis score the game's first points.
Houston threw a counterpunch though, and its converted try made it 7-5 to the hosts. DTH van der Merwe did what does best, scoring moments later by recovering a beautiful chip to put his team up top. The back and forth play was only getting started as this game featured eight lead changes and twelve tries between the two combatants.
LA headed into halftime with a 29-21 lead, but Houston grabbed the attention of the MLR world by snatching a 35-34 advantage at 51'. LA's savvy play from its veterans in the final period of the game proved the difference, however.
Matt Giteau came off the bench in this one and had an immediate impact. Giteau kicked deep into Houston territory with fellow Wallabies' star Adam Asshley-Cooper streaking down the field in pursuit. Â AAC's pressure was rewarded with a Houston penalty for not releasing, and LA went to work on the five meter maul following the lineout. Hooker Mahe Vailanu scored at the back, and Luke Burton hit the conversion to make it 41-35 LA.
The Gilitinis assured there would be no upset this day by tacking on the insurance try from reserve hooker Lindsey Stevens. Burton was good again for the game's final score, 48-35.
LA now has a perfect 20 points on the season and remains on top of the Western Conference. There's no such thing as consolation wins, but Houston has to take some solace in the fact that it seems to have snapped out of its early-season skid. Back-to-back shutout losses have now been answered with two straight 30+-point efforts from the Sabercats, who went 1-1 in those matches.
Austin Wins it Late to Secure Three-Game Win Streak
Don't look now but Austin is going streaking. Mack Mason's penalty kick in stoppage time delivered a 17-15 victory over Rugby ATL and the first three-game win streak for a Gilgronis team that is steadily climbing the leaderboard.
This one was close without, as it took 20 minutes for someone to crack the try line. That happened when lock Isaac Ross, who had an impressive debut cut short at 65', dotted down at the back of a well-executed maul. Atlanta returned serve with a maul-in try of its own, but this conversion was no good. A break by Mark O'Keefe let an opportunity for Atlanta to take the lead at the half go begging, as Austin earned the turnover and headed to the shed with a 7-5 lead.
After 17 minutes of back and forth play that saw each team get turned over near the try line, O'Keefe was sure to finish this time and gave his team the lead heading into the final 20 minutes of play. Both teams saved their best for the final five minutes.
Rookie sensation Conner Mooneyham put his team up with a beautiful chip and chase try from 40 meters out. The successful conversion made it 14-12 AGs in the final moments, but Atlanta came back with a Robbie Petzer PK to add to the drama.
Austin calmly mounted a sustained attack and put Atlanta under pressure to close it out. A penalty went against ATL though, and Mack Mason lined up the potential game winner. It was struck pure off the boot, and the home crowd went wild on Austin's "Rock of AGs" night with the 17-15 win.
Austin now has second place in the league all to itself, and is emerging as a Western Conference contender. Atlanta is on a skid in the opposite direction, dropping two in a row after its 2-1 start.
New York Wins East Coast Clash to Stay on Top of Conference
Rugby United New York played host to Old Glory DC and held on for a 38-34 victory. Andy Ellis got the scoring started after a long break from #8 Kara Pryor had the hosts knocking on the door.
Old Glory scored the next two tries with Robertson in his first game back after injury finding rookie wing Sam Cusano, then flanker Callum Gibbins dragged defenders with him for the visitors' second try. DC had trouble securing the kickoff a couple of times throughout the match, and New York immediately capitalized, finding fullback Troy Lockyear for the score.
Mungo Mason immediately atoned for the mishandled kickoff, connected on the break and fed Old Glory's other rookie wing D'Montae Noble on the left-hand side to put DC back on top, 17-14.
Another mistake on the ensuing kickoff put New York on the attack again, and that rolling maul got going for the home team once again, setting Dylan Fawsitt up for the try. Dan Hollinshead tacked on a PK in stoppage time, giving the hosts a 24-17 lead at the halftime break.
Old Glory struck fist blood in the second stand with a PK from Jason Robertson. The pivotal play of this game came when Hollinshead read Old Glory's play off its scrum beautifully, picking Danny Tusitala's pass off and taking it the distance to make it 31-20 New York.
DC responded with Renata Roberts-Tenata's first try of the season, but the home team was on the attack shortly after once again. In a bit of a "make your own luck" phenomenon New York was turned over in its lineout, but took the ball back before Old Glory could fully secure it and exit out of danger. Wing Quinn Ngawati dove on it, and Hollinshead hit the tough conversion from the right hash for the game's deciding score.
The visitors came back with a maul and score from Josh Brown, and had its chances to steal the road victory. New York turned the ball over in stoppage time on Old Glory's scrum, however, and did just enough to earn the 38-34 victory.
The win puts New York at the top of the table in the Eastern Conference, a point ahead of NOLA Gold. Old Glory now sits in last place, though does have a game in hand over third place Toronto and fifth place Rugby ATL, and picked up two key
WRITTEN BY ALEXANDER DIEGEL FOR THE RUGBY NETWORK
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