Monday, June 17, 2019

2019 Major League Rugby Championship

‘Wolves back-to-back in San Diego

Seattle SeaWolves claimed the 2019 Major League Rugby Championship over San Diego Legion at time in the match with a massive forwards effort from lineout that would have done the Gods on Olympus proud. Perfect weather, a packed house and two XVs whose average differential in matches played in MLR’s two years has been less than a try made for scintillating stuff in Southern California on Sunday.

Flyhalf Joe Pietersen opened the San Diego account with a pair of sticksplitters in the early goings and it was 6-nil for the Californians before a brace of scores, the first by number 2, Stephan Coetzee at ’21 followed by a touch down by cagey halfback, JP Smith, who snatched a short lineout on the fast trot, staved off a faux tackle, and scooted into goal to touch down for numbers man, Brock Staller’s plus-two, and it was 14-6 for the reigning 2018 champs as referee Scott Green signaled the halftime break, and it was lads to lockers for hydration and instruction with SeaWolves in front by two scores.

San Diego retook the advantage on a grounding by number two, Nick Boyer at ’52 and  a 65th minute touch down by flanker Jordan Manihera - each converted by Pietersen - and it was 20-14 for homeboys as the last 15 minutes of the epic battle hove into view.

A 72nd-minute grounding by the Seattle 8man, Riekert Hattingh, and an rare missed conversion by the Seattle accountant Staller, and 20-19 the significant figures for Legion as time marched on, tension tightened and action ratcheted up.

Near time, with San Diego crabbing across the pitch in the vicinity of the ‘Wolves 22, ball spun from breakdown found Pietersen looping back into the pocket to drop a three-point goal truly from alignment on the left post, and San Diego had extended its lead to 23-19 with less than two minutes to go in the match. Seattle would need a try.

A turnover by Seattle provided possession and ball swung to the outside backs had a pair of Legion defenders take down the SeaWolves three-quarters shoulder high and with the penalty award came the decisive maneuver: Staller for touch scant meters from goal and travelers with the lineout throw. Well-taken that snatch and in textbook fashion the Seattle forwards mauled, in unison, to the Promised Land for the pack drop-down try in extra time that, along with the Staller conversion, made a final scoreline of 26-23 for the XV from the Great American Northwest.

* Only thing missing from CBS’ well-turned event was the concise, intelligent commentary of Steve Lewis, who, if you’ve listened to his chat on the Rugby New York games, you would know is the penultimate expressive voice of rugby in the North American airwaves - ed.

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