NOLA Gold Keeps Playoffs Alive After 46-43 Win Over Utah Warriors

Utah Warriors & NOLA Gold Rugby

With two wins the Utah Warriors could control their destiny and make the playoffs. The Warriors took an early lead and threatened to break open the match. New Orleans Gold Rugby Club answered back and claimed a thrilling 46-43 win, keeping the team in contention for the playoffs should the San Diego Legion loss Sunday and both the Warriors and Legion lose next Saturday.

Both teams gained bonus points, with the Warriors gaining two. NOLA Gold ended the regular season with a 3-5 record with 17 points. The Warriors record fell to 2-5 and also have 17 points., retaining 4th place over NOLA Gold based on point differential. One of these teams can still make the playoffs. The Warriros will need to have the Legion lose one of their two remaining matches. NOLA Gold will need the Legion to lose both matches and also have the Warriors lose next week.

In other weekend matches, the first place Glendale Raptors and the second place Seattle Seawolves, each have 29 points, meet on Saturday night with the regular season title on the line. On Sunday, the San Diego Legion host Austin Elite Rugby. The winner of the later match will be in the playoffs, however, should the Legion lose, the final playoff spot would be determined next week when the Utah Warriors play the Houston SaberCats and the San Diego Legion host the Glendale Raptors.

Match Recap

The Utah Warriors scored first as AJ Tu’ineau found a gap and executed a loping pass to Don Pati who raced in for a try. Linehan’s conversion was wide left. The Warriors added another try by Pati after a Warriors scrum and an offload by Tu’ineau. Linehan added the conversion increasing the lead to 12-0 after the 8th minute.

NOLA Gold then attacked back and after a scrum just outside the Warriors 22-meters, the ball was stripped from Nikola Bursic as he went into contact. Utah went through multiple phases, but a knock on at the Gold 5-meter line thwarted an impending score just when the team was about to break open the match.

NOLA Gold then forced a turnover and after a Matt Hughston break and a Tim Maupin run and grub kick, New Orleans was deep inside the Warriors territory. A JP Eloff run and grub kick went into touch, but NOLA Gold stole a Warrior’s lineout near the Warriors 5-meter line. This resulted in a Matt Hughston try after a 5-meter scrum and after Eloff’s conversion went wide left, the lead was 12-5.

New Orleans took advantage of an error on the restart by the Warriors. A scrum at midfield and a lineout later from the Warrior’s 22-meter had JO Eloff executing a drop-goal to cut the lead to 12-8.

Utah’s restart by Linehan did not go 10-meters and NOLA Gold went on the attack reaching the Warrior’s 22-meters. A lineout win by the Warriors was short lived as NOLA Gold turnover the ball. After a few forward phases, the Warriors were penalized and Eloff slotted the kick to cut the lead to 12-11.

The restart went to NOLA Gold inside their 22-meters. Taylor Howden cleared a booming kick to within 15 meters of the line. A Don Pati break was soon nullified with NOLA Gold getting the ball back. The forwards took over and Matt Wirken was held up in-goal. From a 5-meter scrum, Tim Maupin went blind receiving an offload inside for the try. Eloff then converted and NOLA Gold took an 18-12 lead.

After some back and forth play, Utah went on an attack and Tonata Lauti finished with a try under the posts. Linehan then converted and reclaimed the lead, 19-18.

Utah was pinned inside their 22-meters and tried to run the ball. a pass by Pati was intercepted by Howden and then by Cullen. A penalty by the Warriors then allowed Eloff to slot a penalty to reclaim the lead 21-19.

A clearance kick to Don Pati resulted in a break and after two dummies the team was at the NOLA Gold 22-meters. A few phases later, Linehan grounded the ball and added a conversion to take a 26-21 lead at the break.

First Half Comments

During the first half, the Warriors looked like they would run away with the match after a 12-0 lead while knocking on the door 5-meters from the line. A knock-on gave NOLA Gold the opportunity that they needed to get back into the match and they scored 18 unanswered points. The lead then went back and forth with the Warriors taking a narrow lead at the break.

The Warriors are a dangerous team on the attack. AJ Tu’ineau, Don Pati, and Tonata Lauti stood out. For NOLA Gold Matt Hughston and JP Eloff were outstanding and their forwards deserve a great deal of credit.

Second Half

The second half restart went to the Warriors, but a clearance kick by Linehan in front of the 22-meters brought the ball back for a NOLA Gold attack. Anthony Parry found a gap and Cam Falcon went to within three meters. Moni Tongauiha finished with a try and Eloff converted to reclaim the lead 28-26.

The restart was gathered by John Sullivan and cleared. A Don Pati pas was intercepted by JP Eloff, who then went in for a try and added a conversion, increasing the lead to 35-26.

The Warriors attacked inside the New Orleans 22-meters but turned the ball over allowing NOLA Gold to clear. Turnovers by the Warriors have changed the complexion of the match and another on the clearance kick gave NOLA Gold a scrum just outside the Warriors 22-meters. Going wide left, Vanikolo defended well giving the ball the Warriors a lineout. The call went back to New Orleans, who cycled the ball wide right and Cameron Troxler finished with a try for a 40-26 lead, after the kick by Eloff was missed.

Another turnover by the Warriors allowed Howden to grub ahead getting them out of danger. The Warriors cleared to just inside midfield and New Orleans went on the attack again. JP Eloff found a seam and dummied his way to within 10 meters of the line. The ball was turnover and then again by the Warriors. Utah was penalized and Eloff slotted the kick extending the lead to 43-26.

Utah answered back from a Howden kick as Josh Anderson took the kick and evaded several tacklers for a try. Linehan’s conversion from within 5-meters from touch hit the posts, but Utah cut the lead to 43-31.

After a penalty by the Warriors, NOLA Gold opted to not go for points and kicked the ball to touch and attacked from a lineout. NOLA Gold continued to utilize picks-n-goes inside 5-meters. After another Warriors penalty, Eloff threaded the posts and pushed the lead to 46-31.

The Warriors answered back from a scrum a midfield. A Linehan pickup of a loose ball kept the drive alive and resulted in a Fets Vanikolo try and a Linehan conversion, cutting the lead to 46-38 with 14 minutes remaining.

A Utah attack by Lance Williams and a continued run by another player was turnover and cleared by Hughston. The Warriors attacked again with Don Pati evading tacklers and Lauti also being a threat. A handling error after a Warriors’ lineout gave the ball at midfield to NOLA Gold. Utah had another opportunity from a lineout. It was stolen by NOLA Gold and quickly turned over. The Warriors reached to within 5 meters of the line before NOLA Gold had a chance to clear.

The Warriors Josh Anderson was penalized for not releasing the ball on the tackle. NOLA Gold kicked to touch and Hughston gathered the ball from the lineout. A knock on gave the Warriors a scrum and after a brief attack by Anderson, he lost the ball forward. NOLA Gold also would lose the ball and Ray Forrester answered with a try cutting the lead to 46-43 with 1 minute remaining.

The restart went to Matt Jensen. After one phase the Warriors were at midfield. A loose ball was recovered by NOLA Gold and Howden kicked to touch for the win.

JP Eloff was declared the Man of the Match.

Utah Warriors Squads & New Orleans Gold

Utah Warriors: 1 Alex Tucci, 2 Lote Tu’ipulotu, 3 Angus MacLellan, 4 Matt Jensen, 5 Saia Uhila, 6 John Cullen, 7 Ara Elkington, 8 Tevita ‘David’ Tameilau, 9 Joseph Nicholls, 10 Jonny Linehan, 11 Fetu’u Vainikolo, 12 AJ Tu’ineau, 13 Iniki Fa’amausili,14 Tonata Lauti, 15 Don Pati 16 Ray Forrester, 17 Maka Tameilau, 18 Les Soloai, 19 Lance Williams, 20 Wineera Elkington 21 Josh Anderson, 22 Vern Ale 23 Ben Nicholls + Head Coach Alf Daniels

New Orleans Gold: 1 Hubert Buydens, 2 Cam Falcon, 3 Ben Tarr, 4 Nikola Bursic (VC) 5 Matt Wirken 6 Tesimoni Tongaioha 7 Brennan Falcon, 8 Matt Hughston, 9 Holden Yungert, 10 JP Eloff, 11 Joeli Tikoisuva, 12 Taylor Howden (capt.), 13 Bobby Johns 14 Tim Maupin 15 Michael Baska 16 Amro Gouda, 17 Anthony Parry, 18 Alec Janotka 19 Myles McQuone, 20 John Sullivan, 21 Tevita Makasini, 22 Ratu Peceli Rinakama, 23 Cameron Troxler + Head Coach Nate Osborne

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