NOLA Gold scored a last-second try to foil Austin Elite Rugby’s apparent win and claimed a 35-31 victory at Gold Stadium on Saturday, March 23.
NOLA Gold maintained first-place in Major League Rugby with the win, while Austin Elite Rugby has to feel they let a victory slip from their grasp.
NOLA Gold will travel to play the Glendale Raptors on March 30, while Austin Elite Rugby will face Rugby United New York on March 30 at Toyota Field in San Antonio, Texas.
Prior to the match, there were some last minute squad changes. Cam Dolan and Ratu Peni Targive were not able to play for NOLA Gold and Austin Elite, respectively. NOLA Gold moved Nikola Bursic to flanker with Kyle Baillie moving to No.8. Kevin O’Connor gained his first appearance in the reserves. Austin Elite moved Reece Czarnecki into the wing, with Alex Faison-Donahoe entering the reserves.
After some back and forth, NOLA Gold struck first from a lineout and a phase with Holden Yungert offloading to Tim Maupin for a try near the post. JP Eloff slotted the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
JP Eloff attacked to within 4-meters of the tryline before being driven into touch. Rodrigo Silva was able to clear under pressure and NOLA Gold spun the ball left with Soheyl Jaoudat intercepting a Scott Gale pass for an 85-meter try. Mickael Romera then slotted the kick to level the match at 7 all.
NOLA Gold attacked from a loose ball with a JP Eloff break and an offload to Scott Gale, who was run down by Joaudat and driven into touch 1-meter from the line. From the ensuing 5-meter Austin Elite scrum, the ball went in-goal and Holden Yungert grounded for a try and Eloff converted to lead 14-7.
After an Austin Elite penalty, NOLA Gold elected to kick to touch instead at goal and after the lineout, Hubert Buydens scored after a few forward picks. Eloff then slotted the conversion for a 21-7 lead.
After a penalty by NOLA Gold, Austin Elite kicked for territory and soon after a NOLA Gold scrum, Austin Elite spun the ball wide right with Ben Mitchell added a try prior to the break with Romera’s conversion wide (21-12).
The first half was a contested one with the speed of the backs by both sides factoring in the scoring.
NOLA Gold struck first in the second half with a break by Kyle Baillie and an offload to Con Foley for the teams fourth try to gain a bonus point. Eloff then slotted the conversion for a 28-12 lead.
Austin Elite appeared to be on the verge of scoring a try on a counterattack, but Mo Abdelmonem knocked on on contact just prior to the tryline. From the ensuing 5-meter scrum, Eloff was pinned in-goal to give the ball back to Austin for a 5-meter scrum. Gold then turned over the ball and cleared.
Austin Elite continued to pressure and a chip by Romera was caught by Rodrigo Silva for a try. Romera then slotted the kick to cut the led to 28-19.
Austin Elite Rugby then added a bonus point try from close range by Juan Echeverria and a conversion by Andres Vilaseca to narrow to 28-26. Soheyl Jaoudat then scored after the restart to take a 31-28 lead, as Vilaseca’s conversion was missed.
With 7 minutes remaining, NOLA Gold spurned a penalty goal attempt to level the match and attacked from a lineout. Austin Elite was penalized again and Gale kicked the ball through in-goal into touch giving Austin a 22-drop.
NOLA Gold attacked with a vengeance, but a knock on turned the ball over to Austin Elite for a scrum outside their 22-meters with two minutes left in the match. Torrealba cleared with a box kick and NOLA Gold countered from the breakdown with Michael Baska finishing with a try. Eloff then slotted the kick for a 35-31 victory.
With the win, NOLA Gold improved to 6-1 and maintain first-place with 31 points. Austin Elite played their best rugby of the season, but its record in 0-8. They picked up two losing bonus points for 4 points and could easily have had three wins on the season.
Austin Elite Rugby has added some additions to their roster and has been playing excellent rugby in recent weeks. NOLA Gold will take the win, yet know they were in an intense battle before emerging with a win on the final play of the match.
Squads with Player Article Links & Match Preview
NOLA Gold: 1 Hubert Buydens 2 Eric Howard (C) 3 Ben Tarr 4 Kane Thompson 5 Ignacio Dotti 6 Nikola Bursic 7 Zack Stryffeler 8 Kyle Baille 9 Holden Yungert 10 Scott Gale 11 Nick Feakes 12 Con Foley 13 Taylor Howden 14 Tim Maupin 15 JP Eloff (C) 16 Mason Briant 7 Cam Falcon 18 Kavika Peniata 19 Billy Stewart 20 Kevin O’Connor 21 Moni Tongauiha 22 Michael Baska 23 JoJo Tikoisuva + Head Coach Nate Osborne
Austin Elite Rugby: 1 LaRome White 2 Tiaan Erasmus 3 Juan Echeverria 4 Ben Mitchell (C) 5 Josh Larsen (VC) 6 Kyle Breytenbach 7 Moe Abdelmonam 8 Travis Larsen 9 Mickaël Romera 10 Rodrigo Sliva 11 Reece Czarnecki 12 Andres Vilaseca 13 Sione Fangaiuiha14 Aidan McMullan 15 Soheyl Jaoudat 16 Dominique Bailey 17 Chris Schade 18 Brendan Rams 19 Dylan Pieterse 20 Rikus Zwart 21 Marcelo Torrealba 22 Doug Fraser 23 Alex Faison Donahoe + Head Coach Alain Hyardet