San Diego Legion hosted the defending champion Seattle Seawolves in the Major League Rugby Shield Championship at Torero Stadium on June 16 with the match broadcast on CBS.
The match was a defensive battle for much of the match. In the final nine minutes, the Legion appeared to have a victory within their grasp, but the Seawolves Brad Tucker scored the winning try in the 82nd minute and the Seattle Seawovles defended the MLR Shield with a 26-23 win.
The first half was a tale of two quarters. Joe Pietersen kicked an early penalty goal to give the Legion a 3-0 lead. Later a drop goal by Pietersen was missed.
Josh Furno was held up in-goal, but after 5-meter scrum, a Furno knock on allowed Seattle to clear. San Diego continued to control the early possession and a Seawolves penalty pushed the Legion lead to 6-0 after another Pietersen kick.
Seattle attacked from a scrum 22-meters from in-goal with George Barton powering to within 5-meters. Stephan Coetzee then finished with a try and Brock Staller converted to take a 7-6 lead. The Seawolves executed a lineout throw that went 5-meters to JP Smith, who motored for a try in the left corner. A TMO confirmed the try and Staller again slotted the kick for a 14-6 lead.
Understanding the intent in a match is critical and referee Scott Green saw that a high ball by Conor Kearns was contested by both Kearns and Ben Cima, who was inadvertently hit the air. A penalty was the result instead of a yellow card for Kearns. This call allowed Seattle to attack from the the Legion 22-meters, but did not change the nature of the match that could have occurred if a yellow card was ruled.
Neither team added additional points prior to the break.
Early in the second half, Tai Enosa was taken off the pitch for a HIA. His head was low in his attempted tackle of Shalom Suniula. Will Holder then came on as a replacement.
A turnover then occurred from the ensuing Seattle scrum. This gave the Legion a scrum and quickly moved the ball wide. After multiple phases from teh forwards, the ball went wide left before a Ryan Matyas knock on 7 meters from in-goal. The ensuing Seattle scrum led to a clearance kick and the Legion applied pressure on the attack again before losing the ball forward.
Cima cleared, but the Legion had a lineout 22-metrs from in-goal. The Legion tried a lineout throw to Augspurger, but the ball went forward and Seattle cleared for another Legion lineout about 30-meters out. The result was better this time, moving the ball out wide left to Nick Boyer for a try in the left corner. Pietersen then slotted the conversion to cut the lead to within one, 14-13.
Both teams then went through several minutes of back and forth play. A Seawolves penalty led to a Legion lineout within 22-meters of in-goal. This resulted in a Legion try by Jordan Manihera, who touched the base of the post. Pietersen slotted the easy conversion to lead 20-14.
The final nine minutes of the match had the elation and despare with changes in scores. First, the Seattle Seawolves went on a sustained attack with Riekert Hattingh scoring a try from close range in the 73rd minute to cut the Legion lead to 20-19. The MLR leading scorer Brock Staller then missed the conversion.
Three minutes later, Joe Pietersen extended the lead to 23-19 with a drop goal. It looked as if the home crowd would be victorious, however following a lineout within 10-meters of in-goal, the Seawolves mauled their way over the line and Brad Tucker grounded the ball in the 82nd minute for a 26-23 win after Staller’s conversion.
With the win, the Seawolves defended the MLR Shield Championship and celebrate the win at the Legion’s home pitch, Torero Stadium, before a soldout crowd. The Legion are gutted in losing at death, but their season was still an outstanding one.
Squads with Player Article Links & Match Preview
San Diego Legion: 1 Faka’osi Pifeleti 2 Kapeli Pifeleti 3 Paddy Ryan (VC) 4 Lou Stanfill 5 Josh Furno 6 Jasa Veremalua 7 Psalm Wooching 8 Jordan Manihera 9 Nate Augspurger 10 Joe Pietersen (C) 11 Nick Boyer 12 JP Duplessis 13 Ryan Matyas 14 Conor Kearns 15 Tai Enosa16 Dean Muir 17 Nathan Sylvia 18 Dino Waldren 19 Siaosi Mahoni 20 Pat Blair 21 Kyle Rogers 22 Save Totovosau 23 Will Holder+ Head Coach Rob Hoadley
Seattle Seawolves: 1 Djustice Sears-Duru 2 Stephan Coetzee 3 Tim Metcher 4 Apisai Naikatini 5 Brad Tucker 6 Samu Manoa 7 Nakai Penny 8 Riekert Hattingh 9 JP Smith 10 Ben Cima 11 Jeff Hassler 12 Shalom Suniula 13 George Barton 14 Brock Staller 15 Mat Turner 16 Dan Trierweiler17 Kellen Gordon 18 Jake Ilnicki 19 Jérémy Lenaerts 20 Eric Duechle 21 Phil Mack 22 Roland Suniula 23 Vili Toluta’u + Head Coach Richie Walker