Rugby United New York defeated San Diego Legion 36-29 in the opening match of the 2021 Major League Rugby season at James Regional Sports Park in southwest Las Vegas on Saturday, March 20.
Covid-19 considerations in California have meant that the Legion has relocated to Las Vegas for 2021, however, no fans were permitted to this match. Fox 5 San Diego broadcast the match in San Diego, while those in the U.S. or worldwide may still view it on The Rugby Network.
Strong winds impacted the entire match with San Deigo going into the wind the first half and Rugby United New York during the second half. This impacted kicking, as well as offloads.
San Diego opened the match with a try by Siaosi Mahoni and conversion by Dylan Audsley in the 5th minute to take a 7-0 lead. Two minutes later, Dan Hollinshead’s restart kick resulted in a turnover with RUNY attacking from a lineout 5-meters from in-goal. After an ensuing maul, Hanco Germishuys barrelled over for the team’s first try. Hollinshead slotted the conversion to level the match at 7 all.
The Legion struck back in the 11th minute after Mahoni and Nasoqeqe breaks with Psalm Wooching scoring under the posts. With the new trial law, the team was awarded an automatic 7 points, with no conversion needed, 14-7.
RUNY answered right back with a try by outside center Fa’asiu Fuatai, with Hollinshead adding the extras to knot the match at 14 all. After securing the restart, RUNY tacked on another try by Will Leonard to take a 19-14 lead.
The Legion would add a try by Cronan Gleeson with Audsley converting to reclaim the lead, 21-19.
Just prior to the half, James Rochford was sent to the bin with Wilton Rebolo needing to enter in the front row, shifting Zak Taulafo to loosehead prop. Another RUNY player needed to exit for 10 minutes.
During the first half, Rugby United New York had numerous penalties and handling errors. Audley’s kicks to touch did not get much distance with the strong wind.
During the second half, an Audsley penalty goal pushed the Legion’s lead to 24-19.
Rugby United New York recognized that the wind was a factor and chose to maintain possession through running attacks from their territory. They did use good tactical kicks with a Leonard one miss-handled by the normally sure-handed Ryan Matyas. Soon after, Will Leonard scored the team’s bonus point try to level the match at 24 all.
RUNY would reclaim the lead with a try by captain Dylan Fawsitt from an offload by Rebolo, with Hollinshead slotting the extras to lead 31-24.
The Legion answered back with a try in the right corner by Ryan Matyas to cut the lead to 31-29, securing their own bonus point in the process.
Three minutes later, in the 69tn minute, Fawsitt scored again from a maul to push the lead to 36-29.
Both defenses held, with Rugby United New York claiming a bonus-point win. San Diego picked up two bonus points in a losing effort.
Some observations include RUNY being more effective in the scrums with the Legion on its back foot. Ben Mitchell and CC Mahoni were a force in the lineout, however, RUNY’s controlled most of their lineouts. Throws were a concern for both teams with the ball not going straight a few times with the wind a factor.
The Legion had some early breaks through the RUNY defense, and a quick ball from both sides challenged defenses. During the second half, RUNY looked to maintain possession with Ben Foden going into contact. Will Leonard’s involvement in the attack and on defense was evident.
Next week, Rugby United New York travels to New Orleans for a match against NOLA Gold on Saturday, March 27 at 4 pm ET. San Deigo will also be on the road for a Sunday, March 28 match against Austin Gilgronis.
Squads – Match Preview With Player Article Links
San Diego Legion: 1 Faka’osi Pifeleti 2 Dean Muir 3 Cronan Gleeson 4 Ben Mithcell 5 Siaosi ‘CC’ Mahoni 6 Keni Nasoqeqe 7 Psalm Wooching 8 Tevita Tamelau (VC) 9 Nate Augspurger (c) 10 Josh Thiel 11 Ryan Matyas 12 Dylan Audsley 13 Cameron Clark 14 Save Totovosau 15 Cecil Afrika 16 Pete Malcolm 17 Nate Sylvia 18 Chris Baumann 19 Jasa Veremalua 20 Travis Larsen 21 Carlo De Nysschen 22 Santiago Iglesias 23 Bjorn Basson
Rugby United New York: 1 James Rochford 2 Dylan Fawsitt (c) 3 Sak Taulafo 4 Nate Brakeley 5 Charlie Hewitt 6 Hanco Germishuys 7 Kyra Pryor 8 Evan Mintern 9 Andy Ellis 10 Dan Hollinshead 11 Apensia Cakaubalavu 12 Will Leonard 13 Fa’asiu Fuatai 14 Quinn Ngawati 15 Ben Foden 16 Rob Iramescu 17 Anthony Parry 18 Wilton Rebolo 19 Ben Bonasso 20 Conor McManus 21 Harry Bennett 22 Chris Mattina 23 Connor Buckley