On Sunday, May 9, Rugby United New York defeated previously undefeated LA Giltinis and won the Champagne Cup at Cochrane Stadium in Jersey City, N.J. The match was broadcast on MSG, Bally SportsNet SoCal, and on The Rugby Channel. Replays of the match may be seen on the latter.
With the win, Rugby United New York’s record improved to 5-2 and have 23 points in Eastern Conference. While the team leads the conference in wins, NOLA Gold (4-2-1) moved into first place after a bonus-point win over the Houston SaberCats 28-26 for 24 points.
The race is tight with New England Free Jacks and Rugby ATL winning on Saturday with 4-3 records and 21 points. The Free Jacks have a +3 better point differential. Toronto (3-5), who lost to the Free Jacks, dropped into 5th place with 18 points. Old Glory, who lost in extra time to Utah, follows with 15 points.
LA added a losing bonus point and lead the Western Conference with a 6-1 record and 31 points. It appears that the battle for the second conference playoff spot will be between the Utah Warriors and Austin Gilgronis. Both have 4-3 records, with 24 and 22 points, respectively.
San Diego Legion (2-6 and 14 points), Houston SaberCats (2-5 and 13 points), and Seattle Seawolves (2-5 and 11 points) follow in the standings. Don’t count out these teams from playing winning rugby, but they need to string a series of wins, especially over the Western leaders, if they aspire to make the playoffs.
All photos are courtesy of Keith Killeen, whose photos capture key match moments.
LA began the match going through eight phases, but the RUNY defense was sharp and was able to clear after a Giltinis penalty for not releasing at the breakdown. New York bunkered down and continued to repel LA’s potent attack, who came into the match averaging over 45 points per match. The Giltinis continued to pressure with a lineout from close range, but finally conceded it was better to come away with points after a RUNY penalty 5-meters from in-goal. Luke Burton slotted the kick in the 8th minute to take an early 3-0 lead.
The Giltinis lost the restart after the ball bounced off John Ryberg to Nick Civetta, but New York lost a loose ball soon after and LA cleared to midfield. RUNY claimed the lineout and after a Giltinis penalty, opted to kick for the corner instead of attempting a penalty goal. Civetta seized the lineout throw, however, the referee indicated the ball was not straight, with Fawsitt throwing into the blustering wind.
Rugby United New York fielded the clearance kick and after a high tackle by LA, knotted the match at 3 all with Hollinshead’s boot.
Argentina international Jose Manuel Leguizamon was hammered catching a kick from LA and left the match with a leg injury, while LA fullback Glenn Bryce suffered a major right ankle injury around the same time. Fifteen minutes into the match and the player attrition began with Kyle Sumsion entering for New York and Ryan James for LA.
LA had an attacking lineout 5-meters from in-goal, but a steal by Hanco Germishuys and a clearance kick gave the Giltinis another lineout inside the RUNY midfield. Burton went into contact, however, Adam Ashley-Copper was cited for a neck roll at the breakdown. A yellow card was not issued by Lash, and Hollinshead set up a lineout just outside the Giltinis 22-meters. The throw again was ruled to be not straight, thwarting New York’s attack.
New York went through multiple phases after receiving a clearance kick, but an offload went into touch. This provided a lineout platform for LA to attack. A penalty for not releasing at the breakdown had the Giltinis attacking from a four-man lineout. Lindsey Stevens offloaded right to Luke Carty, who fed the ball inside to DTH Van der Merwe for his 8th try of the season, which would be the only try of the day. Burton added the conversion for a 10-3 lead.
New York answered back with a Dan Hollinshead penalty goal after an LA penalty at the breakdown, to cut the lead to 10-6. The narrow LA lead would hold up at the break. Second Half
Rugby United New York’s defense was stellar throughout the first half and would continue to be throughout the match.
RUNY began the second half on fire with a linebreak by Kyle Sumsion and after a penalty advantage, Hollinshead slotted a third kick to cut the lead to 10-9.
A New York penalty had LA ignoring a kick at goal and opted to attack from a lineout 5-meters from in-goal. The Giltinis could not move the freight train but had another chance from a 5-meter scrum. RUNY’s props James Rochford and Sak Taulafo did their job well and exited with Wilton Rebolo and Samu Tawake providing fresh legs and entering for the scrum. New York kept LA on their back foot and won a penalty and cleared.
A subsequent lineout by LA was stolen by Nick Civetta and after the Giltinis were pinged at the breakdown, Hollinshead slotted his 4th kick to give New York the lead for the first time, 12-10.
RUNY claimed the deep restart and advanced the ball, but was penalized at the breakdown. Luke Burton’s penalty goal attempt was deemed to be successful, despite drifting just wide right of the posts. RUNY captain Dylan Fawsitt voiced a protest without success, 12-13.
After RUNY stripped the ball from a Giltinis player’s hands, Troy Lockyear stepped defenders and LA was penalized at the breakdown. Hollinshead lined up a kick into the wind, but the kick to reclaim the lead was wide right.
RUNY went through phases shortly after with a Kyle Sumsion flick pass going into Ashley-Cooper’s hands and the LA center was driven into touch. RUNY attacked from a lineout and LA was penalized at the breakdown. Hollinshead left no doubt with his kick and New York took a 15-13 lead in the 61st minute.
Following several penalties by RUNY, Samu Tawake was sent to the bin in the 71st minute for repeat team infractions. Luke Burton slotted the kick to reclaim a 16-15 lead in this seesaw battle.
The restart was gathered by John Ryberg and was cleared for a New York lineout inside LA’s territory. Charlie Hewitt gathered the throw and RUNY mauled, Will Leonard executed a crash ball, the forwards made several carries before Fasi was tackled high by Adam Ashe and sent to the bin. Hollinshead calmly added his 6th penalty goal, 18-16.
The subsequent restart has LA kicking deep again and Harry Bennett launched a kick into the wind that bounced out 5-meters from LA’s in-goal. The Giltinis cleared to Quinn Ngawati and then kept the ball in the forwards to the next two minutes until a penalty gave the ball back to LA with two minutes remaining in the match.
Thomas claimed the ball in the lineout for LA and was sent wide to DTH Van Den Merwe, who knocked the ball on while tackled. The RUNY scrum drove LA back and after the hooter blew, Conor McManus kicked into touch for a Rugby United New York win.
Win the win, Rugby United New York accomplished what no team has been able to do so far, defeat LA, who was decimating teams with their prolific attack. Could this be a precursor to the MLR Shield Final on August 1?
The match came at a cost to both teams, as RUNY lost Juan Manuel Leguizamon after 15 minutes to a leg injury, while LA reported that “fullback Glenn Bryce was helped off with a major right ankle injury just 15 minutes into the game and flanker Christian Poidevin was forced off with a collarbone injury just after half-time. Inside center, Luke Burton will also have a dislocated finger assessed for any more significant damage.”
While awarding Man of the Match honors to a player is common and a case could be made for Dan Hollinshead, what set RUNY up for the win was its stellar defense. The team played its best match since it joined the league and its smash-mouth play, scrum dominance, 5 lineout steals, and breakdown poaches.
The Giltinis was a class act in the losing effort and one can see how difficult a team they are to play.
Rugby United New York claimed the Champagne Cup in the process, which goes to the winner between these quality teams.
The Giltinis will regroup for a clash against the Western Conference Utah Warriors (4-3) when they play the first rugby match in the state-of-the-art SoFi Stadium on Saturday from 7 pm (PT).
Rugby United New York travels to Austin Saturday for an 8 pm ET match against the MLR leading defensive team in conceding points, the 4-3 Gilronis. The team will want to win a third consecutive time before returning home on May 23 for a match against the New England Free Jacks.
NEW YORK 18
Pens – D. Hollinshead 6/7 (14’, 37’, 42’, 51’, 60’, 74’)
Yellow cards – S. Tawake (70’)
Tries – D. van der Merwe (27’)
Cons – L. Burton 1/1 (28’)
Pens – L. Burton 3/3 (8’, 53’, 71’)
Yellow cards – A. Ashe (73’)
Match Officials: Referee: Mike Lash (New Zealand) with Assistants: Lex Weiner (USA) & Miles McIvor (USA)
Squads with Player Article Links & Match Preview
Rugby United New York: 1 James Rochford 2 Dylan Fawsitt 3 Sak Taulafo 4 Nate Brakeley 5 Nick Civetta 6 Hanco Germishuys 7 Kyra Pryor 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamón Evan Mintern 9 Andy Ellis (c) 10 Dan Hollinshead 11 Quinn Ngawati 12 Will Leonard 13 Fa’asiu Fuatai 14 Joel Miranda 15 Troy Lockyear 16 Wilton Rebolo 17 Anthony Parry 18 Samu Tawake 19 Charlie Hewitt 20 Kyle Sumsion 21 Ben Bonasso 22 Conor McManus 23 Harry Bennett
LA Giltinis: 1 Blake Rogers 2 Lindsey Stevens 3 Charlie Abel 4 Dave Dennis (c) 5 Nathan Den Hoedt 6 Angus Cottrell 7 Christian Poidevin 8 Adam Ashe 9 Harrison Goddard 10 Luke Carty 11 DTH Van Der Merwe 12 Luke Burton 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper 14 John Ryberg 15 Glenn Bryce 16 Sean McNulty 17 Mafi Seanoa18 Frikkie de Beer 19 Corey Thomas 20 Langilangi Haupeakui 21 Cristian Rodriguez 22 Watson Filikitonga 23 Ryan James