New York Gains Playoffs Despite Edge by NOLA Gold

Rugby United New York clinched a spot in Major League Rugby‘s Eastern Conference playoff final after Ben Foden scored the team’s fourth try in the 65th minute of the July 17 match against NOLA Gold. The bonus point was enough for New York to advance despite a comeback try at death by the visitors in the closing minute to edge New York 35-32.

After the playoffs were secured, any remaining replacements were entered for the remainder of the match.

Next Saturday, July 24, the Eastern Conference Final will be held at Life University in Marietta, Georgia. The kickoff will be at 8 pm ET and will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.

The Western Conference Final between LA Giltinis and the Utah Warriors will take place the following day at 6 p.m. ET at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and will also be broadcast on CBSSN.

Match Recap

This mid-July match was played with temperatures in the mid-90s and a heat index over 100 degrees. For the players, it was even hotter on the turf field and the profuse sweating by the players impacted handling at times.

Classic studies also show that aggression increases in hot intense weather conditions. That was also evident in the match and credit the referees and the ombudsmanship of some of the players for diffusing some situations.

I wish that was the case for a small group of fans which despite being told that their behavior was unacceptable, continued to call out individual unflattering taunts at the opposing players. St. John’s University is a dry campus, but the behavior of this small group was similar to those who have had too many cocktails and continued to be obnoxious. 

Cheering for teams and being passionate about the game are welcome, but leave any obnoxious behavior behind and enjoy the match and let others do the same.

JP Doyle was the referee of the match and he utilizes his assistant referees extensively during matches. That is often helpful as the league needs to implement a TMO next season.

NOLA Gold took advantage of an early New York penalty to kick downfield for an attacking lineout. Cam Dolan gathered and after a ball ricocheted off a player to Carl Meyer, he finished with a try under the posts to lead 7-0.

Another NOLA Gold attack has Meyer chipping ahead and Hanno Dirksen poised to score again, but he knocked the ball on and New York had a 5-meter scrum. Kara Pryor broke through the 9-channel and after a Gold penalty, Dan Hollinshead kicked to touch inside the Gold territory. New York showed why they are the leading team in the league for offloads with offloads from Ben Foden to Hollinshead to Apensia Cakaubalavau. Api then made another strong run, before a penalty had the team electing to go for goal. A surprising miss by the sure-footed Hollinshead followed, giving NOLA Gold a 22-meter drop.

Joel Miranda returned a kick inside Gold’s 22-meters for a NOLA lineout. Pat O’Toole’s throw was long and taken on the burst by Dylan Fawsitt. Quinn Ngawati added a few more meters, however, a knock-on by Samu Tawake stopped the attack, and resulted in a Gold scrum.

Carl Meyer cleared and Ben Foden countered with a break, an offload to Ben Bonasso, and another run by Api. Again the attack was turnover by a handling error by Sak Taulafo, giving NOLA a scrum, which they then cleared.

JP Doyle warned captain Dylan Fawsit that he would not tolerate New York player comments, and targeted Pryor as a primary culprit, strike one.

A NOLA Gold penalty had New York kicking for territory and attacking from a lineout. After Nick Civetta gathered, Hanco Germishuys offloaded to Ben Bonasso for a try under the posts to level the match at 7 all.

The ensuing restart was taken by Andy Ellis and kicked ahead. Tim Guillimin could not pick up an errant pass and Will Leonard kicked ahead and when he attempted to gather, knocked on or he would likely have scored.

Tempers flared around the first hydration break when Carl Meyer was leveled from a tackle by Api Cakaubalavu. Carl took exception to this and went after Api with Ben Foden and another player separating the two. Meanwhile, play still continued and Kar Pryor came flying in from a distance for a high tackle. This earned him 10 minutes in the bin, strike two. Surprisingly, many of the fans, I included, were surprised Pryor was sent off, as his penalty was not seen until I heard Doyle’s comments after watching a replay the next day. Neither Meyer nor Cakaubalavu was cited. Both were agitated and it showed in their subsequent play.

After a New York scrum, Hanco Germishuys went into contact. Foden and Taulafo added bursts, and Ben Bonasso grubbed the ball ahead with a chase by Joel Miranda, who nearly touched down in-goal. Instead, NOLA Gold had a lineout at their 5-meters. A Gold penalty had Samu Tawake powering over for a short-handed try, with Hollinshead converting to take a 14-7 lead.

New York added a second player to the bin when Cakaubalavu executed a no-wrap tackle on Hanno Dirksen and were quickly playing 13 on 15. This Gold advantage led to a Pat O’Toole try, under the posts to level the match at 14 all.

On the restart, Damian Stevens mishandled and Gold was penalized for being offsides. New York slowed things down and took time off the clock with a Dan Hollinshead penalty goal, which gave New York a 17-14 lead with 10 of the points playing short-handed.

From a New York scrum, Andy Ellis went to the left of the scrum to set up for a pass from the No.8, but Pryor attacked the 9 channel on the other side. A Gold penalty had New York mauling after a lineout, and after a penalty advantage, Nick Civetta reached within a meter of in-goal before the ball escaped forward.

Carl Meyer cleared and Joel Miranda kicked back. Tempers flared again with Juan Cappiello being spurred on by Meyer, and a punch by Kara Pryor was caught by the referee just prior to the break. Cappiello was sent to the bin, and Pryor was issued a straight red, strike three. That is unfortunate since he played stellar the previous week and his attacking play from set-pieces will be likely missed in the playoffs.

These teams have had a history of close matches and this was no exception. The match was a fast-paced one with some handling errors near in-goal with the ball, as well as players’ hands, being slick from the intense heat. Since so much was at stake, with the final playoff spot on the line, tempers flared and other players and the referee needed to intervene.

Second Half

The half began with some kicking ping pong. Rugby United New York was penalized for collapsing a maul, which had Gold kicking for territory. Civetta stole a Gold lineout and New York cleared. NOLA Gold attacked again with a strong run by Dino Waldren. A knock-on gave New York a scrum inside their own 22-meters.

New York cleared, but the kick went to Dirksen instead of to touch. Dirksenbroke ahead and a knock-on by Timothee Guillimin resulted in a New York scrum. Hanco Germishuys picked up and broke to the blindside. Andy Ellis chipped and later his tackle on Holden Yungert, had the ball going into touch to a New York lineout. Bonasso gathered and mauled until the ball went to Will Leonard, who propelled his way forward into contact. From the breakdown, Dan Hollinshead offloaded to Germishuys for another short-handed try, with Hollinshead missing the extras, 22-14.

Following a breakdown penalty for being off their feet, Gold attacked from a lineout with Giovanni Lapp, Meyer, Cappiello, and JoJo Tikoisuva runs. A penalty advantage had Pat O’Toole tapping quickly and Julian Dominguez finished with his 9th try of the season, with the Guillimin conversion good, 22-21.

An O’Toole tackle of Hanco Germishuys resulted in a penalty only, and after another  \NOLA Gold penalty, New York attacked from a lineout about 15-meters from in-goal. A penalty advantage resulted in another lineout 5-meters out, and an Andy Ellis offload to Ben Foden for a try under the posts, gave New York the bonus point needed to advance to the Eastern Conference Final next week against Rugby ATL on July 24 and pushed the lead to 29-21.

A cross kick by Harry Bennett to Hanco Germishuys had Hanco getting back to his feet after the tackle, and motored in-goal for an apparent try. The Assistant Referee signaled to JP Doyle and after consulting Joel Miranda was ruled to have obstructed with a push to the back of a Gold player.

NOLA Gold cut the lead to 29-28 after a try by Moni Tonga’uiha with Gullimin converting.

Rugby United New York answered back after winning a counter ruck with Gold penalized. Hollinshead drove the ball through the uprights to extend the lead to 32-28 with only two minutes remaining in the match.

Could New York control the ball for two minutes, and then kick out for the win? Both Charlie Hewitt and Ben Bonasso took the ball into contact. Harry Bennet boomed a kick which bounced backward off Gullimin, who offloaded to the speedster, JoJo Tikoisuva on the right wide channel.  A Holden Yungert box kick went directly into touch and the ball went back for a New york lineout.

NOLA Gold stole the ball and following an offload by Kevin Sullivan to Will Waguespack, the latter, had a long break which ultimately ended with a try by Tikoisuva in the final minute under the posts for a 35-32 NOLA Gold victory.

NOLA Gold won the battle, but New York claimed the ultimate post-season berth. NOLA Gold ended their season with a 10-5-1 record with 51 points, while second-placed New York had a 10-6 record and 53 points. The bonus points proved critical for New York advancing.

The Guaranteed Rate Man of the Match went to Hanco Germishuys.

Credit NOLA Gold for fighting until the end to claim the win. New York spent 38 minutes of the match playing short-handed, yet managed to score 17 points during that time. Keanu Andrade gained his first MLR cap for New York.

NOLA Gold will regroup and look to tweak their team and build on their core players for next year.

Rugby United New York will need to utilize their team with Kyle Sumsion likely re-joining the roster next Saturday for Kara Pryor against Rugby ATL. New York will not take their opponent lightly even after beating them in all three meetings since 2020, including a sweep this year. ATL has both Ryan Nell and Kurt Coleman back after injuries and makes ATL’s backline even stronger.

New York will need to maintain a strong defense and utilize offloads, and an attack plan that results in tries. The New York wins this year have been by 10 and 7 points. Expect another fierce battle again with the winner advancing to the MLR Shield Final against the Western Conference winner, either LA or Utah, on August 1.

Squads with Player Article Links & Match Preview

Rugby United New York: 1 Sak Taulafo 2 Dylan Fawsitt (C)  3 Samu Tawake 4 Nate Brakeley 5 Nick Civetta 6 Hanco Germishuys Ben Bonasso 8 Kara Pryor 9 Andy Ellis 10 Dan Hollinshead 11 Apenisa Cakaubalavu 12 Quinn Ngawati 13 Will Leonard 14  Joel Miranda 15 Ben Foden 16 Rob Irimescu 17 James Rochford 18 Kirk Hamilton 19 Charlie Hewitt 20 Evan Mintern 21 Conor McManus  22 Harry Bennett 23 Keanu Andrade

NOLA Gold: 1 Matt Harmon 2 Pat O’Toole 3 Dino Waldren 4 Cam Dolan (c) 5 Billy Stewart 6 Malcolm May 7 Andrew Guerra 8 Moni Tonga’uiha 9 Damian Stevens 10 Timothée Guillimin11 Julián Domínguez 12 JP du Plessis 13 Juan Cappiello 14 Hanno Dirksen 15 Carl Meyer 16 Kevin O’Connor 17 Kevin Sullivan 18 Brian Nault 19 William Waguespack 20 Giovanni Lapp 21 Holden Yungert 22 Joeli Tikoisuva 23 Kyle Rogers

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