Austin Defeats San Diego in Wire-to-Wire Win
Austin Defeats San Diego in Wire-to-Wire Win
By: MLR Correspondent, Colton Strickler
Photos: Norma Salinas
Austin Elite Rugby welcomed the San Diego Legion to Texas on Friday night for a match that could either make or break the home team’s season.
With seven points entering Week 6 of the Major League Rugby season, a loss would all but definitely end any chance that Austin (2-3) had at the postseason. But with their backs against the wall, the Elite came out with a dominant 31-5 win over the Legion (2-3).
“It was massive,” Austin player-coach Todd Clever said over the phone after the win. “Our only win was at home so we wanted to continue that streak and make a statement and that’s exactly what we were able to do. San Diego is a very dangerous side and they showed that. They just had some trouble finishing.”
Despite kicking to start the match, it was San Diego that came out swinging early. They gave Austin just about everything they could handle early, but the Elite stood strong and survived the rush.
After three straight San Diego penalties, Austin struck first on a penalty kick from fly-half Timothee Guillimin to give the Elite a 3-0 lead. They never looked back.
“We created several chances early on when we did produce line breaks and consistent quick balls, but failed to convert opportunities into points,” Ledion head coach Rob Hoadley said via email after the match. “Then when they applied pressure we conceded a series of soft penalties that handed the momentum to Austin who were clinical in exploiting lapses in our defense.”
The initial points that Guillimin put on the board opened Austin’s flood gates. Their next set of points came on a craft set piece off the lineout when they dumped it to flanker Hanco Germishuys. With a full head of speed, Germishuys was able to take make up valuable ground before a series of offloads eventually wound up in the hands of prop Siaosi Finau who finished the sequence off with a try. Guillimin added the conversion, but Austin’s onslaught of points was far from over.
Austin kept the points coming with their second try before the 20-minute hydration break. Aster their pattern moved them from one touchline to the other, the ball found Germishuys in space. The flanker showed the ball to a closing Legion defender before tucking, running and scoring his league-leading seventh try of the season for the Elite. Guillimin’s conversion made it 17-0, and the Elite took a commanding lead into the first hydration break.
Unfortunately for Austin, Friday night’s match marked the last time they’ll get to use Germishuys for the season as he reports to the USA Eagles for their June series this week.
“He’ll leave some big shoes to fill but finally we’re getting almost back to 100 percent with players because we’ve had a lot of injuries,” Clever said. “Now we kind of have to have somebody step into that role. Hanco’s laid down the foundation. It’s a team effort and Hanco’s done really well and we expect him to do really well for the USA as well but we’re on to the next week.”
San Diego’s best chance at getting the match back under control came after the 20-minute hydration break. They dodged a bullet when Austin knocked the ball on into the in-goal on a what would have been a potential back-breaking try. The change of fate lead to a spark from their scrum-half Nate Augspurger shortly after.
Augspurger flipped the field by taking a quick tap directly up the middle. Germishuys’s tackle attempt was deemed high and he was sent to the sin bin leaving his side a man down and the Legion with the perfect opportunity to get back in the match. As replacement fly-half Tadhg Leader attempted to kick the ball to touch, he inadvertently sent the ball through the in-goal, giving Austin a 22-metre restart that ultimately put a halt to their scoring chance.
As a result, the Elite took a commanding 17-0 lead into the half.
Austin tried to add to their lead a few minutes into the second half, but Guillimin’s penalty kick attempt came up short and the Legion did their best to capitalize. A quick attack led them all the way down into Austin territory but ended when Leader tried to place a kick over the top. Unfortunately for Leader, that was a sign of things to come.
Austin’s next try came just a few phases later when San Diego was again forming what seemed to be a promising attack. With numbers to his outside, Leader again tried to catch Austin sleeping with a grubber. That kick bounced right into the hands of Austin fullback Zinzan Elan-Puttick who took it down the touchline for a long try. Guillimin nailed his conversion, and San Diego found themselves in a 24-point hole with around 35 minutes to play.
After several chances the Legion finally had a break go their way when Leader put a high kick into the corner. Like a cornerback under Texas’ Friday night lights, replacement wing Cody Melphy beat an Austin defender to the highest point of the ball and passed it to Drew Gaffney for the Legion’s only points of the match. Audsley wasn’t able to hit the tough conversion.
With the win essentially locked up, Austin wasn’t done. They knew they were after a big bonus point and it was clear that they weren’t going to stop until they got it. The try that locked it up came around the 70th minute came from scrum-half Marcus Walsh who threw a dummy off a pick off the base of a ruck and snuck in for a try right between the posts. Guillimin’s conversion brought the match to 31-5, and Austin walked away with a big five points.
According to Clever, the match was a result of the hard work his side has put in over the last few weeks.
“The boys have been working very hard,” Clever said after the match. “The coaching staff, management and all the players. It’s about our time to pull forward and click. Now next week it’s up to us to make sure that it’s not a fluke and that’s what we expect from us every week.”
Austin’s five-point day boosted them up to 12 points and into the top four going into the weekend while San Diego’s loss slides them down into the fifth spot overall. San Diego will enjoy a week off while Austin will welcome the Utah Warriors to town on Friday, June 1 for a game that Clever knows will be extremely important for their momentum as the season winds down.
“We have another home game,” Clever said after the match. “The crowd was entertained by some very nice tries. Hopefully, we can keep that support growing as well with the community and the fan base and as players, we can continue with that momentum of getting the results. Home territory is very important.”
For the Legion, Hoadley knows that their season is far from over.
“The league is incredibly competitive and two wins in a row changes the picture completely,” Hoadley said after the match. “We need to rebound and find the performance that can deliver our first away win in New Orleans. As a squad we need to get back to basics in order to build pressure and take the chances we are creating.”
Austin Elite Rugby
Tries: Siaosi Finau, Hanco Germishuys, Zinzan Elan-Puttick, Marcus Walsh
Penalties: Timothee Guillimin (1/2)
Conversions: Timothee Guillimin (4/4)
San Diego Legion
Tries: Drew Gaffney
Conversions: Dylan Audsley (0/1)
Colton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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