Kicking Woes Plague Gold in Loss to Seawolves

14-May-2018

Kicking Woes Plague Gold in Loss to Seawolves

By: Colton Strickler

Photo: Craig Boudreaux
 

NOLA Gold’s first home game of the inaugural Major League Rugby season didn’t go quite as planned. Despite a red-hot start, the Seattle Seawolves were able to weather the storm, thanks to a few missed kicks, and eventually, go on to defeat the Gold 31-29.

From the beginning, it seemed as if NOLA (1-2) was going to jump all over Seattle (2-1). The Gold successfully pushed the pace early but left several points on the table in the process as their usual kicker J.P. Eloff was unable to play on Saturday due to an illness.

Inside centre Taylor Howden assumed the kicking duties but missed an early penalty kick that would’ve got the scoring started. Nevertheless, the Gold struck first when scrum-half Holden Yungert found fly-half Ratu Rinakama who stepped off his right foot and dashed in for the first try of the match. Howden’s couldn’t convert, but the Gold settled into a 5-0 lead.

Seattle’s first points of the game came on a Peter Smith penalty kick that cut the Gold’s lead to just two. The Seawolves made sure to capitalize on their opportunities in the Gold’s territory in the first half because those opportunities were rare. Seattle spent a majority of the first half trying to slow down an eager Gold attack.

Nola struck back with back-to-back tries. The first came on a set-piece play off a scrum that eventually placed the ball in wing Joeli Tikoisuva’s hands down the touchline. Tikoisuva froze his defender with a goose step and dotted the ball down for a try. Howden couldn’t convert and was relieved of his kicking duties for the rest of the match.

The next try came on the back of a big NOLA maul. The Gold drove the Seawolves deep into their own territory before prop Hubert Buydens finished off the sequence with a try. Fullback Michael Baska missed his first conversion attempt, and despite the dominance, the Gold showed early on, they were only up 15-3.

Seattle answered back with a try of their own later in the half. Seawolves scrum-half Phil Mack distributed the ball on a switch pattern to inside centre Shalom Suniula who found fullback Will Holder for the try. Smith knocked the conversion through and all of a sudden, the Seawolves were only down five heading into the half.

The Seawolves weren’t down for much longer. Seattle took the lead for the first time of the day early in the second half. Outside centre took a switch from Suniula in for the Seawolves second try of the match. Smith converted and Seattle took a 17-15 lead that they never relinquished.

The switches were working so Seattle just kept running them. They scored their third try with a switch from wing Mat Turner to Peter Tiberio and after the conversion, the Seawolves led 24-15, their largest of the day.

The Gold finally put an end to Seattle’s run when Howden took a ball from Yungert, threw a dummy, and cut up in between the Seawolves defense for a try right beneath the pipes. Baska hit the conversion and the Gold trailed by just two.

Just when NOLA began to make some progress, the Seawolves found a way to pad their lead. Turner took an under line in for the try, and after a Smith conversion, the Seawolves once again led by nine points. NOLA had one more push in them though.

The maul, which worked earlier in the match, worked again late for the Gold. Another big drive gave flanker Matt Hughston the opportunity to make a lunge for the in-goal for the Gold’s fifth try of the afternoon. Baska nailed the tough conversion and despite being down two with around seven minutes to play, the Gold weren’t able to complete the comeback.

Both NOLA and Seattle picked up the four-try bonus point. The Gold will host Houston Saturday, May 19 while Seattle will host Utah on Sunday, May 20.

 

Scoring

Seattle Seawolves

Tries: Will Holder, William Rasileka, Peter Tiberio, Mat Turner

Penalties: Peter Smith (1/1)

Conversions: Peter Smith (4/4)

 

Scoring

NOLA Gold

Tries: Ratu Rinakama, Joeli Tikoisuva, Hubert Buydens, Taylor Howden, Matt Hughston

Penalties: Taylor Howden (0/1)

Conversions: Taylor Howden (0/2), Michael Baska (2/3)

 

 

Colton can be reached at colton@usmlr.com.

Article: Colton Strickler. Photo: Craig Boudreaux.