Legion Defeat RUNY, Jump into Third Place
The San Diego Legion earned a little bit of revenge over Rugby United New York in the form of a 29-19 victory on Sunday afternoon.
The Legion (7-2-1) handed RUNY (7-2) their second loss of the season and split the season series at one game apiece. The first meeting between the two sides resulted in a 25-23 RUNY victory at Torero Stadium.
“Every week has the same implications,” Legion head coach Rob Hoadley said after the match.
“We set out to win today to stay in the hunt for the playoffs. It was the same as the last few weeks for us, in that it highlights some strengths and also a lot of areas we need to improve to get to the standard we know we are capable of.”
After falling out of a playoff spot a few weeks back, the Legion made the leap up to third place from fifth place in the league table with their win over RUNY.
“Credit to San Diego,” RUNY scrum-half and captain Mike Petri said. “We always knew that this particular game was going to be a challenge. They have a lot of talent on their squad and they came out today and showed why they are one of the best teams in the MLR. They really gave us a hard time all over the field.”
While the Legion eventually turned the tables, it was RUNY who applied the pressure early in the form of tries from lock Alexander MacDonald and flanker James Denise in the first five minutes of the match. Inside center Chris Mattina added the conversion to give RUNY an early 12-0 lead, but the Legion stopped the bleeding when prop Paddy Ryan stole the ball and found wing Savenaca Totovosau down the touchline for San Diego’s first try of the match in the eighth minute to cut RUNY’s lead to seven points.
After the offensive explosion that was the match’s first 10 minutes, both sides calmed down and played some tough defense. After 25 minutes of scoreless action, Ryan rumbled in for the Legion’s second try of the match. Fly-half and captain Joe Pietersen nailed the conversion to tie the match at 12 in the 34th minute, but the first half scoring wasn’t done.
RUNY battled their way down the pitch in the final minutes of the first half. After a handful of phases that placed the ball deep in San Diego territory, Petri spotted a hole in the Legion defense and shot through for a try. Mattina nailed the conversion to give RUNY a 19-12 at the half.
San Diego went to work in the second half.
After some back and forth for the first 10 minutes of the second half, the Legion formed a driving maul down in RUNY territory that resulted in a penalty try that tied the match at 19 in the 52nd minute.
Their next try of the half came five minutes later when fullback Mike Te’o broke through RUNY’s defense who passed the ball to wing Conor Kearns. Kearns put the ball on his foot and jumped on his own kick in the in-goal to give the Legion their first lead of the game heading into the 60-minute hydration break.
The Legion held a relentless RUNY team for 16 more minutes until Pietersen put the match on ice with a try that was made possible by the space he created from throwing a dummy in the 76th minute.
Not only did Pietersen’s try put the match out of reach, but it also put the bonus point that RUNY was set to receive for losing the match by 7 points or less out of reach as well. As a result, the Legion and RUNY flipped places in the table. RUNY finds themselves one spot out of a playoff position with 32 points on the season. They trail the fourth-place Glendale Raptors by one point in the league table.
“I think one of the things for us, even being at home, we’ve got to take nothing for granted,” Petri said after the match. “We talk about the fact that we’ve been on the road for the first half of the season, everybody on the squad is really looking forward to this homestand. We’ve got to up the ante even at home now. Everybody’s playing to get into those semifinal spots at the end of the season and we have to step up and be up for the challenge in the coming weeks.”
RUNY will try to jump back into a playoff spot when they host the Utah Warriors on Saturday, April 20.
“We’ve just got to go back to the tape this week, look forward to Utah coming up, and just know that there is a long season still ahead of us and a lot of rugby left to be played,” Petri said.
The Legion, on the other hand, will have another tough test next week when they welcome the fourth-place Glendale Raptors to San Diego. The Legion and the Raptors battled to a 28-28 draw in their first meeting of the season.
“Glendale will be well rested after a bye week,” Hoadley said. “As always, we look forward to a good week of training to put us in the best position to be successful against Glendale.”
San Diego Legion
Tries: Savenaca Totovosau, Paddy Ryan, Penalty Try, Conor Kearns, Joe Pietersen
Conversions: Joe Pietersen (1/4)
Penalty Goals: N/A
Rugby United New York
Tries: Alexander MacDonald, James Denise, Mike Petri
Conversions: Chris Mattina (2/3)
Penalty Goals: N/A
Colton can be reached at [email protected]
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