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Legion End Seawolves Home Unbeaten Streak

by Chad Wise
images courtesy of Seattle Seawolves: Darren Zemanek

SEATTLE – Overcoming a first-half red card, the San Diego Legion (5-2-1) silenced the previously-spoiled Starfire Stadium crowd Sunday with a 28-22 defeat of the Seattle Seawolves (5-3).

The visiting Legion gave up just five points with players serving separate yellow card suspensions, including 15 minutes of 15-on-13 play. Head Coach Rob Hoadley’s crew stretched and held onto an early lead in impressive fashion if not for the ill-discipline. Week 11 sees the Legion back in San Diego for the second matchup of the season against Austin Elite Rugby.

Predictions around the League for Sunday’s clash relied heavily on the two teams’ forward set pieces. Flanker Psalm Wooching beat a defender in the air at the Seawolves’ 22 to bring down a kick, which created pressure the home side could not handle. Captain Joe Pietersen backed his pack with the penalty decision and put the ball into touch for a lineout. The ensuing maul was momentarily held before driving in-goal for the opening score by Dean Muir. Pietersen finished off the scoring play from the touch line for a 7-0 lead after seven minutes.

Seattle’s attacking response was aided by successive penalties conceded by the Legion until the dominant pack turned over possession in a maul. Mike Te’o helped the Legion escape the defensive end with a 50-meter run minutes before Nate Augspurger ran out of the in-goal area and found the speedy Ryan Matyas in space. The wing paced the defenders over half of the field only to be taken into touch meters from the try line.

Lou Stanfill smartly pushed the ball into the posts as his pack mates pounded away at the Seattle defense for a doubled lead, 14-0, midway through the half. Seattle found life in its own half difficult after the water break, running into the Legion defense to turn over possession and allowing Pietersen to slot a penalty kick for a 17-0 score line.

The final 10 minutes of the first half saw Jasa Veremalua – starting in the back row as opposed to the back line – sent to the sin bin not long after Seattle crossed the try line, though San Diego enjoyed more than its fair share of possession. Dean Muir almost found his way over again, and the match official lost sight of the follow-up attempt for a Legion five-meter scrum in the final minute. The ball was worked through phases for Fakaosi Pifeleti, whose awarded try was negated by a red-card sinning to the influential Keni Nasoqeqe on the play.

Down to 13 players, Pietersen attempted a drop goal to close out the half. The kick missed wide, but an offside call on the play set up a kick from the tee in the middle of the field he successfully finished.

The 20-5 lead held for just five minutes of the second half as Augspurger chip-kicked a ball for himself to chase. Cam Polson restricted the scrum-half with a tackle off of the ball for a yellow card, punished immediately by Pietersen with a three-point kick, 23-5.

Center Dylan Audsley took over kicking duties for the Legion with Pietersen out of the game, missing his first opportunity moments before the newly-introduced Tai Enosa appeared to score from a one-two with Veremalua. Play was called back, and Jeremy Lenaerts finished an offload-driven counter the other way to make it 23-15.

The kickoff bounced off of a crowd of players, with Seattle substitute scrum half Phil Mack unable to handle the ball. Augspurger, ever the opportunist, snagged the ball and flipped it up to Veremalua for an easy run into the try zone, extending the lead to 28-15. Matthew Turner made it a six-point game, 28-22, with 10 minutes remaining, but the Legion saw out the first victory for a visiting team at Starfire Stadium this season with assured go-forward runs to maintain possession until the final whistle.

The Legion welcomes last-place Austin Elite Rugby to Torero Stadium Sunday, April 7, in the next opportunity to gain points. The evening kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. PT – get tickets here for the team’s homecoming.

Watch the full re-play of the game here.