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Legion on the Road to Test Seawolves

by: Chad Wise

MATCH PREVIEW: DEFENDING MLR TITLE HOLDERS SEATTLE SEAWOLVES (5-2) HOST4-2-1 LEGION, SUNDAY AT 5PM

SEATTLE – Defending Major League Rugby title holders Seattle Seawolves (5-2) host the 2019 reverse fixture against the San Diego Legion (4-2-1) Sunday, March 31, at Starfire Stadium.

Three points ahead of the Legion in the League table, the Seawolves dropped the Week 2 meeting at Torero Stadium in a wet match more fit for the Pacific Northwest. The Week 10 match’s kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. PT, with the live broadcast available locally on Fox 5 and online on ESPN+.

PUSH TO SHOVE

Since the campaign’s first loss in San Diego and second to No. 1 NOLA Gold a week later, Seattle has been on a tear, averaging more than 30 points scored in four victories. That momentum has propelled the Seawolves to third place ahead of the game that will mark the midway point in the season for both teams.

Paddy Ryan snagged another First XV of the Week nod in Week 8, leading the pack in the scrum and loose and completing 15 tackles to help claim a draw in Glendale, Colo. He was similarly recognized against Seattle earlier in the season as the prop wore the captain’s armband. The scrum forced a penalty try in a game separated by less than a try, 17-13.

Seattle does possess the best scrum success rate in the League and has used the set piece to manage matches well. Anchored by capped international prop Olive Kilifi and South African No. 8 Riekert Hattingh, named Player of the Week last time out, the scrum has been a key factor in creating scoring opportunities.

Ben Cima’s boot offers its own strategic consideration for a Legion back three ever-hungry on the counterattack. Ryan Matyas and Mike T’eo have USA National Team familiarity with the Seattle fly half, who has not been called on for spot kicks this season. Brock Staller has assumed those duties for a League-best 88 points – 83 have come from 20 conversions and 11 penalty kicks. He has only missed seven attempts in seven matches.

READY TO RUMBLE

Legion captain Joe Pietersen is right behind the Seawolves winger in all three categories, most recently adding to his tally with the game-tying conversion from the touch line against the Glendale Raptors. He was perfect on the four tries that secured a bonus point on the road.

Jordan Manihera appeared no worse for wear in the starting XV less than a week after coming off early in his Legion debut. Much like his first MLR match, the versatile forward crashed over the line within three minutes of the kickoff. Siaosi Mahoni put in a shift in the second row in relief of Lou Stanfill, though he left the game during Keni Nasoqeqe’s yellow card suspension early in the second half.

Glendale scored two tries in the 10-minute window the Legion played with 14 players. It was the first card shown to San Diego since Week 1, but not the first occurrence of disciplinary issues costing a result this season. The welcome bye week was a chance to focus on that area of the game as well as rest the legs for a busy two months of travel ahead.

Conor Kearns expertly placed a grubber through for Te’o for a momentum-changing try two weeks ago having received a second consecutive start from Head Coach Rob Hoadley. JP du Plessis dotted down his third try of the season while providing consistent go-forward runs and offloads to hands in contact, partnering Dylan Audsley in the centers.

The run of three bonus points from as many games has helped the Legion maintain a high standing during a blip resulting in six dropped points. The Seawolves remain unbeaten at Starfire Stadium going into their fifth home match of the season. Watch Sunday’s matchup live on ESPN+ at 5 p.m. PT and follow live updates on San Diego Legion social media.

Stay tuned for exciting game-day information by following @SDLegion on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Watch the full re-play of the February 2nd match from San Diego.