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Legion Overpower Raptors 46-15

by Chad Wise
images: Griff Lacey & Mike McGinnis

SAN DIEGO  – A versatile San Diego Legion (8-2-1) squad outscored the Glendale Raptors (5-4-2) six tries to two in a 46-15 victory at Torero Stadium Saturday, April 20.

Nick Boyer, one of five Legion try-scorers, was named Man of the Match from the wing position on a day the home team utilized speed and tenacity to contain the Raptors. Head Coach Rob Hoadley used every reserve available, including try-scoring replacement hooker Pat Blair, and handed a first start of the season to prop Aaron Mitchell.

The Legion will spend the next four match weeks on the road – beginning with Sunday’s trip to Houston – before concluding the 2019 regular season in San Diego against League leader NOLA Gold. Watch the Legion go for the season sweep of the Houston SaberCats (2-8) on The CW San Diego April 28 at 4 p.m. PT.

After two consecutive matches in which captain Joe Pietersen did not attempt a penalty kick, the veteran fly half slotted two in the opening 15 minutes. Wing Connor Kearns pounced on a loose ball to bring the Legion within meters of the try line, where Glendale was penalized for the opening score after five minutes. Will Magie answered in kind to knot the score minutes later, but consecutive infractions warranted a warning from the match official and an instant reward for San Diego, 6-3.

The Raptors were the makers of their own ruin in their 23rd-minute lineout as Zach Fenoglio overthrew his teammates. Scrum half Nate Augspurger positioned himself well to be the first to the ball, popping it up to an in-stride Jasa Veremalua for the 45-meter try, 13-3.

San Diego line speed forced another turnover as Glendale neared midfield minutes later, where a stable scrum allowed Augspurger to unleash his backs. The threat of Ryan Matyas in the middle of the field opened a gap the intelligent Mikey Te’o recognized, latching on to a weighted, flat pass from the outside center to extend the lead to 20-3.

Chad London recovered a Pietersen chip kick at midfield and gained the 22, where Robbie Petzer’s pass found grass. Untouched, Boyer took possession and outpaced London for a 27-3 lead. Petzer broke the gain line well into added time only to be stopped by Te’o, and Glendale was denied access to the try line until the Legion conceded a penalty. Te’o was shown a yellow card for not attempting to wrap in the try-saving tackle, forcing the Legion to play with 14 athletes on the field. The Raptors finally found the try zone five minutes beyond the 40th for a 27-10 halftime score.

The Legion killed off the remaining time on Te’o’s suspension, and the full back made up for his indiscretion with extra effort in contact. A mishandling of possession turned the ball over to the Raptors, who attempted to play out of their own end. Magie looped an ill-advised pass across the posts for Te’o to intercept and pop an assist-worthy offload to Blair for the uncontested try under the posts.

 

Augspurger stretched his legs with his own break after Veremalua galloped with the ball 30 meters from the restart, and Jordan Manihera found fellow back-rower Psalm Wooching with a full head of steam in the next phase to extend the lead to 41-10 midway through the half.

About 10 minutes from time, Glendale stripped Te’o of the ball in contact, though the Raptors recovered the ball they had taken into their own in-goal area. The Legion set the five-meter scrum and whisked the ball through four sets of hands and into Te’o’s for the fifth try in the corner, 48-10. League-leading try-scorer John Ryberg added a consolation try with perseverance through a Matyas tackle to bring the final score to 46-15.

The current five-match unbeaten streak for Hoadley’s Legion, which has included three victories against teams ranked in the top five, began with a draw in Colorado against the Raptors. The next stretch of five games will be the last of the regular season and will determine the four teams headed to the 2019 MLR Playoffs.

The seventh-place SaberCats welcome the Legion to their new home this Sunday, April 28, for a 4 p.m. PT Week 14 kickoff set to be broadcast on The CW San Diego.

Watch the full re-play of the game here.