03 Jun Legion Secure Home-Field Advantage in Playoffs With 22-10 Win over Nola Gold
Torero Stadium will host the first match of the Playoffs Sunday, June 9, when fourth-seeded Rugby United New York makes the cross-country trip. The teams split the season series, winning on the road. Tickets can be purchased here, while the live broadcast will be available on CBSSN.
The Legion had earned an MLR Playoffs place during its Week 18 bye, the only spoken-for spot at the beginning of the weekend. NOLA, on a three-match losing streak dating back to its home loss to San Diego May 11, found itself outside of the playoff picture.
Fighting to extend its season, NOLA hit the turf running from the opening whistle. Nate Augspurger and Mikey Te’o covered an early break before the pressure led to a penalty against the home side. Gold full back JP Eloff kicked his team to a sixth-minute, 3-0, lead.
The consistent pack of the Legion was given a stern test by NOLA in the set pieces, creating tension relieved by the match official. Psalm Wooching then relieved NOLA of possession with a tackle forcing a knock ahead of the hydration break.
Italian signing Josh Furno won the ball at the breakdown minutes later, with Jasa Veremalua exhibiting confident ball-handling ability to kick off an attacking break the other way. Furno followed the play to push it forward to the five-meter line, but the whistle blew for a Gold penalty. A quick tap kept things going, only for a dropped ball inches from its intended destination.
Miscommunication between the NOLA backs from the lineout saw a wayward pass trickle towards the try line in the 32nd minute. Augspurger and Joe Pietersen ensured Taylor Howden would not gain more ground before the captain charged down the in-goal kick. Nick Feakes volleyed the ball into touch for a five-meter Legion lineout. The maul held steady and Augspurger patiently found Paddy Ryan with the ball for the first try of the game. Pietersen’s conversion gave San Diego a 7-3 lead.
NOLA stretched itself in possession in attempting a response to the deficit, and Furno read the weary attack perfectly in the 38th minute to intercept a pass near the Legion 10. Veremalua ran beside him as the flanker was tracked down by a defender to accept the offload and score the try. Pietersen again split the uprights to extend the advantage to 14-3 at halftime.
The quick strikes from turnovers were foreshadowing what was to face NOLA in the second half, beginning with Lou Stanfill smartly reading the tackle area in the 44th minute. A ruck did not form over the tackled player, and Stanfill grabbed the loose ball to start the attack. The Legion held the ball through gain-line-busting phases into NOLA territory before Te’o dove for the try line and a 19-3 lead.
Nikola Bursic crossed the try line after Augspurger had slowed down NOLA’s break in the 51st minute for a 19-10 score line, and the tenacious scrum half received an unseen tackle that crossed above his shoulders. Te’o was replaced due to an injury as Hoadley called upon fresh legs. Furno found another loose ball in the 61st minute, and NOLA could only watch as Pietersen nailed a penalty kick at the hydration break, 22-10.
Backed by a screaming horde of supporters, the Legion defended the try line in the final 20 minutes. The ball was held up from a 68th-minute maul and JP du Plessis forced a knock with a trailing try-saving tackle on Tristan Blewett moments later. The San Diego inside center created one last turnover four minutes from time, combining with tackler Furno to win a defensive penalty. The Legion managed the ball in possession to run out the game clock and preserve the 22-10 victory.
Rugby United New York advanced to the Playoffs due to earning a bonus point in its Week 19 loss to the Toronto Arrows, who will face the Seattle Seawolves, the 2018 Champion, on the other side of the four-team bracket.
Watch the full re-play of the game here.