02 Feb Legion Sink Seawolves in Rare Monsoon Conditions
by Ronan Nelson
San Diego – Amid a torrential downpour, a muddy and slick pitch, and a slippery ball, the San Diego Legion delivered a fantastic victory over reigning Major League Rugby champions, the Seattle Seawolves. Through the leadership of former Australia international Paddy Ryan in the forwards and the elusive running of Mike Te’o and Jasa Veremalua in the back’s, San Diego was able to hold onto victory despite Seattle’s late comeback attempt.
The pitch, already slick with mud at the start of the match, forced plenty of handling errors in the opening 25 minutes as the two sides settled into playing in the monsoon. San Diego Legion, who retained most of the possession through the opening 15 minutes, had several attacking opportunities inside Seattle’s half, but were thwarted by a combination of knock-ons and turnovers. Once it was Seattle’s turn to retain possession, they too fell victim to passing and handling errors, slowing the match into scrums and slow phase play.
On top of everything, San Diego suffered a major blow in the 18th minute when the team’s top scorer, Joe Pietersen, sustained a blow to his head and was taken off for a head injury assessment. Replaced by Tai Enosa, Pietersen would not return to the match. Despite Pietersen’s departure, San Diego was able to drive deep into Seattle’s half in the ensuing phases of play and put themselves within 10 m of the tryline. Luckily, the Legion were given a helpful break as Seattle’s captain, Phil Mack, was shown yellow in the 25th minute after interfering in a ruck with San Diego on the attack. With Mack in the sin bin, the Legion called for a scrum and drove straight through the heart of the Seattle forward pack. As Seattle collapsed the scrum, San Diego were awarded a penalty try and had the first points of the match.
Once again, the matched devolved into rainy chaos bogged in the mud for another eight minutes before Legion winger Mike Te’o found himself on the ball in open space and raced past hapless Seattle defenders for a scorching try. Thanks to the rain, Te’o’s slide into the tryzone saw him slide out the back of the try zone and almost into the rear stadium retaining wall, nearly 15 m from where he started his slide. Scrum-Half Nick Boyer’s conversion sailed through without complaint and San Diego went into the break 14-3 ahead.
The second half started with a settled Seawolves team on the attack. Boyer was able to slot a penalty in the 50th minute to push the score to 17-3, but continued pressure from Seattle forced the San Diego defense out of shape. As the Legion backed closer and closer to their own tryline, the Seawolves flying Fijian, William Rasileka, found a half gap and pumped through several San Diego tackles for Seattle’s first try the match. Staller converted to bring the score to 17-10 and inject some nervousness into the San Diego faithful.
Even after another penalty by Staller sailed through in the 70th minute, the San Diego defense held resolute to their four point lead. Massive tackles from Drew Gaffney, Devon Short, and the replacement hooker Kapeli Pifeleti forced the Seawolves farther and farther back away from the San Diego 22. Clock management eventually became San Diego’s best ally and the Legion were able thwart the Seawolves’ comeback as time expired.
San Diego legion’s first victory of the season was a statement of intent delivered to the league’s reigning champion! The Red and Black will be back in action next Saturday against the Houston SaberCats and what is said to be another enthralling fixture.
Watch the full re-play of the game here.