10 May Legion Travel to the Big Easy to Take on Top-Ranked Gold
MATCH PREVIEW: LEGION FACE NOLA IN SHOWDOWN FOR THE TOP SPOT
NEW ORLEANS – After a tough loss to the Toronto Arrows on the road, the San Diego Legion will look to bounce back with another tough test on the road when they take on the first place NOLA Gold on Saturday afternoon.
Saturday’s match will mark the first time that the second place Legion (9-3-1) and the Gold (9-3) will meet in 2019.
While NOLA enters the match riding the momentum of a 26-14 victory over Austin Elite Rugby, San Diego will be hungry after falling 23-19 to the red-hot Arrows on a last-minute try. A chance to jump back over the Gold and retake first place after losing it a week earlier will likely lead to a motivated Legion team on Sunday afternoon.
Both the Legion and the Gold have used different recipes to place themselves at the top of the table ahead of Week 16. For the Gold, they’ve received big contributions from players like hooker and captain Eric Howard, J.P. Eloff and outside center Tristan Blewitt. Blewitt, Eloff and Howard have helped transform the Gold into the offensive powerhouse that they have been in 2019. The 392 points that the Gold have scored this season ranks first in the league, besting the Glendale Raptors by one point, while their 54 tries rank second, one behind the Raptors.
Eloff leads Major League Rugby in conversions with 39 and ranks fourth in the league in total points scored with 119. Blewitt’s nine tries rank second in the league while Howard is right on his heels with eight tries. Both Howard and Blewitt rank atop the league leaderboard in try assists with eight and six, respectively.
The Legion, on the other hand, has gotten the job done this season with a balance of offense and defense. That balance is represented league-best +132 point differential that the Legion posses through 13 matches. The 378 points that San Diego has scored this season ranks fourth-most in the league while the 246 points that they’ve allowed rank second behind Rugby United New York’s 231.
Saturday’s match will see Fakaosifolau Pifeleti and Kapeliele Pifeleti at loosehead prop and hooker while vice-captain Paddy Ryan slides over to tighthead prop. San Diego will also have captain Joe Pietersen at fly-half with Conor Kearns and J.P. du Plessis at inside and outside centers. Mikey Te’o will head the Legion’s counterattack at fullback.
Both Pietersen and Te’o rank among the league leaders in try assists with seven and six, respectively.
The upcoming match isn’t only a battle for first place, it’s also an opportunity for the Legion to inch closer to locking up a playoff spot. No one has clinched a playoff spot through 16 weeks of play. A bonus point victory would propel the Legion in front of NOLA and back into first place as long as they prevent the Gold from picking up any bonus points in the process.
Saturday’s match will kickoff at noon PST and will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network. International viewers can watch the match on our Facebook page.
There will be an Official Watch Party at Kaminski’s in Poway. The party gets started at 11:00 AM with food and drink specials as well as Legion raffles and swag giveaways. Kickoff is at noon so come early and join the fun!
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