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Legion Welcome Austin Elite Rugby

by: Colton Strickler
photos: courtesy AER – Norma Salanis

MATCH PREVIEW: LEGION WELCOME AUSTIN ELITE RUGBY TO TOWN FOR PRIMETIME TILT

SAN DIEGO – The San Diego Legion will look to extend their point streak to three matches when they welcome Austin Elite Rugby to Torero Stadium on Sunday night.

After handing the defending Major League Rugby champion Seattle Seawolves their first home loss of the 2019 season and just their second home loss in the last two seasons, the Legion (5-2-1) will look to build on that momentum back at home against an Elite (0-9) side that is trending upwards.

BRING OUT THE BROOMS

The Legion are looking for the season sweep over the Elite as Sunday night’s match will mark the second time that the two sides will meet in 2019. The first meeting resulted in a dominant 45-17 San Diego victory back on February 22 in which the Legion scored six tries. The 45 points that the Legion produced are the most that they’ve scored in 2019.

“AER have done a great job the last two weeks in taking NOLA and New York to the wire.” said Coach Rob Hoadley, “Romera and Silva are leading the team well in attack and Jaoudat has been a constant threat in broken play. In defense they have added some real line-speed and a defensive breakdown challenge with Abdelmonem leading the charge in that department.”

The match will be no easy task for San Diego as they will welcome in a hungry Austin side that has gone toe-to-toe with the top two clubs in the MLR tables in consecutive weeks. After conceding a last-minute try and falling to the first-place NOLA Gold 35-31back on March 23, Austin wasn’t able to hold onto a late lead and fell again 19-11 to second-place Rugby United New York on March 30.

A win over Austin on Sunday would mark the second time in as many weeks that the Legion would earn a season sweep over an opponent. Last week’s victory over the Seawolves marked the second time that the Legion defeated Seattle in 2019.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE

San Diego enters Round 12 of the 2019 MLR season with the league’s top defense. Through the eight matches the Legion have played thus far, the stout San Diego defense has only allowed a league-best average of 19.37 points per game.

“Our defense, physicality and set piece have been at the heart of our success.” Said Hoadley, We just get on with our job and keep seeking to improve in each area.” 

To go along with their league-leading scoring defense, the Legion also boast the third-best point differential in the MLR as well. Their +44 point differential is topped by only Rugby United New York (+69) and NOLA Gold (+64) who currently sit atop the league table in second and first place, respectively.

San Diego is the only team remaining in the MLR to not allow an opponent to score 30 points in a match this season. The 28 points that the Legion conceded to the Glendale Raptors on a March 16 road match that resulted in a draw are the most that the club has given up in 2019.

CLIMBING THE LEAGUE TABLE

After a 27-20 loss to the Toronto Arrows and the 28-28 draw with the Raptors, last week’s 28-22 performance not only earned the Legion the victory over the Seawolves and MLR Team of the Week honors, but it also put the Legion back in striking distance of the top four spots in the league table. The fifth-place Legion, with 26 total points on the season, trail the fourth-place Seawolves by a single point.

A strong performance by the Legion and some help from the rest of the league can propel San Diego as high as third place by the end of Round 12.

“It’s all about being in the top four at the end of the regular season.” said Hoadley, “With every game being so closely fought we know we just have to focus on winning each week, and the table will take care of itself.” 

If a strong effort is what they need, a strong effort is what they are going to get from a side that will likely feature arguably the league’s best forward in prop Paddy Ryan and an extremely talented backline composed of fly-half Joe Pietersen and inside center JP du Plessis.

Tickets for Sunday night’s match at Torero Stadium are available for purchase here or at the gate. The match also marks the first of three matches included in the Legion’s invitation to San Diego Fleet ticket holders. In an effort to help fill the sports void that the abrupt end of the Alliance of American Football has created in the San Diego community, the Legion would like to give Fleet ticket holders an opportunity to make use out of their tickets by attending one of the three remaining home matches. Any Fleet fans interested in the ticket exchange can proceed by following this link.

Those unable to attend will be able to watch the match on CBSSN at 7:30 PST or by following @SDLegion on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Watch the full re-play of the February 22nd match in Austin.