30 May Top-Ranked Legion Look to Secure Home-Field Advantage as they Host NOLA Gold
MATCH PREVIEW: LEGION HOST GOLD IN REGULAR SEASON FINALE
The Legion (11-3-1) secured a spot in Major League Rugby’s Championship series after their 31-21 victory over the Utah Warriors on May 18. They’ll welcome a Gold (9-6) team on a three-game slide that will need a victory on Sunday to punch their ticket to the playoffs. The Gold will have to do it against a Legion team that kick-started their losing streak with a hard-fought 28-16 loss back on May 11.
With a desperate Gold team coming to town, the Legion will certainly have their hands full on Sunday evening. Not only is there a chance to end NOLA’s season on the line, but there is also a chance to build some momentum heading into the semifinals. According to head coach Rob Hoadley, the Legion aren’t focused on anything other than winning the match.
“We just focus on our task at hand,” Hoadley said of San Diego’s mentality heading into the match. “The job is to beat NOLA. We are looking for improvement each week as the intensity of the MLR increases week on week.”
In addition to building momentum, Sunday’s match also presents an opportunity to secure home field advantage by locking up the top seed in the table. With 57 points in the table already, the Legion just need two more points to lock up first place. Whether that comes by way of a win, draw or two bonus point loss, the Legion will head into the postseason with first place in their back pocket.
All three of the matches that the Gold have lost over the course of their slide have been determined by seven points or less. While NOLA’s 453 points are the most scored by any team in the MLR in 2019, their defensive statistics tell the story of their season. The 381 points they’ve conceded are the fifth most in the MLR, which is a big part of the reason that they are in fifth place in the table. After only allowing 286 points in 15 matches, the Legion’s stout defense sits atop the MLR heading into Week 19.
According to Hoadley, the key to beating NOLA starts with the set piece.
“We will start at the scrum and lineout by setting a strong platform,” Hoadley said. “Then we will be focusing on winning the battle at the gain line to produce consistently quick attacking ball. Defensively we need to stay disciplined and bring line speed and tackle completion.”
The Legion will rely on the likes of Paddy Ryan, Lou Stanfill, Jordan Manihera and the rest of their strong forward pack to exploit a NOLA scrum that has struggled in recent weeks. They will also count on fullback Mikey Te’o, whose seven tries and nine try assists rank make him one of the top players in the MLR in 2019, to generate some offense and try to stifle an explosive NOLA backline.
Watch the full re-play of the May 11th game.