Seawolves Swamp New Orleans in Seattle

28-May-2018

 

Image Courtesy: Rod Mar / Rod Mar Photography
 

On a beautiful, sunny day at Starfire Sports, the Seattle Seawolves took on the NOLA Gold in their second meeting of the season. The Seawolves squad featured the return of Shalom Suniula, Jeremy Lenaerts, and Ray Barkwill to the roster as the home team went on the hunt for their fourth win of the season. With several Seawolves scoring their first tries of the season, Seattle was able to rush past NOLA Gold in dominant fashion with a final score of 55-26.

Seattle started the match off strong and got the crowd into the game with their first touch. Off the Seawolves kick-off, Vili Toluta’u went up for the ball and was able to recover it for the Seawolves. The stadium erupted and the crowd continued to establish the standard of what it means to have the best fans in Major League Rugby. With the fans setting the tone for the energy of the match, Seattle rabidly attacked the NOLA Gold defense and pushed them back with each phase. After pushing the Gold into their 22 meters, quick hands out to the backline let Holder set up Brock Staller for the first 5 points of the game less than a minute into the match. Staller converted his own try and the Seawolves went up 7-0 early.

It didn't take long for Seattle to come knocking on New Orlean's door again. Following a powerful Seawolves scrum, Eric Duechle found himself in open space and was able to make several Gold defenders miss. After Duechle's run ate up a good chunk of the field, the Seawolves moved the ball quickly to capitalize on an overload on the right and Staller walked into the try zone just three minutes later. His conversion was good and Seattle increased their lead to 14-0, 7 minutes into the game.

The Seawolves continued to put the hurt on early with the help of Air Force Veteran Eric 'the Beast' Duechle. Known for punishing the opposing teams with his physicality, the Kentucky native earned a long-awaited try for Seattle in the 10th minute. Finding a gap in the Gold defense after a perfectly time passed from Suniula, the Beast fended one defender and weaved around two more before dotting it down for a well-deserved first try on the season. The kick was successful and the Seawolves extended their lead to 21-0.

Down 21 points 16 minutes into the game, the Gold had to come up with a response to the Seawolves three unanswered tries. After a kick to touch and a NOLA lineout in Seawolves territory, Seattle set up their defense to try and keep the Gold scoreless. Smashing into the Seawolves line, the Gold was eventually able to push their way over the line with mauling drive for their first points of the game. A successful conversion brought the score to 21-7 with 17 minutes gone.

The Seawolves continued to inch away from the Gold in the 20th minute. After William Rasileka ran several defenders over and Lenaerts and Toluta’u secured possession, Will Holder attempted a kick pass over the NOLA defense into the try zone. The kick was unsuccessful but was brought back due to the penalty advantage, and Staller was able to slot it in for three points, taking the score to 24-7 at the 20-minute mark.

Less than two minutes later, it was Mat Turner 's time to shine. After Seattle won their lineout, Turner got his hands on the ball and took off through a gap in the Gold’s defense. Outrunning three members of the Gold, Turner sprinted down the field to make his way through the try line for the Seawolves. Staller was perfect again, and Seattle increased their lead to 31-7.

The Gold's efforts were answered as they approached the final minutes of the half. Winning the lineout at the Seawolves five-meter line, NOLA set up the maul to try and push their way across the paint. Although the Seawolves were able to hold up the ball, a yellow card against Staller awarded the penalty try to the Gold in the 37th minute. Two minutes later, another try from NOLA by their backs and a successful conversion took the score to 31-21 to close out the half.

Riding off the momentum the Gold ended the first half on, they came out strong and caught the Seattle back line off guard. A wide pass from NOLA’s scrumhalf exposed the narrow defense and quick passes allowed the Gold wing to trot in for five. The kick attempt was unsuccessful but the score came to a closer margin, with Seattle still leading 31-26 in the 44th minute.

Feeling the pressure, the Seawolves had to make a statement to distance themselves from the Gold; and Staller’s return from the sin bin allowed them to do just that. Operating back at full power, a crushing tackle from Phil Mack fired the crowd up and the Seawolves are able to win the ball back. Following a lineout in the 54th minute, the Seawolves set up a maul and began to drive into the Gold’s five-meter with Barkwill and Toluta’u holding up the rear of the pack. NOLA tried to stop the Seattle pack but was swamped in their efforts as Schirmer was able to peel off the back for a clear try. The crowd erupted in appreciation for the display of the Seawolves Rugby they know and love. The conversion was good as the Seawolves gained some separation, with a score 41-26 55 minutes into the game.

The home crowd was again treated to an exciting display of rugby with 13 minutes to play in the match. Pinned inside their own five-meter line, the Seawall set up to keep NOLA from breaching the try line. A strong counter-ruck from Mozac Samson allowed Turner the boot to touch and set up the lineout at mid-field for NOLA. The Gold's throw went over and found John Hayden instead, making one defender miss before being tackled. Quick hands out to backs allowed Turner to keep the counterattack alive before getting high tackled. With penalty advantage in hand, Nakai Penny continued the play and popped it mid-tackle to a fast-approaching Daniel Trierweiler in support. The ‘Honey Badger’ dove across the line and the sold-out home-crowd went wild for the Seattle native as he collected his first Seawolves try. Staller's kick tacked on another two and the score was 48-26.

Keeping their foot on the gas, the Seawolves found opportunities to score, Seattle got the ball back off a forced Gold error and Samson made a break for the try-line. Fending off NOLA’s wing just long enough, a fast approaching Turner in support collected the offload to finish what Samson had started. Turner dotted down for his second try of the game, and his third on the season. Staller slotted another conversion, rounding off his total points on the day to an impressive 25 points - the most points scored by a player in a single game for Major League Rugby thus far. The Seawolves shared Staller's achievement as they finished the match with a final score 55-26 - the most points scored in a single game by any MLR team to date.

The Seawolves look to defend their #1 spot in the MLR standings when they travel South to face the Houston SaberCats on June 2nd in the CBS Sports Game of the Week . Kick-off will be at 6:00 PM PD. North American viewers can tune in via CBS Sports and International fans can stream the match from Major League Rugby’s Facebook page.