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Heaton Back As RFCLA Take On Miami Sharks

05 26 Match SD Rugby FCLA DHI 8979
2 weeks ago

Rugby Football Club Los Angeles have announced the starting line-up for their match against the Miami Sharks in Week 14 of the 2024 Major League Rugby season on June 2, kicking off at 3 p.m. local time (PST), at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.

RFCLA are coming off a tough 27-19 loss to the San Diego legion but with a 3-7-1 record are still in the playoff hunt, trailing the fourth-place Dallas Jackals by 10 points in MLR’s Western Conference with five matches remaining in the season. The Sharks, an expansion team this year, are 4-7. The two teams have never played each other.

Lock Reegan O’Gorman is looking forward to a tough match against the expansion team from Miami, the Sharks, who beat his old team, the New England Free Jacks, last week, 15-13.

O’Gorman was born on July 5, 1996 in Vancouver, Canada, and started running around with a rugby ball at about two years old. He played in school in Canada before heading to New Zealand to play for Marist Albion RFC in Christchurch. He had already played for the Canadian national team by the time he signed on with the MLR’s New England Free Jacks in late 2021. After winning a championship with the Free Jacks last season, O’Gorman came to RFCLA.

The 28-year-old lock is loving RFCLA and his new hometown. The fans, he said, are “super keen.” And after the last two home matches, “it was really awesome,” he said. “We’d see them out at the after-match [party at Waterman’s on Hermosa Beach Pier], carrying on and having a great time. People [are] making it such a good experience… the energy that they bring in…”

RFCLA have had a few very close and tough losses this season, and O’Gorman has nothing but praise for his teammates, who are improving as a team every match. “We’ve got a great team culture, a great group of fellows,” he said. “We back each other up.”

RFCLA has suffered from injuries and penalties — they are tied a the league’s worst offenders with the Sharks with 15 yellow cards, but their roster has proven to be deep and reliable. “There have been a lot of moving parts but we’re starting to get used to that,” O’Gorman said. The team has also learned to adjust to finding themselves in the same situation week after week, especially when it comes to tough refereeing. “[We now think] alright, we've seen this picture before,” he said. “Let's carry on and deal with the cards that were dealt.”

Reegan

O’Gorman said that community spirit — a tenet of rugby worldwide — is just as important in a professional league like MLR. “I’ve played with some guys who have made the transition from [American] football,” he said. “In football, the other team’s always the enemy. After the game, you don’t really spend any time with them, catch up with them afterwards. With rugby, we can catch up and at least have a word with the other guys. That’s a really cool thing about rugby: You’re enemies on the field, but off the field you drop all that.”

RFCLA players have been building relationships within the team too. “Win or lose, I think you need to get together and enjoy each other’s company,” O’Gorman said, noting that he and his teammates will usually share a meal after each match, or at the very least hang out at the hotel.

He said the players’ relationship with fans is developing too, and he said RFCLA’s fans are starting to play a role in what’s happening on the field. “When the tide changes, when [fans] can tell [what] is happening, it helps you recognize that as well,” he said of momentum shifts during matches. “Sometimes you can’t realize that is happening.”

RFCLA fans can expect more “expansive rugby” this week, O’Gorman said. Given RFCLA’s lineout success in recent weeks, he expects the team will be able to run some “special plays” and “more complex moves” in the backfield. “We’re building on what we’ve been doing,” he said. “We’re trying to be excited and keep at that.”

Fans “can look forward to a pretty exciting game of pretty well-matched up teams,” O’Gorman said. “We’ll definitely have a crack at each other because we’re both in a similar position and need wins — and we need to win big.”

RFCLA have made some changes to their starting XV this week: Jason Damm starts at lock (No. 4) instead of Theo Vukasinovic; Matt Heaton returns at flanker (No. 7) in the place of Max Katjijeko; Semi Kunatani starts at No. 8; Jason Emery comes in at inside center (No. 12) as James Stokes moves to full-back (No. 15) and Andrew Coe replaces Brooklyn Hardaker on the wing (No. 14).

RFCLA’s starting lineup for June 2, 2024, against the Miami Sharks:

1. Dane Zander (Prop)

2. Ben Strang (Hooker)

3. Alex Maughan (Prop)

4. Jason Damm (Lock)

5. Reegan O’Gorman (Lock)

6. Michael Amiras (Flanker)

7. Matt Heaton (Flanker)

8. Semi Kunatani (No. 8)

9. Niall Saunders (Scrum-half)

10. Tas Smith (Fly-Half)

11. Jack Shaw (Wing)

12. Jason Emery (Inside Center)

13. Will Leonard (Outside Center)

14. Andrew Coe (Wing)

15. James Stokes (Full-back)

Reserves:

16. Bruce Kauika-Peterson (Hooker)

17. Wilton Rebolo (Prop)

18. Conor Young (Prop)

19. Max Katjijeko (Lock)

20. Bruce Yun (Flanker)

21. Austin White (Back)

22. Seth Purdey (Back)

23. Brooklyn Hardaker (Back)

Sunday’s match will be streamed live on Bally Sports SoCal, Bally Sports and The Rugby Network, at 3pm local time (PST).

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