RFCLA Fall Short at Snapdragon Stadium.

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3 weeks ago

Rugby Football Club LA came into Saturday's match against the San Diego Legion looking for their first win of the season.

Both teams started off kicking to gain territory.

In the fourth minute, RFCLA stole a line out, and San Diego inside center Ma’a Nonu committed a penalty by not rolling away after making a tackle.

RFCLA was awarded a penalty kick just outside the 22 meter line, which Fly-Half Ryan Hollinshead kicked through the uprights.

4th minute: RFCLA lead 3-0

In the 10th minute, RFCLA Inside Center Jason Emery received on-field treatment but resumed play immediately.

In the 11th minute, both teams kicked tactically for territory, until San Diego stole a lineout and Outside Center Ethan Grayson broke through the defense, passing to Ryan James on the wing.

After several kicks back and forth, San Diego stole a line out, and Outside Center Grayson broke through the defense. RFCLA Flanker Semi Kunatani made a try-saving tackle as Grayson knocked on and RFCLA was awarded the scrum. RFCLA kicked the ball out of its own red zone.

After a review by the TMO, Gowan was sent to the “sin bin” for ten minutes after receiving a yellow card. San Diego were reduced to 14 players.

Both teams continued with slow and methodical play, with several phases coming out of set pieces. Neither team gained much territory until the 21st minute, when Hollinshead kicked into touch inside the San Diego 22-meter line. RFCLA stole the lineout, Hooker Bruce Kauika Petersen offloaded to flanker Kunatani who broke two tackles before passing to Lock Jurie Van Vuuren who went over for the try.. Hollinshead missed the conversion.

RFCLA lead 8-0

As teams stopped for water break, San Diego had made 46 tackles while RFCLA had made 31.

Cowan returned to the pitch in the 27th minute and immediately made his presence known with big push near RFCLA’s 5- meter line a couple of phases and minutes later. A high tackle gave San Diego the advantage, and they spun it out wide to the backs.

San Diego advanced the ball and was awarded a line out at RFCLA’s 5-meter line in the 31st minute. A maul brought fans at Snapdragon stadium to their feet and with three passes, the ball ended up in the hands of wing Marcel Brache, who crossed the try line just outside the posts for San Diego’s first try. Fly half Lincoln McClutchie converted the try.

RFCLA leads 8-7.

HALFTIME

Hollinshead started off the second half with a penalty from just outside the 22-meter line and in front of the posts. Hollinshead “has found his kicking boot,” the commentator said.

RFCLA lead 11-7

In the 44th minute, Cowan peeled off a set piece and passed to McClutchie, who passed out to Hooker Hugh Roach, gaining momentum and driving into RFCLA territory. After securing a line out at RFCLA’s 5-meter line, RFCLA flanker Matt Heaton bore down on Cowan, forcing an error and recovering the ball.

San Diego kept up the pressure, and the referee handed RFCLA prop Alex Maughan a yellow card after a reckless play after a tackle.

In the 46th minute, Maughan began a 10-minute stint in the sin bin, leaving RFCLA a player down.

Taking advantage of having an extra player on the pitch, San Diego drove across the try line, but RFCLA managed to hold up the player.

The two teams continued to kick tactically in an attempt to gain territory, and even though RFCLA was down a player, they contained San Diego defensively. San Diego’s patience eventually paid off and wing Brache broke through the back line. A short kick by Cowan into the try zone was recovered by RFCLA wing Andrew Coe, preventing a try, but the referee awarded a penalty against scrum half Saunders, and McClutchie kicked it through the posts from 15 meters out.

RFCLA lead 11-10

In the 58th minute, RFCLA made some substitutes and in the 60th minute, McClutchie took a penalty just outside the 40- meter line, which sailed through, giving San Diego their first lead of the match.

San Diego lead, 13-11

After front row substitute Ben Strang made a run off a maul in the 63rd minute, Hollinshead failed to make touch and San Diego’s back row pushed RFCLA further back, managing to maintain pressure. RFCLA pushed back hard in the 67th minute as San Diego advanced, but Zander ended up giving away a penalty for standing in front of the attacking San Diego side, giving McClutchie another opportunity to successfully kick a penalty in front of the posts.

San Diego leads 16-11

RFCLA continued to steal line outs, and in the 67th minute appeared to have a breakthrough in the works before a knock-on by wing Jack Shaw gave San Diego a scrum inside their 22. With San Diego enjoying 100 percent success from their scrums at this point in the match (RFCLA had won only 66 percent), the knock- on proved costly.

San Diego controlled most of the possession in the second half, but the match continued to “be hanging in the balance,” according to the commentators.

Another penalty converted by McClutchie after a series of strategic kicks in the 76th minute put San Diego further ahead.

San Diego lead 19-11

RFCLA followed with good pressure off the kickoff, and after several phases out in the backs with the back three forwards keeping control, Hollinshead found touch near San Diego’s 5- meter line. San Diego stole the ensuing line out and kicked the ball back into RFCLA’s half.

In the 79th minute, RFCLA managed to find the open space they’d been looking for all match. Starting from his own 40-meter line, Outside Center James Stokes weaved through several potential tacklers before turning on the speed and crossing the try line as even San Diego fans cheered him on. Hollinshead converted the try to bring RFCLA within a point.

San Diego lead 19-18

RFCLA’s try proved too little too late, with the clock running out after a knock-on in San Diego territory. RFCLA will be awarded a bonus point for coming within seven points of the winner.

Fulltime: San Diego 19, RFCLA 18

After the match, Shaun Davies, RFCLA’s backs coach, praised the team’s defense, which managed to contain San Diego for most of the match. San Diego came into the match with the most tackles in the league. “The defense really stood up today,” Davies said. “They cornered San Diego into situations they didn’t want to be in.” Looking toward RFCLA’s next match against the Utah Warriors, Davies said the kicking game against San Diego was planned and necessary. “We’re trying to get ourselves into positions where we could break through. We knew if we broke them down we could have our way with them.” The backs especially will work on trust and patience before the next match. “We’re a new team. The boys have a lot of energy. We need to direct that energy into the right places,” he said, highlighting the fact that RFCLA needs to reduce the number of penalties they give up.

Scrum half and captain Saunders said he was “absolutely proud of the boys and their performance” against San Diego, who he considers a “a very good outfit.” He added that he thought a few high tackles from opposing captain, flanker Cowan, should have resulted in the player being sent off. “He was lucky to stay on the pitch,” he said. Saunders said he was looking forward to Utah. “We’re building the right way. If we’d controlled our discipline a bit better, we might have come away with a win. He praised his back line and back row in particular, and wasn’t surprised by some of their breakthroughs. RFCLA have a “very talented back three and back line,” he added.

Lock Reagan O’Gorman was pleased with the pack’s performance, praising his teammates for defending set pieces well. He noted an improvement in the team’s line outs from the past couple of weeks too. RFCLA lost a few but also managed to steal several key line outs from their opponents. “Just getting up in the air, that’s the key thing,” he said.

He was pleased with the attacking game against San Diego. “They’re super good defensively,” he said of his opponents, “and I think we did well. We’re building something really good.”

RFCLA takes on the Utah Warriors at home at Dignity Health Sports Park on March 24, 2024.

Tickets available at www.rugbyfcla.com/tickets

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