Seawolves Conquer Warriors in Seattle
Image Courtesy: Darren Zemanek / Darren Zemanek Photography
After a month away from home, the Seattle Seawolves returned to Starfire Sports to face off against the Utah Warriors. Coming off a narrow victory against the NOLA Gold, the Seawolves looked to assert themselves early in the match in front of a raucous sold-out crowd.
In a game marked by physical play and Seattle’s defensive stands, the Seawolves were able to secure the win with a final score of 41-32 and moved back
to 2nd place in the Major League Rugby standings.
The Seawolves featured two new faces on the field this week: University of Michigan graduate Sequoyah Burke-Combs and Seattle native and Seattle Saracen veteran Daniel Trierweiler.
With the return of Number Eight Riekert Hattingh to the field, Seattle looked to continue their growth as a squad and execute their game strategy. “Stick to our structure and get into our shape and
the opportunities will come, and then just stay calm and execute when it’s there,” said Hattingh on the mindset heading into the match.
Seattle was put to the test early when Utah was able to score first blood in the 2nd minute. A successful driving maul from the Warriors and a missed
conversion took the score early to 5-0. Minutes later, a quick line-out in Seawolves territory catches the home team sleeping and the Warriors are
put in a good position for a penalty kick after a Seawolves error. The kick proved good and Utah extended their lead to 8-0.
Down eight points early, Seattle found their answer thanks to some quickness from the Virginia Mason Alpha
Back of the Match Peter Tiberio. Following
Utah’s penalty conversion, a deep kick from Peter Smith pinned the Warriors in their own territory. The kick back from the Warriors was fielded by Tiberio, who proceeded to punish Utah’s scattered defense
in the counter-attack. Turning on the burners, Tiberio gave a few quick steps to make two defenders miss on his way to the Warrior’s try line with
William Rasileka in support. Rasileka was able
to score the Seawolves first points of the game and Smith’s conversion bounced in off the uprights and the Seawolves closed the gap to 8-7.
Moments later in the 12th minute, a beautiful pass from Smith to George Barton found the Canadian in open space. Delivering a perfect strike to Mat Turner at pace, Turner was able to accelerate past the Warriors’ backline. With a hop-skip to escape defender in hot pursuit, Turner dotted down for 5. Smith
slotted another conversion and in just 2 minutes, the Seawolves overtake the lead with a score of 14-8.
Not to be left behind, the Warriors answered with a trick play after marching up to the Seawolves five-meter line. A back inside pass to Lote Tu’ipulotu and the Warriors again shrunk the Seawolves lead to one point. The kick was no good and the score
remained 14-13 in Seattle’s favor.
Emboldened by Tu’ipulotu’s try, the Warriors continued to play smash-mouth rugby and again found themselves within meters of the Seawolves try line
in the 25th minute. Sending in hordes of Warriors behind the crash ball, Utah attempted phase after phase to try and punch it through the Seawolves
defense. Proving why the team has coined the term ‘SeaWall’ for their defensive mindset, Seattle’s stalwart defensive stand kept Utah out of their
try zone for over 25 phases before they were finally able to get the ball back. Not long after that, the Seawolves received an opportunity for a penalty
kick in Utah’s territory and Smith tacked on another 3 points to make the score 17-13.
The Seawolves kept the crowd buzzing throughout the entire match, and Phil Mack helped show the home fans what exciting rugby looks like. Popping out from underneath two defenders, Mack sprinted down the field with multiple options
in support. A scoop pass between his legs to his backline keeps the play going and Utah is hit with a not releasing penalty after briefly getting the
ball back. Major League Rugby Player of the Week Vili Toluta’u quick tapped and dove across the
line for the score. Smith’s kick sailed through the uprights and the Seawolves extended their lead to 24-13.
The Warriors answered with their own try shortly afterward. Tonata Lauti was able to find gaps in the Seawolves defense and touched down to try and keep the game close just before the half. The kick was good, and the score
24-20. With 30 seconds to go before the half, a penalty against the Warriors allowed the Seawolves to further their momentum before the midway point.
Brock Staller’s penalty kick was successful and
Seattle took the score to 27-20 at the half.
The tone of the match was set, with both teams refusing to back down from the physical play. Brutal hits from the Warriors and incredible defensive stands
from the Seawolves had the crowd buzzing during the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Keeping the hard-hitting style of play going, the Seawolves worked their way into Utah’s territory in the 57th minute and spent several phases smashing
into the Warriors defensive line. Exploiting a gap in the defense off of a ruck, Mack faked a pass and carried the ball over the try line himself.
Staller nailed another shot at the posts and the Seawolves’ lead climbed to 34-20.
The Seawolves continued to stretch their lead after a kick to touch from Will Holder led to a Seattle lineout on Utah’s 22. John Hayden busted through the Warrior’s defense and got within a few meters of the try zone. After inching closer and closer, Mack’s pass to Toluta’u gets the
job done as he collected his second try of the match in the 61st minute. A successful conversion brought the score to 41-20.
13 minutes to go in the game, Utah was able to answer with points of their own. Paul Lasike charged through the Seawolves’ backline and was able to get the ball out to
Wineera Elkington for the try as he was brought down in a tackle. Utah took a quick dropkick to add another three points and to speed up the play. But even though another
Warrior try was awarded in the 78th minute, it was not enough to overtake the lead. The match ended with a final score of 41-32 to the home team.
The Seawolves now look to their final home match of the season when they return to Starfire Sports on May 27 for their rematch against the NOLA Gold. Kick-off will be at 5:00 PM and limited Standing Room Only tickets remain that can be purchased here. Local and regional viewers can watch via ROOT Sports,
and all domestic viewers can tune in with the ESPN+ streaming service. International
viewers can tune in by visiting Major League Rugby’s Facebook page for
a stream on the day of.
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