RUGBY UNITED NEW YORK HOLDS OFF AUSTIN ELITE RUGBY IN SAN ANTONIO
Written by Colton Strickler of the MLR
Despite Austin Elite Rugby’s best efforts, Rugby United New York extended its winning streak to five games with a 19-11 victory on Saturday afternoon.
After getting off to an uncharacteristically slow start, RUNY (7-1) used arguably Major League Rugby’s best forward pack to kickstart the scoring and eventually knock off the last place Elite (0-8). It wasn’t an easy task by any stretch of the imagination, though.
The first points of the match didn’t even show up until the 20-minute hydration break had already come and gone. RUNY got the scoring started on the other side of the break with a try on a crafty set-piece off a lineout. Their short lineout allowed for hooker Mike Brown to break the line, draw a two-on-one and send the ball out to scrum-half Marcus Walsh who took it in for a try to give RUNY a 5-0 lead.
After Austin scrum-half Mickael Romera nailed a penalty goal to cut the RUNY lead to just two points, they seemed to be in big trouble just before the half. RUNY had five-meter scrum after five-meter scrum to close out the second half, but Austin didn’t fold under the pressure of a RUNY scrum that has been so dominant to this point in the season. Austin stood tall, forced a turnover and went into the locker room trailing RUNY 5-3.
The Elite took their first and only lead of the match in the 52nd minute when Romera nailed another penalty goal to go up 6-5. Then the turnovers reared their ugly heads.
Despite only conceding 17 turnovers to RUNY’s 20, Austin turnovers came at the complete worst time for a team looking to steal a win from one of the top teams in the league.
“One thing we kind of touched on after the game was our decision making with ball in hand,” Austin captain Ben Mitchell said after the match. “I think that probably let us down a bit today. Just making the right decisions. Just our decision making with ball in hand.”
RUNY made the most of their opportunities in the second half and produced tries as a result. Their second try of the match came right before the 60-minute hydration break when flanker James Denise capitalized on a pick-and-go near the try line. Chris Mattina nailed the conversion to end Austin’s short-lived lead and put RUNY up 12-6.
Just as they did the week before, Austin made it interesting in the match’s final period when Reece Czarnecki finished off a long run with a try in the 70th minute. J.P. Aguirre was unable to hit the conversion, but Austin cut RUNY’s lead to just one point with just 10 minutes to play.
It wasn’t long after Czarnecki’s try that a turnover and defensive breakdown led to Austin’s final nail in the coffin. RUNY’s Ross Deacon used a pick-and-go to break Austin’s defensive line and offloaded to Mike Petri who took the ball in for a try. Mattina’s conversion put RUNY up 19-11 with only a handful of minutes to play, and ultimately put the match and the bonus point out of Austin’s reach.
Despite the loss, Mitchell was proud of the effort his team exhibited not only in Saturday’s match, but the last match against the NOLA Gold as well.
“I think it just shows that we play 80 minutes,” Mitchell said. “We never give up. We’ve obviously played two very, very good sides in the last couple of weeks and stood toe-to-toe with them for a good 75, 76 minutes and the results just haven’t gone our way. It’s going to come. That result is going to come any week. We can take a lot of confidence from playing well against two of the better sides in the league.”
Austin will get their next chance to get into the win column for the first time this season next week as they travel to San Diego to take on the fifth place Legion.
RUNY picked up four points in the victory to move into second place in the league table with 32 points and within one point of the league-leading Gold. Their chase for the league’s top spot will have to wait a week and RUNY will enjoy a week off before welcoming the Legion to town on Sunday, April 14.
Austin Elite Rugby
Tries: Reece Czarnecki
Conversions: J.P. Aguirre (0/1)
Penalty Goals: Mickael Romera (2/2)
Rugby United New York
Tries: Marcus Walsh, James Denise, Mike Petri
Conversions: Harry Bennett (0/1), Chris Mattina (2/2)
Penalty Goals: N/A
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