The Seattle Seawolves finally defeated the Glendale (Colo.) Raptors and claimed Major League Rugby’s first championship — coming from behind in a 23-19 victory Saturday at Torero Stadium.
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The home pitch of the San Diego Legion at the University of San Diego saw a tight battle.
Seattle, which lost twice to Glendale in the regular season, took an 8-7 lead into halftime thanks to a try by Ray Barkwill and a penalty goal by Peter Smith.
But Glendale’s Zach Fenoglio scored his second try of the game in the 49th minute, and teammate Bryce Campbell added a try in the 56th minute with a conversion goal by William Magie.
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Two minutes later, William Rasileka responded for the Seawolves, narrowing the Raptors lead to 19-13. And another Seattle try — by Riekert Hattingh — at the 60th tightened it it 19-18.
Smith’s conversion goal put the Phil Mack-coached Seawolves ahead 20-19, and his penalty goal padded the lead in the 67th minute.
San Diego players watched as Seattle celebrated the championship — a week after losing 38-24 to the Seawolves in the playoffs, finishing their first year in the seven-team league in third place.
Seawolves co-founder and co-owner Shane Skinner, 45, credited “Love, brotherhood” for the victory. “The guys — they worked so hard. (Despite adversity), they didn’t stop. They believed in each other. I mean, they’re just special. The boys are special.”
Glendale, coached by Dave Williams, lost only its second game of the year — after falling 23-5 to San Diego on June 23.
The league’s first title game aired on the CBS Sports Network and live-streamed on several platforms.
Seattle hooker Vili Toluta’u, the Hawaii native named match MVP, said his team just concentrated on its biggest strengths.
Ahead by only a point at halftime, “we just had to come on stronger than we [were] in the first half,” said the 24-year-old product of Central Washington University. “We came out thinking the score was zero-zero, so we had to put up a fight again.”
League Commissioner Dean Howes called the first season terrific.
“These young men played their hearts out,” said the former Major League Soccer and National Hockey League executive. “Great rugby. And it also shows that we have a ways to go — to get as big as we want to be. And as relevant as we want to be.
Howes, who turns 66 next week, noted the “heavy lift to start a brand new league. And most of the doubters didn’t believe that we would get to tonight. The fact that the owners are still here. The fact that we got new owners coming in next year, and expansion, and the fact that we had a such a wonderful night tonight is proof” of success.
Expanding to New York City and Los Angeles in 2019 and several more cities by 2020, including Washington, D.C., Major League Rugby hopes to grow interest in the sport, especially with 6,000-seat Torero Stadium only three-quarters filled.
At USD, Seattle Seawolves Roar to Inaugural Title in Major League Rugby was last modified: July 8th, 2018 by Ken Stone
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