San Diego Legion 2019
The San Diego Legion faces off with the Seattle Sea Wolves at 1 p.m. Sunday June 16, 2019 in Major League Rugby’s Championship game. Photo credit: San Diego Legion, via Facebook.

Five months ago, the San Diego Legion watched as Rugby United New York earned their first Major League Rugby victory, 25-23, on their home turf at the University of San Diego’s Torero Stadium.

Last week, again at Torero Stadium, RUNY found themselves clinging to a 22-17 lead late in the first semifinal match of the league’s Championship Series, only this time the result was different. The Legion surged to a 24-22 win.

That win sets the stage for Sunday’s 1 p.m. championship, a home game for the Legion against the reigning champion Seattle Sea Wolves. It’s the second championship game for the league, which is completing its second season. Tickets remain available.

The Legion are 12-3-1. while the Sea Wolves are 11-4-1. Brock Staller is the standout on the Sea Wolves’ roster and is the league leader in points.

The Legion announced their lineup for Sunday, which includes the heroes of Sunday’s match, JP du Plessis and Joe Pietersen, along with brothers Faka’osi and Kapeli Pifeleti, Paddy Ryan, Louis Stanfill, Josh Furno, Jasa Veremalua, Psalm Wooching, Jordan Manihera, Nate Augspurger, Nick Boyer, Ryan Matyas, Conor Kearns and Tai Enosa.

“It’s an incredible group of men,” Legion head coach Rob Hoadley later said of his team’s play against RUNY. “They never lost belief and found a way to finally convert an opportunity at the death. We need to massively increase our accuracy (Sunday) to avoid undermining our performance with sloppy errors.”

The semi-final match ended in a thrilling finish with less than two minutes to play. Plessis saved the day after an errant pass and scored. A conversion by Pietersen followed, putting the Legion into the championship.

“The key was just avoiding errors in possession,” Hoadley said. “The players took great confidence into those last moments, knowing that we had scored tries in similar scenarios against Houston and home and Glendale away earlier in the season.”

“This is the final step on our mission,” he concluded. “From the outset, we have worked to become a cornerstone of the San Diego community. It has been incredible to see how our fanbase has grown, and they pushed us over the try line with their vocal support … we are incredibly privileged to have another opportunity to represent them with pride (on) Sunday.”

– Staff reports