Faka'osi Pifeleti (second from the left) tries to break a tackle near the goal line for San Diego Legion.
Faka’osi Pifeleti (middle front) tries to break a tackle near the goal line for San Diego Legion. Photo by Chris Stone

Led by Player of the Match Josh Furno, the San Diego Legion defeated Rugby United New York 24-20 on Sunday, becoming the only unbeaten team in Major League Rugby.

San Diego fended off several late challenges by New York in winning its fifth game and topping the 12-team league and six-team Western Conference with 23 total points.

“It was really fantastic,” head coach Rob Hoadley said after the match at the University of San Diego’s Torero Stadium.

“The defense was strong today. And it was good to end with a defensive stand. It was almost 10 minutes in our own 22. We probably won the game about three or four times over.”

(The 22-meter lines mark the boundary from within a ball can be “kicked for touch” from inside your own half of the field.)

New York took a 13-10 lead into halftime. But San Diego’s Mikey Te’o and Furno scored back-to-back tries in the 67th minute to take the lead.

Eleven minutes later, New York scored a try and conversion goal — but couldn’t score again.

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“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” said Furno, the 6-foot-7 Australian native who grew up in Benevento, Italy. “It’s going to take 80 minutes to the last minute to win it.”

The Legion played without stars Ma’a Nonu, Nate Augspurger and JP Du Plessis due to injury. Nonu, the New Zealand legend, “got a little bit of a knock on the knee,” Hoadley said. “But it’s not too bad. He’ll be back soon.”

The Roosters scored on two first-half penalty goals.

“Yeah, it was crazy,” Hoadley said of San Diego’s penalties. “We have to look at the tape and see what the refs’ interpretation is, but certainly we gotta clean that up because there are far too many.”

(“In a physical game, it can happen,” Furno said. “Things get a bit heated.”)

New York (3-2), which plays out of Brooklyn’s MCU Park in Coney Island, “is always like a big battle for us,” Furno said. “We knew it was going to be like a physical game. … and we managed to come out of it.”

Said coach Hoadley: “Five [for] five is a great start. I think the home support was incredible today and really made a difference getting us over the line in a really tight contest.”

On Sunday, the Legion hosts Austin Elite Rugby (2-3) in a 6 p.m. game at Torero Stadium.