The dream of back-to-back Major League Rugby championships came down to the final seconds.
But this championship run wasn’t finished until, literally, the final second.
That’s when 6-foot-5 Brad Tucker burrowed the final few yards for a title-clinching try and a 26-23 victory Sunday afternoon over the hometown San Diego Legion at Torero Stadium on the campus of the University of San Diego.
“This is the kind of thing you dream about, winning a rugby championship,’’ Tucker said. “I can’t explain this feeling.
“I knew I was over the line.
“We wanted to win the title and set the foundation for rugby in this country.’’
San Diego (12-4-1) had beaten Seattle (12-4-1) in both regular-season games.
What looked like Seattle’s final threat came after the Seawolves missed a conversion kick on a try in the 72nd minute to leave San Diego holding a slim 20-19 lead.
But one final attempt — after a free kick by Joe Pietersen of the Legion pushed the lead to 23-19 — resulted in the winning miracle try.
“We knew we had it in that final scrum near midfield,’’ Seattle’s J.P. Smith said. “We just had to keep our cool and play our style of rugby.
“The whole way down the field, we knew what would happen at the end.
“I thought it would come down to the final minute and I laid on the field because I was so tired at the end.’’
Seattle downed Glendale (Colo.) 23-19 in last year’s MLR final.
Instead of falling behind in the first half like last year’s final, Seattle erased a 6-0 deficit to take a 14-6 halftime lead this time.
San Diego, which beat Seattle 17-13 on this same field and 28-22 in Seattle during the season, almost pulled off that elusive third win over Seattle.
“This is really special,’’ said South Africa native Smith. “The only way you can play good rugby is if you enjoy it.
“That’s why you saw nothing but smiles on our faces the whole game.
“We reached the finals for a good reason.’’
The Legion rebounded from missing four scoring threats early in the second half to tally 14 unanswered points for a 20-14 lead.
With a four-game winning streak on the line, the Legion still led after Rieker Hattingh’s try closed the deficit for Seattle to 20-19 in the 72nd minute.
But the two-point conversion try fell short.
San Diego took a 6-0 lead on a pair of kicks by Joe Pietersen, one in the third minute and the other in the 18th minute.
San Diego controlled the ball for about 10 minutes but couldn’t punch it in before Pietersen’s second kick for three points.
Seattle finally answered back when Stephanus Coetzee scored a try after the Seawolves took possession deep in Legion territory.
Brock Staller’s two-point conversion kick put Seattle on top 7-6 in the 22nd minute.
The Seawolves padded their lead in the 31st minute, once again deep in Legion territory.
Coetzee’s short inbounds pass to Smith was converted into a second try as Smith eluded a pair of defenders and worked his way over the line.
Staller’s second conversion pushed the lead to 14-7, which is what the score was at halftime.
In the second half, the Legion threatened a number of times, but Seattle’s defense rebuffed four of those efforts.
San Diego’s attack got to the edge and scored on Jasa Veremalua’s pass to Nick Boyer, who went in untouched in the 51st minute.
Pietersen’s conversion closed the deficit to just 14-13.