In its season opener and franchise debut, Seattle beats San Diego 39-23 in front of a sold-out crowd at Starfire Stadium.
Control the scrums, control the game. Keep possession of the ball, the scores will come.
That was the formula the Seawolves used to bring pro rugby to Seattle in a winning fashion, putting away the San Diego Legion 39-23 at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila Sunday afternoon before a sold-out crowd.
The Legion forwards were steadily outpushed by the Seattle pack and resorted to intentionally collapsing or “wheeling” set scrums and forward movements by the Seattle forwards. The referee awarded the Seattle team three penalty tries, ruling that Seattle would have scored except for the illegal tactics by San Diego.
A try counts as five points and earns the scoring team a chance to kick through the uprights for two more. A penalty try is awarded under the posts, and the extra two points are added without the bother of a kick.
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“The win today went to the boys upfront,” said Phil Mack, player-coach for the Seawolves, Seattle’s entry in Major League Rugby, which opened its inaugural season Saturday and Sunday with three games.
Matt Turner, the Seattle fullback, spoke up for the backs after the game, praising the forwards as “nearly perfect up front and that set us up to show our stuff.”
Which they did. Brock Staller burst through the San Diego defense midway through the first half to score a try and then kicked his own conversion for the extra two. He also added three penalty kicks for another nine points, leading the Seawolves’ scoring.
By game’s end, Seattle’s forwards were running out with the backs as wing forward Eric Duechle dished off a tight pass to Cam Polson, the other wing forward, who reached over the line for a one-handed touch down with only five minutes left.
San Diego’s forwards did get on track in the second half, pushing over for two tries. Ben Cima added three penalty kicks for nine points.
“We obviously struggled with the set pieces today,” Rob Hoadley, San Diego’s coach, said. “We had some injuries that kept some more experienced guys out of the game, but we’ve got to tighten up with the guys we have on the field.”
The Seawolves face the Glendale, Colo., Raptors Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Starfire. The Raptors beat Austin Elite Saturday, 41-26.
“We know they’re a tough team with guys that have played together before,” said Mack, who took over coaching duties after Tony Healy had to step down after he was unable to get a visa.
“That was a bit derailing,” Mack said, “but this group is good at pulling together and overcoming chaos.”
Duechle said the team had a “few ups and downs, but the adversity brought us together.”
And of the stands full of Seawolves’ fans, the sun shining and a 39-23 victory, Duechle said, “It felt like we were Seahawk players.”
Welcome to Seattle, Seawolves.