HARRISON, N.J. — The disappointment was apparent, but for Seawolves coach Allen Clarke those feelings gave way to ones of pride of an unexpected postseason run.
One year after winning only four games and a few weeks after seemingly being eliminated from postseason contention, the Seawolves’ improbable run concluded Saturday one win short of a third Major League Rugby championship when they fell 30-15 to Rugby New York in the final at Red Bull Arena.
“Now is the time to celebrate how awesome the boys have been to get to the final,” said Clarke, who took over late last year. “Compared to where we were last season, it is fantastic for everybody associated with the Seawolves. We recognize it’s a journey and we’re probably further ahead than we expected to be.”
Rugby New York (14-5) took the lead for good in the 24th minute when it formed a maul in the Seattle (11-8) end and powered its way through for a seven-point penalty try to make it 14-8. Playing a man-up for the 10 minutes that followed, New York built upon the lead with Andy Ellis’ try in the 34th minute.
Seattle had an attacking line out from inside 10 meters in the final minute of the first half, but New York got a try line stop to maintain a 19-8 lead at halftime.
In the second half, Jason Emery’s penalty kick in the 50th minute and Nic Mayhew’s try seven minutes later pushed the lead to 30-8.
Sam Matenga powered through his way for a try in the 61st minute with AJ Alatimu’s conversion cutting the Seattle deficit to 12. Playing a man-up, Brad Tucker appeared to further trim the disadvantage with a try, but it was overturned by video review in the 68th minute.
New York’s Sam Windsor put the match out of reach with a drop goal to make it a three-score game with seven minutes left.
“The ambition was to be in the knockouts and once we got to the knockouts we believed we could challenge anybody,” said Clarke. “That wasn’t our best game today and obviously there’s disappointment in that. But there’s also a huge pride with everyone associated with the Seawolves and the journey we’ve been on.”
Martin Iosefo gave Seattle an early 5-0 advantage when he took a feed from Alatimu just 3:28 into the match and lunged forward for the try.
New York took its first lead less than four minutes later after Will Tucker’s try and a successful conversion made it 7-5. Alatimu converted a penalty kick in the 13th minute to regain the lead at 8-7.
Seattle, which earned its spot in the Western Conference playoffs with a victory in the regular-season finale over Los Angeles, defeated San Diego and Houston to reach the final.