Rugby United New York celebrated their Major League Rugby debut on Saturday with a 25-23 win over the San Diego Legion at Torero Stadium. A strong first half put them up 15-7 at the break, but they needed a late penalty try to save them from a resurgent home team.
Despite arriving from the other side of the country New York looked the fresher of the two sides in the opening exchanges. They used their backline to stretch the San Diego defense until Luke Hume found a half-gap and put Chris Mattina around the corner for the team’s first ever MLR try. Cathal Marsh made good on the extras for a perfect start.
The water break would arrive before a second score and it was New York again who came out firing from the refresher, this time Connor Wallace-Sims on the end of a flowing attack. Marsh added a penalty and the Legion were suddenly 15-nil down and in danger of letting the game slip away.
New York couldn’t clear their lines after the restart and the field position at last gave San Diego an opportunity. After multiple phases Nick Boyer showed his strength by shaking off two tacklers on his way to the tryline. Joe Pietersen slotted the routine conversion and the gap was reduced to eight.
Where the first half belonged to the visitors, the Legion took control after the break. Pietersen nailed three penalty goals to give his side the lead for the first time. The third came after Matt Hughston was shown yellow for killing the ball on a San Diego Break, and with the flanker still in the bin Pietersen found just enough space to sneak through for a converted try.
With time winding down New York’s fuel tanks were running on empty but they had just enough energy to launch a desperate attack. As they approached the five-meter line an overlap appeared on the left side. The ball was spun out but Save Totovosau stuck out a hand to prevent a certain try, and after a brief consultation with his assistant the referee marched under the sticks to award the seven points.
No more chances would come for San Diego and the newcomers celebrated as captain Mike Petri kicked the ball dead to bring on the final whistle. New York now have a two week break until they head to New Orleans, while the Legion play host to the Seattle Seawolves next Saturday.