The Seattle Seawolves edged the Glendale Raptors 20-18 in a thrilling conclusion to the opening weekend of the 2019 Major League Rugby season. Brock Staller led the way for the defending champions with 15 points including the game-winning penalty with just six minutes to play.
It was clear from the start that Seattle’s patented ‘Sea Wall’ defense was not just a one-season wonder. They strangled the Glendale offense for much of the match, with both Raptors tries coming within a 3-minute letup just after the break. As it had in the final the scrum also favored the Seawolves.
Staller had the first crack at goal but couldn’t connect and it was Will Magie who instead ended the stalemate. The second time proved a charm for Staller as he responded with a kick of his own and then after a huge line break from Mat Turner put them into position, tighthead prop Tim Metcher picked and rolled over the line for a try.
Magie added his second penalty before the break but already the signs of frustration were apparent on Glendale faces. While the 10-6 score did not suggest domination the momentum was leaning firmly in Seattle’s direction.
That would come to an abrupt halt after the intermission. The Raptors caught the short side defense taking a breather and Dylan Taikato-Simpson stretched out for a try in his MLR debut. Hanco Germishuys would collect the restart and somehow the Eagles flanker went clean through a block of defenders to set up a try for winger John Ryberg in the left corner.
Unfortunately for Glendale that would be their last scoring act of the game. After two golden opportunities went begging the Seawolves finally made one stick. Vili Toluta’u put Staller in space and the chip-and-chase set up perfectly for a try from their own end. The Canadian winger nailed the conversion to make it a one point game.
Continued pressure forced a mistake by Glendale in their own end and the Seattle scrum went to work. The second-string front row pulverised their opposites and earned a penalty in kicking range. Staller duly obliged his forwards and the ball sailed clean through the uprights. Glendale had one last chance to score but the defense held firm and the Seawolves celebrated their hard-earned victory.
The Seawolves head south to face their coastal rivals San Diego next Saturday. Glendale will also be on the road as they travel to Louisiana to face a confident NOLA side at Gold Stadium.