The LA Giltinis today suffered their first defeat when blunted 18-16 by Rugby United New York in the upset of the Major League Rugby season.
The accomplished defence of the New York side dulled the tempo of the Giltinis, who were restricted to a single try in the blustery conditions at New Jersey’s Cochrane Stadium.
The Giltinis (6-1) still sit in the No.1 spot on the MLR standings but will rue their ragged play at key points in this match against RUNY (5-2).
“Full credit to New York. They were definitely up for it, defended well and were clinical in taking their points,” Giltinis head coach Darren Coleman said.
“It was a real mixed bag from us. When we tried to build momentum, there were different handling errors and we infringed a lot in defence which led to a lot of New York’s points.
“A bit of humble pie is not a bad thing. It’s a good result for the league because it shows that on any given day any team can beat you.”
The loss also came at a cost. Influential fullback Glenn Bryce was helped off with a major right ankle injury just 15 minutes into the game and flanker Christian Poidevin was forced off with a collarbone injury just after half-time.
Inside centre Luke Burton will also have a dislocated finger assessed for any more significant damage.
The Giltinis were already dealing with the loss of key flyhallf Matt Giteau (knee) and the late withdrawal of the team’s most experienced prop, JP Smith, for family reasons.
Smith’s absence created a chance off the bench for giant prop Mafi Seanoa, who made his MLR debut in the final five minutes.
Strong defense meant RUNY never came close to scoring a try yet flyhallf Dan Hollinshead booted six penalty goals from seven attempts to prove the difference.
Inside centre Luke Burton kicked an angled penalty goal to give the Giltinis the lead 16-15 entering the tense final 10 minutes when replacement RUNY prop Samu Tawake was yellow-carded.
Unfortunately, a high seat-belt tackle from No.8 Adam Ashe incurred a yellow card in the 74th-minute and Hollinshead banged over the penalty goal for the game’s deciding points.
The New York players competed hard at the tackle area and earned a succession of penalties for the Giltinis’ “holding on” when not protecting their own ball.
The Giltinis led 10-6 at half-time after a scrappy opening 40 minutes of stop-start rugby.
The wind did not help the flow of either side but the Giltinis were also frustrated by their own lack of precision. RUNY’s willing defence held the Giltinis to just 16 points after the side had been averaging 47 per game through their opening six wins.
The sides traded penalty goals as the only scoring until the game was 26-minutes old when the Giltinis pulled a crisp play off a lineout.
Hooker Lindsey Stephens made the inroads and passed inside to flyhalf Luke Carty, whose pass put DTH van der Merwe (above) over for his eighth try of the season.
Poidevin’s injury forced hooker Stephens to play most of the second half as a fill-in flanker.
Centre Adam Ashley-Cooper’s defence, the physical play of prop Charlie Abel, Burton’s four-from-four goalkicking and a few neat touches from replacement winger Ryan James were among the few high points for the Giltinis.
The Giltinis will regroup this week for a huge clash against the highly-rated Utah Warriors (4-3) when they take the first rugby match to the state-of-the-art SoFi Stadium on Saturday from 7pm (PT).
A limited number of tickets are on sale at Ticketmaster.com OR at www.giltinis.com/tickets/
RUGBY UNITED NEW YORK 18
Penalty goals: Dan Hollinshead (13 min, 36, 41, 51, 60, 74)
LA GILTINIS 16
Try: DTH van de Merwe (26)
Conversion: Luke Burton (26)
Penalty goals: Luke Burton (8, 53, 70)
Half-time: 10-6 Giltinis
Venue: Cochrane Stadium, New Jersey