Head coach Darren Coleman is demanding a big improvement in energy and execution from the LA Giltinis after a ragged 29-14 win on Sunday night.
Beating the lowly Seattle Seawolves retained the club’s top spot in Major League Rugby but Coleman is hunting a far bigger prize with the play-offs approaching.
Back-up scrumhalf Cristian Rodriguez excelled as a first-time starter to be the biggest positive from the visit to Starfire Stadium, outside Seattle.
Seven frontline starters, sidelined by injury, will feed back into the line-up as the 11-2 Giltinis push towards the play-offs and the August 1 Championship final.
“We have to be hard markers on ourselves if we want to get where we want to go in MLR,” an unimpressed Coleman said.
“That was close to our worst performance of the season. We lacked energy, we lacked intent, the quality of execution was poor and Seattle’s poor defence helped out with some of the tries we did score.
“We head back to the drawing board and certain players will have to make some honest assessments about where they can improve.
“Cristian is one of the few who can hold his head high. He played 80 minutes as a starter for the first time and did some good things.”
Coleman’s brutal appraisal shows that excellence, not just ticking over a routine win, is what the club is striving for.
With three matches until the play-offs, the Giltinis (55 points) lead the Western Conference ahead of the 9-5 Utah Warriors (51) and the 9-5 Austin Gilgronis (46). Two teams will advance. The 10-4 Rugby ATL (51) and 9-4 Rugby United New York (46) lead the Eastern Division.
In Sunday’s heatwave conditions, the Giltinis turned the blowtorch on the Seawolves in the opening two minutes with No.8 Adam Ashe scoring untouched out wide after momentum off a lineout win.
A dropped pass, a knock-on, a bungled attacking lineout and a kick rolling dead in-goal were all hiccups as the first half unfolded.
Rodriguez backed up inside to score off a John Ryberg break for 14-0 while the livewire scrumhalf ignited a 75m try himself.
Rodriguez swooped on a loose Seawolves’ pass 25m out from his own tryline and dashed more than 50m to get play rolling for the Ryan James’ try.
Centre Billy Meakes strained and twisted and reached for the tryline on half-time for 26-0. On defence, earlier in the half, he made a great double-effort play. His ankle tap prevented a try and he was back on the line to help hold-up another attacker moments later.
The Seawolves found fresh resolve when Giltinis’ forwards Dave Dennis and JP Smith were both sinbinned early in the second half.
The Seattle side grabbed a 14-3 lift while the Giltinis were undermanned.
The Giltinis fought desperately when down to just 13 men for six minutes. An excellent tackle from winger James was a huge play because it enabled his side to win a turnover, win back control of the ball and minimise the damage on the scoreboard.
The Giltinis were tryless in the second half but did get a lift from the bench with the rookie replacement front-row of Sione Tuihalamaka, Gelen Robinson and Ma’ake Muti earning a scrum penalty with a strong shunt when five metres out from their own line.
Fresh Irish recruit Sean O’Brien made his debut at lock over the final 13 minutes as did Fijian winger Jonetani Vasurakuta in the closing stages.
LA GILTINIS 29
Tries: Adam Ashe (2 min), Cristian Rodriguez (20), Ryan James (34), Billy Meakes (39)
Conversions: Luke Carty (2, 20, 34)
Penalty goal: Luke Carty (53)
SEATTLE SEAWOLVES 14
Tries: Sita Taumaivena (45), Conor McGill (53)
Conversions: AJ Alatimi (45, 54)
Half-time: 26-0 Giltinis
Venue: Starfire Stadium, Tukwila