The LA Giltinis mixed attacking sparkle and grind to triumph 19-15 in a seesawing Sunday spectacle at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The lead changed four times in an absorbing contest that demanded some of the Giltinis’ best play of the season to end the unbeaten run of the New England Free Jacks.
The Giltinis found themselves behind 15-12 early in the second half. It was a patient, hammering sequence of pick-and-go plays that finally rewarded lock Nathan Den Hoedt with the go-ahead try at the 67-minute mark.
Fullback Jordan Trainor (below) had his best game for his new club with some strong running, neat footwork and a fearless take when gathering a kick in the face of the Free Jacks’ defence.
Centres Billy Meakes and Ben LeSage, strong-running flanker Hanco Germishuys and replacement prop Charlie Abel, with two huge, ball-freeing turnover tackles, were other standouts.
The Giltinis now sit 2-1 after another show of their defensive steel and how much they enjoy playing in front of their supportive home fans at the Coliseum.
The Giltinis snapped into gear at the 14-minute mark and it was full credit to the best scrum the side has packed this season.
A huge shunt on the Free Jacks’ feed earned the reward of a Giltinis’ put-in to the scrum seven metres out. From that position, the Giltinis pulled a sharp set play with inside centre Meakes cutting back on the angle off a Harrison Goddard pass.
Meakes kept his poise and passed outside to Germishuys, who scored his third try in as many matches as a Giltini.
The 7-3 lead jumped to 12-3 with a Giltinis’ special of sharp passing, support play and footwork.
Trainor sidestepped through to make the initial break. LeSage kept the play rolling, fed flanker Angus Cottrell and backed up inside for the score.
The Free Jacks scored two tries either side of half-time to wrestle the momentum at 15-12 before the Giltinis responded.
A 35m run later in the half from Germishuys showed the USA Eagle at his best.
Head coach Stephen Hoiles showed great faith in his bench by sending on all of his eight replacements in the second half.
Abel was the pick of them with his stout defence. It was a team effort to hold up the Free Jacks over the tryline at the 73-minute mark when a rolling maul threatened to steal the game.
"It was nowhere near perfect but we found a way to win and it's good going into a dressing room where you see that in the players' faces as well," Hoiles said.
"We need to step again in Texas next Saturday against the Gilgronis, who are the form team in Major League Rugby right now."That said, there were some really good plusses for us against a good team. It was great to see Jordan Trainor have a real impact from fullback which sharpened our kick-return in the first half in particular.
"Strong scrummaging set up our first try and I felt our bench did well again. Having quality front-rowers like Charlie Abel and Luke White coming on was beneficial. Charlie made some really important tackles and Luke kept us going forward with his very effective carries."
"I think everyone enjoyed being back at the Coliseum, hearing a loud crowd and seeing so much Giltinis' merch being worn in the stands."
The Giltinis meet the 4-0 Austin Gilgronis on Saturday at 5pm (PST) in Texas.
LA GILTINIS 19
Try: Hanco Germishuys (14 min), Ben LeSage (19), Nathan Den Hoedt (67)
Conversion: Luke Burton (14, 67)
NEW ENGLAND FREE JACKS 15
Tries: Paul Balekana (39), Pieter Jansen (43)
Conversion: Beaudein Waaka (43)
Penalty Goals: Beaudein Waaka (2)
Half-time: 12-8 Giltinis
Venue: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum