The LA Giltinis showed remarkable late-game resilience with just 13 men for a dominant 31-19 victory over Rugby ATL at Silverbacks Park, outside Atlanta, today.
The Giltinis extended their streak to six wins in a row with a four-try blast of precision and attacking sparkle in the first half before the true grit needed to close it out at the finish.
The Giltinis rise to 8-3 in clear second spot in the Western Conference of Major League Rugby. It sets up a blockbuster next Sunday against the front-running 9-2 Austin Gilgronis at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The visit to the heat of Atlanta was packed with highlights and drama.
The Giltinis led 31-5 before fighting through the final 21 minutes undermanned and conceding two tries. They were down to 13 men for eight of the final 10 minutes when Hanco Germishuys and Les Leuluaialii-Makin were both in the sin bin.
The steel on defence saved the Giltinis in that tricky countdown to full-time with Cyrille Cama and Luke Burton forcing penalties with clutch pressure on the ball.
There were stars across the park for the Giltinis. Former England Sevens standout Tom Mitchell had multiple impacts during an excellent first half on the wing and played his first full 80-minute game for the club.
Big forwards Dave Dennis (below) and Nathan Den Hoedt were influential and fullback Jordan Trainor relished the creativity inside him by scoring two tries.
The Giltinis started the match with a bang with a John Ryberg try from a full-width backline raid after just four minutes.
He caught a pinpoint long ball thrown by fellow winger Mitchell who had entered the backline.
It was the first positive expression of the change made pre-game with versatile scrumhalf Harrison Goddard switching to flyhalf and Tas Smith starting at No.9. Both had strong games and gave clear direction to the team.
The Giltinis sustained the rage throughout their most dominant first half (31-5) of the season against a top-rated rival.
The lead was all precision passing and support, ruthless set plays clicking and the pressuring defence that forced errors in the Atlanta game.
Head coach Stephen Hoiles had forecast pre-match that 8-2 Rugby ATL would be the most challenging opponent of the season so far.
The Giltinis clinically picked apart the home side and they did so even when down to 14 men midway through the first half. Hooker Joe Taufete’e was off the field with a yellow card for a dangerous tackle when lock Dennis smashed through a defender.
He passed to flanker Den Hoedt, whose inside ball put Trainor over.
The 17-5 start might have been eroded but Den Hoedt produced a superb trysaving tackle to deny Rugby ATL No.8 Daemon Torres who had the ball dislodged when diving for the tryline.
Back to 15 men, the Giltinis produced a sparkling doubly-whammy just before half-time.
From a lineout win, Taufete’e swept around the back, dragged the defence wide with him and snapped a perfect inside ball to put Mitchell through the gap created. Mitchell dashed over from 25m out.
Mitchell (below) had already shown the range of his skills with a strong tackle, the final pass for a try and hustling on a kick chase to make his side 40m of territory.
Just before half-time, the ever-reliable Billy Meakes dabbed a lovely grubber kick which Trainor seized for his second try.
Different traits were needed from the Giltinis in the second half with the team hard on defence and losing No.8 Germishuys to a red card for a dangerous contact at the 59-minute mark.
Leuluaialii-Makin's exit on a yellow card for a ruck infringement at the 71-minute mark meant more frantic defence to earn the win.
LA GILTINIS 31
Tries: Jordan Trainor (25 min, 38), John Ryberg (4), Tom Mitchell (36)
Conversions: Harrison Goddard (4, 25, 38)
Penalty Goals: Harrison Goddard (13)
RUGBY ATL 19
Tries: Matt Heaton (16), Viliami Helu (67), Zander Van Schalkwyk (72)
Conversion: Joaquin De La Vega Mendia (67, 72)
Half-time: 31-5 Giltinis
Venue: Silverbacks Park, Atlanta