The LA Giltinis ground out a strong 17-12 victory over the Houston SaberCats today to lift their winning streak to five games in Major League Rugby.
The Giltinis dominated the match to rise to 7-3 in the Western Conference yet the steel of the SaberCats defied every effort to score more than two tries.
Twice the Television Match Official (TMO) ruled that Giltinis forwards Corey Thomas and Joe Taufete’e had come up centimetres short of grounding the ball for tries while centre Ben LeSage was held up over the line late in the game.
Most of all, it was an invaluable four points for the victory and a statement of how far the Giltinis have come since losing to the SaberCats by 10 points in the opening round of the season.
Unlike that day, the Giltinis were physically superior this time and earned enormous advantage from a powerhouse scrum that earned penalty after penalty at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
No.8 Hanco Germishuys (above) was an imposing standout for the Giltinis with his leg drive consistently gaining big metres post-contact.
It was his strength and shrewdness that gave the Giltinis a lead they never surrendered at the 27-minute mark.
Germishuys took a quick-tap penalty and bulldozed through two defenders on a 20m charge for his seventh try of the season and a 14-7 lead.
Early in the game, the Giltinis were clearly rattled by losing lineout leader Dave Dennis just before kick-off because the opening few lineouts were ragged.
From one of those misfires, the SaberCats seized the ball and backrower Danny Barrett powered over for a 7-0 start.
The Giltinis regained their composure with fill-in captain Luke White taking charge as the chief lineout target. From a White lineout win, Thomas all but got to the tryline in the pick-and-drive sequence that followed.
The pressure applied in the minutes that followed was a blowtorch with the first of two yellow cards forced on the SaberCats.
The Giltinis scrum, marshalled by front-rowers Chalie Abel, Taufete’e and Andrew Tuala, marched the SaberCats and earned a penalty try for 7-all on 16 minutes.
It wasn’t just the scrum that summed up the Giltinis’ mindset.
A sucession of dominant tackles from Germishuys, Abel and White forced the SaberCats into a futile stab at field goal midway through the first half.
The “Easter Eggs”(below) in the Giltinis second-row led the grunt work with the shaven heads of White and Nathan Den Hoedt glistening with sweat as they drove into cleanouts, tackles or ball-carries.
"It wasn't pretty but we'll take that win. The scrum was very good, the boys showed how much they pride themselves on their defence and there were some passages of good attack," Giltinis head coach Stephen Hoiles said.
"We lost our captain Dave Dennis in the warm-ups. He had a little fluid on the knee and it just wasn't right."
"We had to adapt to that setback. We got a bit frustrated at times and the lack of pace to the game fed into that."
"I thought Hanco Germishuys had an excellent game. Joe Taufete'e at hooker stepped up again too. We head to a bye and we'll prepare well for a tough trip to Atlanta."
The Giltinis’ defence defied a series of SaberCats charges, one pass off the ruck, before the visitors finally found a crack out wide to close the scores to 14-12 at the 51-minute mark.
Flanker Christian Poidevin and prop Abel were also powerful contributors in the pack as the Giltinis held firm.
A late Luke Burton penalty goal in the 80th minute milked a minute off the clock in a match that was an armwrestle to the end.
The Giltinis head into a bye week before regrouping for an April 30 showdown against Rugby ATL in Atlanta.
LA GILTINIS 17
Tries: Hanco Germishuys (27 min), Penalty try (16)
Conversion: Orene Ai’i (27)
Penalty Goal: Luke Burton (79)
HOUSTON SABERCATS 12
Tries: Danny Barrett (6), Christian Dyer (51),
Conversions: David Coetzer (6)
Half-time: 14-7 Giltinis
Venue: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum