Huge defence inspired a seventh straight win today for the LA Giltinis who celebrated with the Gilly’s Cup at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The Giltinis knocked over the pacesetting Austin Gilgronis 10-8 in a tense Major League Rugby battle that stretched to the final play in the 84th minute.
The home side resisted wave after wave of burnt orange jerseys hammering at the tryline before Austin fullback Chris Mattina stepped over in injury time.
All the grit and hard work the Giltinis had shown to repel Austin from scoring under or near the goalposts over the final seven minutes paid off.
Austin goalkicker Will Magie was forced to take a conversion on a wider angle. He hooked his attempt centimetres wide and a likely draw became a gutsy Giltinis victory instead.
The Gilgronis were awarded four straight penalties in those cliffhanging final minutes and were held up over the tryline as well. Replacement backrower Cyrille Cama produced one of the most important tackles when he buckled an attacker just a lunge from the tryline.
The quality of the Giltinis’ performance in this phsyical, top-of-the-standings clash was in the numbers.
They held the Western Conference leaders tryless for more than 80 minutes after the same Austin outfit had scored 53 tries in 12 games entering the match.
The vaunted Austin attack that had purred at 32 points per game was reduced to a splutter...just eight points. For the Giltinis, it was a sweet way to avenge their last loss, a limp 22-9 stumble to the same side in Texas in Round Five.
Replacement prop Charlie Abel made two massive front-on tackles in the closing 15 minutes to add to the tone set earlier by the strong defence of Christian Poidevin, Ben LeSage, Nathan Den Hoedt, John Ryberg, Tom Mitchell and Co.
"That's extremely gutsy from the boys to perform under adversity with Austin coming at our tryline again and again from one metre away in those closing stages," Giltinis head coach Stephen Hoiles said.
"You have to give great credit to our captain Dave Dennis. He made some tough carries, he was no nonsense around the field and his calm as a leader really stood out in a tense game. He played the full game again and I know his teammates really feed off his example.
"Harrison Goddard did a very good job as a game controller, moving as he did from flyhalf to scrumhalf during the game. We challenged the bench guys to have more impact and they did. "That's a really well earned sip from the Gilly's Cup for everyone."
With the win, the Giltinis grab a stronger hold of second spot in the highly-competitive Western Conference at 9-3 (42 points) behind the 10-3 Gilgronis (48).
If anything, the contest showed the Giltinis greater poise under big-match MLR pressure because four knock-ons mid-match by the Gilgronis but a stutter in their progress.
The opening half was as tightly fought as expected. A Poidevin dash down the blindside from a maul and another from a lineout were two of the rare early sprints into space.
The penalty goals traded by Giltinis flyhalf Harrison Goddard and Austin counterpart Magie were the only scores until the 29-minute mark.
The Giltinis pulled off a vintage lineout play to jump to 10-3. With clean ball, Mitchell came in off the blind wing to make a powerful, bumping surge off scrumhalf Tas Smith’s pass.
The quick ruck ball that followed was delivered to lock Dave Dennis who burst through the defence on a 25m charge. Flanker Den Hoedt was quickly in support to take the play deep into Austin’s quarter.
More quick ruck ball and a quick relay of the ball put centre LeSage over for an excellent try.
The Gilgronis will return to Texas cursing the “what ifs” of this match. They crossed the line twice for no result in the opening 70 minutes when an obstruction and a faulty lineout throw forced “no try” calls.
LA GILTINIS 10
Try: Ben LeSage (29 min)
Conversion: Harrison Goddard (29)
Penalty Goal: Harrison Goddard (12)
AUSTIN GILGRONIS 8
Try: Chris Mattina (83)
Penalty Goal: Will Magie (16)
Half-time: 10-3 Giltinis
Venue: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum