There was a winning family reunion for in-form lock Luke White (above) at the Coliseum last Sunday when five relatives from Australia dropped in to surprise him.
Fewer COVID restrictions on travel enabled an elaborate ambush so it was his biggest clan gathering since the pandemic began.
Parents Mark and Liz and sisters Rachel and Maddie were greeted by White in Los Angeles but he had no idea another wave of family was also arriving.
“I got home from the team’s last training session of the week and my three cousins were laying on the bed and my aunt and uncle literally jumped out of the closet,” White said with a laugh.
“It was a complete surprise and exciting to play in front of family again. It definitely made it a special game because the team put an awesome training week on the field with one of our best wins of the year over Rugby New York.”
You might have noticed White’s fist pumps after his pop pass for the John Ryberg try. The try was scored right in front of the nine-strong family fan club.
“My cousins were also my groomsmen. They are big rugby fans and bought heaps of team merch,” White said.
Cousin Tom Byrnes is also something of a doppelganger with shaven head and beard, so much so that Giltinis head coach Stephen Hoiles thought it was White at the bar post-game.
The whole family (pictured) crowded in for a photo with the Champagne Cup.
White warned that the Giltinis had to sustain their physicality against the Houston SaberCats at the Coliseum on Saturday.
“The SaberCats surprised us with their sustained physical approach and got the win in Round One. We’re got to throw more at them this time,” White said.
RUGBY LEGEND IN TOWN
The Champagne Cup may just be rugby’s biggest trophy and one legend of the game has confirmed it.
The Bledisloe Cup is often regarded as having the biggest dimensions of any rugby trophy and is presented for supremacy between the All Blacks and Wallabies.
Flanker Christian Poidevin’s father Simon (below) was in LA for the Giltinis-Rugby New York game and he’s a man who’d know.
He got to swig beer from the Bledisloe Cup during a 59-Test career that culminated in the 1991 Rugby World Cup win by the Wallabies.
When he got an up-close look at the symbol for rugby dominance between LA and New York, it was a no contest.
“The Champagne Cup is a monster. It makes the Bledisloe look like a baby,” Poidevin Senior said.
Poidevin gave the Giltinis’ performance and the surrounds of the Coliseum a five-star tick. In LA, he’s invisible as “Christian Poidevin’s dad” because the single young flanker had most of the USC women’s water polo squad cheering him on at the Coliseum last Sunday. Christian (pictured with his father) had a fine game at flanker and was the team's Aaron Donald jersey winner for the week. The No.99 jersey denotes the player voted best all-round in contact in a nod to the LA Rams' Super Bowl hero.
GILTINIS ACADEMY A WINNING FORMULA
The Giltinis Academy is proving of huge value as a testing ground to prepare the next crop of players for Major League Rugby.
The Academy's 24-12 win over a physically bigger American Raptors side in last Sunday's curtainraiser at the Coliseum was full of quality. The side was switched on from the opening kick-off when lock Sam Peri was alert to a missed reception by the Raptors and ran the loose ball in for a try from 40m out.
Scrumhalf Andrew Dorgan was a shrewd general, young flyhalf Shane Barry made good decisions in the face of some big opposition defence and No.8 Gerald Lowe had an immense workrate. Teenage replacement winger Dayen Joyce scored the final try with the boldness to step two defenders."
That win was a proud moment. We had a lot of 18, 19 and 20-year-olds on the field against bigger physical athletes," Academy coach Dave Clancy enthused. "We had some excellent performances but our ability to stick to a strategic team plan was impressive. We took the size factor out with our line speed and connection in defence and it forced errors too."
"We moved the point of contact by shifting the ball and used kicks to space when they had nearly all their defenders up in the line. There were a lot of positives."
(v Rugby New York)
Ball carries: Billy Meakes 12, John Ryberg 10, Adam Channel 8
Running Metres Gained: Ben LeSage 94, Billy Meakes 87, Adam Channel 84
Offloads: Adam Channel 3, John Ryberg 3
Tackles: Hanco Germishuys 19, Luke White 18, Christian Poidevin 17, Nathan Den Hoedt 15, Charlie Abel 15
Ruck and Maul Arrivals: Christian Poidevin 21, Nathan Den Hoedt 21, Ben LeSage 16, Hanco Germishuys 16, Djustice Sears-Duru 14
Season Try-scoring: Hanco Germishuys 6, Angus Cottrell 2, Will Chambers 2, Joe Taufete’e 2, Andrew Tuala 2, Ben LeSage 2, John Ryberg 2, Harrison Goddard 2
Adam Ashe – Backrower (neck)
Angus Cottrell – Backrower (knee)
Luke Carty – Flyhalf (pectoral muscle)
Matt Giteau – Flyhalf (calf)
Langilangi Haupeakui – Backrower (knee)
DTH van der Merwe – Winger (knee)
Brooklyn Hardaker – Winger (knee)
The Giltinis face the Huston SaberCats at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum at 3pm (PST) on Saturday. The match will be broadcast live on Bally Sports SoCal and Bally Sports West in Los Angeles. The match can also be viewed live on The Rugby Network internationally.