Irishman Luke Carty had a classic “Bend It Like Beckham” moment in the savage wind that the LA Giltinis confronted in last weekend’s pre-season trial in Austin.
He has quickly established himself as a goalkicker deluxe for two late sideline conversions in the tight 43-38 win that prepare the side for Saturday’s launch against the New England Free Jacks (3:30pm PT).
Carty came on at five-eighth for the closing 20 minutes to replace Wallabies great Matt Giteau and instantly proved his quality for Major League Rugby.
The football had to be aimed 20m right of the uprights but he curled in as a perfectly judged strike in the gale. He added another on full-time when replacement hooker Lindsey Stevens scored from a drive off a lineout.
How Carty, 23, has relished learning beside Giteau and more senior backs is exactly how the Giltinis’ roster can work at its best.
Carty is USA-qualified through a grandmother born in New York.
Busy young Australian flanker Christian Poidevin was another to excel with his chance as a starter.
Head coach Darren Coleman gave an insight into the hard work, emotion and sacrifice that players and staff have put into launching LA’s first MLR club.
You can call it “just a trial” but winning on the bell was a fitting first reward.
“I was just so pleased we got that score in the final minute so the players got a glimpse of what they’d signed up for with the singing in the locker room and the team environment everyone has worked so hard to build,” Coleman said.
The players have also had a glimpse of their impressive new home before Saturday’s game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. They had a first training session there on Tuesday and a tour to soak in some of the sports history at an iconic venue that has hosted two Olympic Games.
Irish flanker Harry McNulty has landed and New Zealand prop Marco Fepulea’i has arrived in Los Angeles this week now visas have been resolved.
Both will be a huge boost to the playing roster.
Fepulea’i, sharpened by pre-season training with the Blues’ Super Rugby squad in Auckland, was picked up in January’s dispersal draft of players from the grounded Dallas Jackals.
The pacy McNulty is a standout from Ireland’s rugby sevens program and will join hooker brother Sean in the squad.
Prop Ruan Smith is on a one-month loan to the Queensland Reds, his former club, in Australia and is now expected to join the Giltinis in April.
It’s a win for the Giltinis. It will sharpen Smith with training and game time in a top Super Rugby system while his visa is finalised.
Smith is a replacement at the Reds for the suspended Feao Fotuaika.
DID YOU KNOW?
Recruits Matt Giteau and Adam Ashley-Cooper are in partnership in an Australian wine business called Backline Wines which produces a smooth shiraz.
Prop Sione Tuihalamaka (tricep).
Backrower Langilangi Haupeakui (groin)