Ruck and Roll: Home at the Coliseum at Last for Sione

5 months ago

It’s taken long months of rehabilitation but prop Sione Tuihalamaka (above) finally gets to play for the first time this season and at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

The term “home crowd” has a more literal meaning for him than any other member of the LA Giltinis squad because he was born and still lives in Inglewood just seven miles from the stadium.

“It’s great to be back playing. There was a time there where I thought I wouldn’t play at all this season,” Tuihalamaka said of beating a torn tricep.

“When you have a lot of family in the area it means finding a lot of tickets, like 15-to-20. Being born in Tonga, my dad (Kisione) hasn’t missed a Giltinis’ home game because he grew up with rugby.”

Tuihalamaka, 29, will start at loosehead prop on Sunday for the Giltinis Academy XV against Dallas Rugby in the 1pm curtain-raiser at the Coliseum.

Developing local talent, under Academy coach Orene Ai’i, is one of the key aims of the Giltinis to keep advancing players to the higher ranks.

The Giltinis will be in action from 4pm (PT) to build on their 8-2 position at the top of Major League Rugby when they host the Houston SaberCats.

Missing the Giltinis’ opening 10 matches of MLR has been disappointing but Tuihalamaka feels he has still made improvements on the sidelines.

“I learn every time I pack in a scrum against Charlie Abel at training. JP Smith and all the other loosehead props help with advice,” the 267 pound (121kg) prop said.

“I’ve added 10-15 pounds too for when I prop against the big boys of MLR so that’s meant plenty of Chipotle chicken and brown rice.”

Tuihalamaka was one of the few Giltinis to enter the season with experience playing at the Coliseum.

He played twice on the hallowed turf as a defensive lineman for the University of Arizona against USC during his college days (2009-13) in football.

Prop Frikkie de Beer, backrower Langilangi Haupeakui, halfback Cristian Rodriguez and outside back Jonetani Vasurakuta will also be playing for the Academy XV.

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STAT ATTACK

(vs Rugby ATL)

Ball carries: Charlie Abel 16, Dave Dennis 16, DTH van der Merwe 16

Running Metres: DTH van der Merwe 109, Charlie Abel 81, Dave Dennis 78

Tackles: Angus Cottrell 12, DTH van der Merwe 9, Sean McNulty 9

Tackle Busts: DTH van der Merwe 7, Billy Meakes 5, Adam Ashley-Cooper 4

Line Breaks: DTH van der Merwe 3, Adam Ashley-Cooper 2

Ruck/Maul arrivals: Angus Cottrell 40, Charlie Abel 37, Sean McNulty 33, Langilangi Haupeakui 33

Courtesy: Stats Perform

DID YOU KNOW

New Giltinis hooker Gelen Robinson has an older brother, Glenn Robinson III, who won the NBA’s 2017 Slam Dunk Contest when playing with the Indiana Pacers.

MEDICAL ROOM

Adam Ashley-Cooper – Centre (knee)

Mahe Vailanu – Hooker (thumb)

Lindsey Stevens – Hooker (knee…season-ending)

Marco Fepulea’i – Prop (knee)

Jeff Peleseuma – Five-eighth (foot)

The Giltinis play the Houston SaberCats at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Sunday from 4pm (PT). For tickets, visit www.giltinis.com/tickets/ The match will be broadcast live on Bally Sports SoCal in Los Angeles and can also be viewed live on The Rugby Network internationally.

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