Rugby ATL Falls Short in a Game Of Inches
June 13th, 2021
Queens, New York
The match that featured the top seeds in the Eastern Conference lived up to the hype and expectation. For 80 minutes, both teams traded heated blows, big linebreaks and showcased the resilience that placed them atop the table. Ultimately, ATL fell inches short of execution in multiple key moments of the game, which was the difference on the road against the very talented Rugby United New York (31-24).
Scoring opened up early for RUNY as “The Butcher,” Dylan Fawsitt, hit a short, hard line through the middle of the defense and eventually put And Ellis in space for the easy seven under the sticks.
Jason Damm countered with a 12m run that beat one defender with a solid fend and dragged others into the tryzone with an outstretched arm to get ATL on the board 15 minutes in (7-5).
Exactly ten minutes later later on a Rugby ATL clearing kick touched grass, but took a favorable bounce allowing RUNY’s Apines Cakaubalavu to step two tacklers and offloaded to the streaking Kara Pryor who streamlined for the tryzone extending the lead (12-5)
In the time between the next change of score, Rugby ATL had its first of four different try scoring opportunities fall just inches short. The first was a spectacularly executed play of a set piece that sent Marko Janse Van Rensburg on the near side straight into Andy Ellis who took the contact head-on, and held up the ball as he was driven back into the tryzone.
In the 34th minute, Rugby United struck again and scored to extend their lead. Mark O’Keeffe won’t see them in the box score, but he charged down the attempted conversion, stealing 2 points away from Chris Mattina (17-5).
In the waning minutes of the half, the Rugby ATL forwards went to work and triggered off each other to get the attack on the front foot with short lines and quick clean outs deep in RUNY territory.
“Momo the Mountain” (Johan Momsen) was the first to score a multi-phase, team try, when he took a quick ball from Rees and forced his way into the try zone from 3 meters out. Carelse would convert and Rugby ATL would go into the sheds down 5 at the half (17-12).
Inside the locker room, Head Coach Scott Lawrence discussed the importance of complete execution down the stretch, especially against the talent inside the other locker room.
The Final Forty:
Six minutes into the second half, RUNY’s Connor McManus scored under the posts on another inside line in the middle of the field.
ATL eventually found themselves in a set piece situation from 5m out. On a scoring lineout play, Van Rensburg peeled out of the maul and fended off two different shoulder shots as he pinballed toward the white line. Another two RUNY defenders met him and had just enough to force the ball to escape his grasp, literally inches from a try.
The forwards reignited the momentum leading up to minute 60, after the key finishers entered the contest (Saulo Manasa, Jonas Petrakopoulos and Marno Redelinghuys). Their immediate contribution came as Batu Ezcurra capped off a 7+ phase try that saw the ball travel to each sideline. This time, the game of inches was in favor of A-town, as Batu took contact and outstretched from 3m out, retaining enough grip to add downward pressure with only 2 fingers (24-17).
RUNY would strike immediately after the commercial break when James Rochford intercepted Carelse and took it the rest of the way (31-17). This was a complete swing in the momentum and energy after it felt like ATL was getting coiled up and ready to strike.
Between minute 60 and 68, Rugby ATL would again be held up in the tryzone and an opportunity to have a set piece deep in attacking territory, would go by the wayside when a kick to touch was kept in play by leaping Benjamin Bonasso.
Even though the bounce of the ball wasn’t going their way, ATL’s no-quit mentality and commitment to the process had them knocking on the doorstep again at the 70 minute mark.
After multiple phases and contests of battle of wills near the try zone, Alex Maughan saw a gap and made a split decision to pick-and-go rather than setting the ruck, slipping his way in for the try that made it a one score game in the 70th minutes of play (31-24).
In the final 10, the line breaks got bigger, the shots got harder and the scrums got heavier. ATL had multiple possessions that came to a halt as the result of a knock ons, but they were in a position to score and tie the game near the 80th minute on the road against a RUNY team that’s playing the most well-rounded rugby across the MLR.
Though the 7 game win streak came to an end, the gutsy and brutally physical performance resulted with ATL stealing 2 Bonus points on the road in NY (4 tries scored & Loss <7 points). These two bonus points keep Rugby ATL on-top of the Eastern Conference going into their final two week homestand against the Houston Sabercats (2-10) and Old Glory DC.
After the match, the energy in the locker room was very positive, despite the result. The leadership recognized the lessons learned in giving a very talented team extra possessions and opportunities to score. This young team has matured immensely since March, and this week will likely be one of the biggest growth weeks yet.
Next up, are the Houston Sabercats, at home on June 19th. Get your tickets now and catch the #RATLERS return to the Snake Pit and the special halftime performance from the Atlanta Drumline Academy.
Jason Damm- 5 (12′)
Johan Momsen-5 (38′)
Batu Ezcurra-5 (60′)
Alex Maughan-5 (70′)
Adriaan Caresle-4 (Conversions: 2/4)
Rugby United New York:
Andy Ellis- 7
Kara Pryor- 5
Kyle Sumsion- 5
James Rochford- 5
Chris Mattina- 2 (1/2)