Rugby ATL Falls Short in a Game Of Inches

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.

Scoring Summary

Rugby ATL

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

Connor McManus-7

Chris Mattina- 2 (1/2)

NEXT HOME GAME: June 19th @ 8:00PM

Rugby ATL vs Houston Sabercats

Presented by: Cumberland Diamond Exchange

Big Stakes in the Big Apple: Week 13 MLR Preview


Big Stakes in the Big Apple

Week 13 Major League Rugby Preview

Rugby United New York vs. Rugby ATL

The two teams at the top of the table in the Eastern Conference will battle tomorrow in the Fresh Meadows of Queensjust outside the shadows of the New York City Skyline.

These two teams met back in Week 4 when again, Rugby ATL was on top of the table.  Some faces will change as they take the pitch Sunday afternoon at Belson Stadium on the campus of St. John’s University. Relentless commitment to defense has been the driving force in the last seven victories for Rugby ATL.  Last week’s devastating defensive effort concluded the Rivalry Series sweep of NOLA Gold, including 15+ phases of heartfelt stops inside of their own 5m line.

The front row for Rugby ATL will stay consistent with the young props Chance Wenglewski and Wikus Groenewald being anchored down by the veteran Marko Janse Van Rensburg in the middle. Conor Keys, who was named to the Rugby Canada’s 40-man roster for the summer internationals, will get the nod for the first time this year alongside Johan Momsen in the second row.

The journeyman Connor “Cookie” Cook also makes his return to the starting lineup after coming off the bench last week, ending his rehab battle to get back into the active roster. 

The dynamic duo of Deacon and Damm have played tough hard-nosed American rugby, sharing time at the 8 position. This is the first time they’ll both be featured in the starting roster, and anyone who knows Rosco knows he fizzes for claiming that first tone-setting hit.

Ryan Rees will distribute directly to Adriaan Carelse, who has been increasingly more impactful as the weeks go on, especially in the kicking game. Te Rangatira Waitokia and Batu Ezcurra will take charge of the centers as they look to win their battle against the hard-carrying and very skillful RUNY centers, Fa’asiu Fuatai (NZ)  and Quinn Ngawati (CAN).

Mark O’Keeffe and the “The Missile” (Jeremy Misailegalu) had the Herculean highlights last week, not for flash, but for pinning their ears back and out-working their opponents. These two are playing with confidence and their energy tanks get bigger every week. Look for these two electricians to provide big sparks from the outside.

Rory Van Vugt will round out the attack from the back and wear 15 again this week. His decision-making in key moments under pressure will give the fullback the responsibility of wearing the (C) again this week.

Experienced leadership is the biggest difference RUNY has over many of the other teams in Major League Rugby right now, and certainly a factor as to why they’re currently playing the most complete rugby across the league. Dylan Fawsitt, Andy Ellis, and Nate Brakely have established a “Championship Mindset” for RUNY and their commitment to those standards has shown.

Pride is always on the line between these two franchises, which have been founded on very similar traditions and pedigrees of American rugby clubs and Universities. Fans for each of these teams will be at the edge of their seats with every pass, line break, and tackle as the same traditions clash, just in different colors. 

Like everything else in New York, the table points will be expensive this Sunday. The 23 who are more consistently willing to pay that toll for their team will escape with the points needed to remain in the driver seat of the Eastern Conference. 

Leave the remote, grab the cannolis, and get ready for Sunday afternoon rugby from the Big Apple.


Date: Sunday, June 13

Venue: St. John’s University

Kickoff: 2:00 PM EST

Referee: Frederico Anselmi (ARG)

Broadcasts: The Rugby Network, FSNY

Watch Party: Reformation Brewery, Smyrna

Forecast: 73℉ & Cloudy


Tale of the Tape:

(L) April 11th, 2021- Rugby ATL 17 – Rugby United New York 27 (Marietta, GA)

(L) February 24th, 2020- Rugby ATL 19 – Rugby United New York 22 (Marietta, GA)

RUNY Rosters