RUNY’s first ever game started out exactly how they would have wanted with them immediately starting on the front foot. With 5 Irish born players in the starting line-up many of the players would be familiar with each other both on and off the pitch but it was the US home grown player Luke Hume who was the stand out player in the first half, linking up play and showing a willingness to show for the ball and take on players often to devastating effect.
It took under 10 minutes for RUNY’s dominance to show when winger Chris Mattina touched down in the corner after a well worked move giving a glimpse of the slickness of the RUNY backs. Marsh, duly slotting the conversion for the additional two points.
A little over 10 minutes later and opposite winger Connor Wallace-Sims crossed over in the other corner to finish, after a great line break from Ben Foden to set him up. RUNY looked to be cruising at this point, leading the Legion 12 – 0 and dominating possession after 25 minutes of play.
Whilst lock Keni Nasoqeqe had an excellent game in open play for the Legion, the lineout was a problem area and one in which they will need to address moving forward. RUNY put pressure on San Diego’s line out at every given opportunity. This was something Marsh had surely picked up on and was kicking to the corner in an attempt to capitalise and excerpt pressure. This pressure showed on the 34th minute when a decent kick by Marsh was picked up by the much anticipated Veremalua, opting to run the ball instead of returning the kick. This proved costly as he was pinged for holding on and the cool Marsh slotted over an easy penalty by his standards to leave the score at 15 – 0 with 35 mins gone.
There was a reprieve for San Diego legion in the final minutes of the first half as scrum half Nick Boyer scored a typical scrum half try and sniped over from 5 yards to make for an easy 7 pointer.
The second half was a completely different story from a San Diego Legion perspective, with Joe Pietersen shining and scoring sixteen points in the second half
and also claiming the man of the match award.
Two penalties within 5 minutes of each other meant San Diego had clawed their way back into the game making the scoreline 15-13. Then after a patient build up and immense pressure from RUNY in which the Legion defence held firm, a turnover on the 53rd minute was a great psychological boost for the Legion and grew into the game from there.
On 59 minutes, we witnessed the play of the game and a taster of things to come as Joe Pietersen broke from inside his own 22 and looked like he was going to go all the way
only to be brought down 10 yards shy of the line. RUNY defence scrambled to prevent the try but this led to an infringement which Pietersen himself slotted over giving San Diego the lead for the first time in the game after 62 minutes of play.
This was San Diego’s best period in the game and they pushed on whereas RUNY looked like they were tiring at this stage of the game. They did however manage to keep the score board ticking over through the dependable boot of Cathal Marsh and they re-took the lead on the 63rd minute. This was to be a blow for blow period of the game with San Diego growing more and more confident mainly through the flair of Pietersen and his link up play with Fellow South African JP du Plessis.
On the 70th minute the splendid Pietersen eventually got his try and went over the line showing incredible strength to break two tackles and touch down leaving the Legion in a great position to see out the game and snatch a victory. There was one more twist though, as RUNY got their get out of jail card through the much hyped Totovosau. Totovosau made the rash decision to try and intercept the ball 5 yards from his own line and instead knocked the ball on which resulted in a penalty try for RUNY and a yellow card for Totovosau.
This proved to be the defining moment of the game as RUNY showed composure through their forwards to keep ball for the remaining 5 minutes and see out the game.
RUNY showed glimpses of what they are capable of in the first half especially through Hume, Leonard and Marsh linking up well and can gain some confidence
in grinding out a victory after a spirited come back from SD Legion. San Diego Legion can also take solas from their second half in particular and if Joe Pietersen can show the kind of form he showed today, they will surely push on.
Photo: James English