February 11, 2022 3 min read
Well rugby is really going places in the USA. Seattle’s fan base are special and were out in full noise. The quality of the rugby is really up there now, but both sides were still able to expose the other’s major weakness. In the first half, with the wind behind the home team, we saw a ying and yang set-piece situation. Utah had such a dominant scrum but the most pathetic line out. And visa versa for the Seawolves. Utah drew multiple penalties in the first half from their own scrum, but due to some interesting decision making, they didn’t fully utilise this advantage.
5 minutes into the game an Utah had just won a scrum penalty, five meters from Seawolves’s line. Utah were just so much stronger than Seattle in the scrum, they had to use this. Instead of scrumming for another penalty 5 meters out, they went for the line-out and knocked it on mid jump. Credit must go to the Seawolves’ audacity to compete five meters out from their own line. Seawolves were Gloucster-esc with their line out efficacy and stole multiple Utah line-outs in the first half.
This ying yang set-piece situation balanced the two sides, but the point of difference was when Seawolves got the ball, their electric backs were able to break through multiple defenders. Utah, on the other hand, looked out of ideas when their backs had ball in hand and hardly made any breaks. What is a Mikey Te’o when you have a Martin Iosefo? Seawolves were without England 7s star, Matthew Turner, who normally starts at fullback. But when you have a double Lions combo of Dan Kriel and Duncan Matthews, plus Martin Iosefo and 6ft5 Ross Neal on the wings and some exceptionally clinical half-backs, you needn’t worry.
The first try came from Iosefo stepping multiple players in a tiny bit of space. It almost looked too easy when Seattle had the ball, with their second try also coming from multiple line breaks.The second try was finished off by an excellent skip pass from inside centre Lopeti Aisea, who needed to make up from some early handling errors. Seattle were inches away from a 3rd try on the stroke of half time, again from a line break that seemed too easy. The ball was deemed to be held up and with no real angles, reversing the on-field decision is unlikely. Half time 14-3.
50 minutes in and its still 14-3. Utah have lost 5 line outs now but seem to have the upper hand. Things are tense. Utah apply massive amounts of pressure, but the ‘Seawall’ remains strong. All until the 70th minute where Utah finally score. 17-10. Alatimu keeps calm and puts Seattle back out of range with a long distance penalty into the blustering wind. Some uncharacteristically poor tackling sees Utah score in the corner and convert in the 78th minute. Having played only 4 days earlier against the Toronto, perhaps at this point the Seawolves had nothing left to give. 20-17. The Seawolves managed to hang on and the game with JP Smith getting rid of the ball.
No.8 and captain, Riekert Hattingh, deserves a special mention for a stellar 80 minute performance. Hattingh was immense on defence and also made a crucial line out steal. But more than any player, the ref needs a shoutout. Damian Schneider of Argentina let the game flow and refereed like one would the Top14, with a large hint of laissez-faire.
Writes Fergus Macdonald
(Image via Seattle Seawolves)
March 09, 2022 4 min read
As far as I'm concerned this last weekend's Heineken Cup encounters will be remembered primarily for confirming one thing – that Stade Toulousain are the true aristocrats of European rugby.