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In its final home game of the season at Starfire Stadium, the Seattle Seawolves feasted on the NOLA Gold for their fourth victory of the year. The 55-26 win puts the Pacific Northwest squad in first place in the MLR with three games to go. Seattle’s seven-try offensive output is the most points scored by any team this season and the Seawolves hope to add to their three-game winning streak this Saturday against Houston.
Seattle started quickly with three tries in first ten minutes before NOLA could answer with a try of its own. After ten more points via a penalty and try, the Gold gained some traction scoring with a penalty try in the 37th minute followed by a score by Tesimoni Tonga'uiha at the buzzer with the man advantage. With the conversion, NOLA clawed its way back into the game to trail 31-21 at the half.
The Gold picked up where it left off early in second as Michael Baska cut the deficit to five points, but that would be the closest NOLA would get. Seattle’s "Sea-Wall" defense shut down the NOLA attack the rest of the way while the offense turned up the intensity leading to three more tries for the home team.
Brock Staller, the intrepid wing who scored a total of 25 points with two tries, six for six on conversions, and penalty, was proud of his team to play a full 80. “I was impressed most by our maturity to close out the game in the second half. NOLA came close, but we stayed calm, kept to our game plan, which helped us take home the win.
Although the “Sea-Wall” sprang on few leaks in the middle of the game, it never broke. “Since day one, our focus has been on defense and managing space,” Staller said. “NOLA tried to attack very flat and had some success in the first half. However, we kept applying pressure and gave them no gaps to run at in the second.”
NOLA dug itself a deep hole to start and ultimately was unable to recover. “We started the game poorly and weren’t able to put in any kind of attack structure we were trying to achieve,” Gold captain Taylor Howden said. “We missed a lot of tackles and defensive assignments and obviously, let them score three quick tries.”
“It took 20 minutes to finally get an attack going as we were playing catch-up,” Howden added. “After the hydration break and in the first five minutes after halftime, we were playing some good rugby, but we weren’t able to capitalize later in the game.”
Coach Nathan Osborne agreed that the slow start definitely hurt NOLA. “I think it took us some time to really get into our game plan. But once we did, we showed what we can do. We didn't stick to it for long enough in the game and that was the difference... We got off to a very slow start but dug deep to give ourselves a chance right after halftime.”
Despite the loss, NOLA is still in the playoff hunt currently in fifth place. However, the Gold has a tall task ahead of them against Glendale at home.
“We have to nut up or shut up basically,” Howden stated. “We have to pride ourselves in defense, come off the line, and make our tackles... A team like Glendale will punish you if you can’t [finish your tackles.] It’s going to take a massive defensive effort for the boys if we want to get up and get on the result.”
Osborne found a silver lining in the defeat. “We have something to fix up for sure. But all in all for as much as we let ourselves down, I was proud of the way we fought back. We gave ourselves a chance and fought until the end. Sometimes as a coach that's all you can ask for. The game didn't go our way but we never quit.”
As for Seattle, Houston is next on the docket and captain Phil Mack is confident in his squad. “[Saturday] was our best team performance. We played well together and showed when we stick to our system, we can be very clinical and effective... We need to be disciplined enough to operate in that system for 80.”