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The Major League Rugby season couldn’t have started better for the Seattle Seawolves. After a one-game preseason, the Pacific Northwest outfit took the field at Starfire Stadium in Seattle, Wash. and beat the San Diego Legion with a clinical attack and domineering scrum. The Legion did score a pair of tries in the second half, but the story of the day was the Seawolves’ dominant scrum producing three penalty tries en route to a 39-23 home-opening victory.
"We are extremely happy to have started the season with a win,” Seattle’s MLR Player of the Week Phil Mack said. “Our forwards really set us up for success in the game and have to take a ton of credit for their ability to pressure the Legion pack. That being said, I think our defense really held firm against a very talented attacking team. We still have a lot of work to do but we can take a lot from that game and grow."
Fullback Mat Turner praised the play of the forwards to set the platform for success. “The game was won up front with the big boys. We stuck to a simple but effective process for the day and executed it. The defense was also a big factor driven by Aladdin [Schirmer], where we knew we needed to front up for the physical battle which we did from number 1-23."
The set piece and defense were keys to the win and the plan put in place by player/coach Mack was essential. "As a team, we decided we want to be strong in two areas, the first being set piece and the second was defense. I feel like we accomplished those two to a degree. The aim now is to shape other parts of our game. But sets and defense will be our identity."
There were many standout performances on the Seattle side, but hooker Ray Barkwell earned the Man of the Match. “Ray demanded high standards in the set piece. He guided the panzer tank scrum upfront, was pinpoint on the lineouts, and showed a great work rate around the park,” Turner said. “[Additionally,] William Rasileka had some great tackles and ran some amazing lines. Aladdin Schirmer left it all out there with a huge amount of work done off the ball and added great carries and strong tackles.”
Based on the results of the match, the San Diego Legion is still a work in progress. “We gave away 16 penalties and had between 12 to 16 turnovers,” Legion general manager Matt Hawkins said. “When you are playing that type of a game and giving the ball away, it’s going to be very hard to win a game.”
Seattle took advantage of San Diego’s forward pack, but Hawkins believes that it will be mended in time. “We feel very confident that they are going to learn and grow throughout the season. It’s something for us to work on but nothing for us to worry about.”
Although the scoreline didn’t reflect the effort on the pitch, Hawkins observed heart and potential in the Legion. “I think the guys were always in the game, they never stopped, and kept trying to get us into position where we could win the game. They fought, they showed incredible character and a tremendous amount of effort. I am very happy with that and I see them marching forward with a lot of positive energy.”
San Diego hosts the Utah Warriors this Saturday. “They are obviously a big team and has a lot of size. [Utah] is a group that you need to tackle and tackle the first time. If you give them momentum and go forward ball, they are going to be a very difficult side to stop. We have to be very smart about how we are going to play defense.”
As for Seattle’s next opponent on Saturday night, the Seawolves will face an equally dominant club in the Glendale Raptors in front of a national television audience on CBS Sports Network. Turner expects a physical melee with the forwards taking center stage. “In terms of Glendale, they will be much more seasoned in the pack and we will have more of an upfront battle which I’m sure will be where they will focus much of their attention.”
Lastly, when it was announced that Seattle was named as the MLR Team of the Week, Mack was ecstatic by the honor. "The MLR Team of the Week is what really fires me up. This group has shown its ability to deal with adversity already so to get recognized for our unity is very special. Looking forward to next week now. We can't forget mentioning the incredible fans as well. There support really pushed the boys forward in that game. Thank you, Seattle!"