The Seattle Seawolves claimed the inaugural Major League Rugby championship Saturday with a 23-19 triumph over the Glendale Raptors in San Diego, California.
The Seawolves, beaten twice by the Raptors in the regular season, finally found a way past the Colorado club, who were the top seeds in the playoffs after losing just once in the regular season of the fledgling league, which kicked off in April with seven franchises.
The league is the latest attempt at launching a top-flight rugby union league in the United States.
Seattle flyhalf Peter Smith opened the scoring with a penalty goal for a 3-0 lead, but Glendale replied with a maul that put hooker Zach Fenoglio over. Flyhalf Will Magie converted for a 7-3 lead for the Raptors.
A try from hooker Ray Barkwill gave the Seawolves a narrow 8-7 lead at the half.
But Glendale regained the initiative with two quick tries early in the second half, Magie’s conversion of Bryce Campbell’s try putting the Raptors up 19-8.
The Seawolves, bolstered in the playoffs by the return of USA and Canadian internationals including Olive Kilifi, Barkwill and Vili Toluta’u, responded minutes later as William Rasileka crashed over in the corner.
Two minutes later Seattle’s Riekert Hattingh powered over and Smith’s conversion made it 20-19 for the Seawolves.
A Smith penalty completed the scoring at Torero Stadium on the campus of the University of San Diego, where MLR’s San Diego Legion play their home games.
MLR, which could expand to as many as 10 teams next year, follows a failed 2016 attempt to establish a US league, with PRO Rugby lasting only one season with five clubs.
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) July 8, 2018
bb/ska (Additional editing by Sean McMahon)
© Agence France-Presse