Peter Steinberg, CBS Sports rugby commentator, insisted during the Seattle Seawolves game against the New Orleans Gold May 12 that poor tackling on the part of the southern team led to their 31-29 defeat.
And 100 percent perfect tackling would mean no tries scored and certain victory — or nothing worse than a 0-0 tie. But poor tackling can have two causes. The defenders might be slow, weak or easily got around, as Steinberg seemed to imply about NOLA. But some players are just hard to tackle. Some players like William Rasileka, Shalom Suniula, Will Holder, Matt Turner, Peter Tiberio, Peter Smith. Those Seawolves backs cut up the NOLA defense to combine for four tries. Smith was the perfect kicker, connecting on all four conversions and a penalty. (Steinberg also rightfully pointed out that NOLA could have tied the game with one more successfully kicked conversion or won if one of their missed penalty kicks had gone through.)
None of those Seattle tries would have been scored if NOLA tacklers had been more proficient, but the quick steps, deceptive passes and well executed plays of the Seattle backs made the NOLA task daunting.
And Seattle’s game is an exciting one to watch. Major League Rugby liked this score enough to name it the try of the week:
But for my money, the Seattle movement that starts at 2:00 in the video below is a lot more fun to watch:
On Sunday, the Seawolves face the Utah Warriors at sold-out Starfire Stadium back home in Tukwila. (5:30 PDT)
The Seawolves had to hang on to the very end to get the win against NOLA, and from the MLR game report on Utah’s win last week over Austin, it sounds like Seattle better be prepared to hang around to the end again if they want a victory. Austin’s Hanco Germishuys summed it up this way: “It just came down to the end. At the end Utah had more pace than us, more passion to get that win. In the second half we had that 20 minutes but then we started falling off.”
For Seattle on Sunday, there can be no falling off.
Let’s start with Vili Toluta’u, named to this week’s Major League Rugby’s all league team. In Saturday’s game, the senior at Central Washington University popped out of the Glendale Raptor’s maul with the ball several times, contrary to the way things usually happen when a team settles in to drive down the field and instead gets a hard-running Hawaiian champagne cork flying at the scrum half. Makes him all-league open side flanker for the week.
Ray Barkwill and Tim Metcher take two of the three spots in this week’s all-league front row. The Canadian hooker and Australian prop are like stakes in the ground in the set scrums, holding firm until a second row like Taylor Krumrei, a University of Oregon alum, puts them in motion, driving low and forward. Taylor made the all-league team for the week, and Olive Kilifi could have filled out that other front row spot as far as I’m concerned. He’s a solid block of muscle and experience. (And I apologize for calling him Olive like the green things in a glass jar. I’m told by a person in the stands who says he knows Kilifi’s cousin that it is pronouced O-leave-eh.)
Four of the eight forwards on the all-league week’s team from Seattle. Add to that William Rasileka out in the backs. The Fijian played for his national side in 15s and 7s and came to Seattle in 2011 to play for Old Puget Sound Beach and then the Seattle Saracens. Nice to have him still in town, steady in defense and dangerous with the ball in hand.
With five of the 15 all-league roster coming from the Seawolves, it does raise the question: Why didn’t they win on Saturday?
That’s probably best answered by looking at the rest of the week’s rep side. There you will find the names of Harley Davidson (hooray for his parents if they decided on Harley) at wing and Maximo De Achaval (kudos to his parents as well) at fullback. Davidson had the second half try that put the Raptors up 16-3.
The answer to the question is complete when you look at the player of the week (who mysteriously does not get named onto the team of the week — what am I missing?). Here’s what the league said in naming the week’s top player:
“Glendale’s Zach Fenoglio earned Player of the Week honors. Fenoglio showed off tremendous versatility by starting the match at flanker and finishing at hooker. The Denver native converted a crucial try to help lift the Raptors over the Seattle Seawolves and start the season 2-0.”
Add in two penalty kicks from Glendale’s Will Magie, strong Raptor defense and lots of Seawolves handling mistakes, and you’ve got your answer.
Still, they persisted, scoring as time ran out. That try brought the Seawolves within seven points of Glendale (19-15), close enough for a bonus point in the standings (also awarded to a team that scores four tries in a game). That could be a crucial difference come playoff time (June 30 and July 7).
When the score was 3-16 favor of the Glendale Raptors, the Seattle Seawolves had a chance to come back Saturday, April 28, and win their second game of their inaugural Major League Rugby professional season.
Just two tries and two conversions, and they would have a one point win, 17-16.
Wouldn’t that be exciting?
And Vili Toluta’u obliged with a second-half try and Brock Staller hit the conversion for a 10-16 score. One more try, one more conversion and the deed would be done.
It would be a reversal of how things had gone for most of the game for the Seawolves. The Glendale defense kept the Seattle backs penned up, and Seattle’s speedsters resorted to more kicks than the crowd would have liked. But when playing in your own end, kicking is usually the best way out of trouble. The Seattle running game mostly ended with the rain-slicked ball slipping through Seawolves’ hands (flippers?).
Two penalty kicks by Will Magie of the Raptors and a try by Zach Fenoglio had the Colorado team up 11-0 before Staller opened Seawolves’ scoring right before half with a penalty kick.
In the second half, the man with the best name in American pro rugby, Harley Davidson, added five with his try to get the game to that hopeful moment for the Seawolves.
But after the try by Toluta’u, who had been all over the field all night on defense and with the ball, Magie added another penalty kick that doused Seattle hopes like the heavy falling rain.
A try at the final whistle by George Barton closed the scoring and the game at 19-15 for Glendale.
The Seawolves have a bye next week and then are at New Orleans on May 12. On May 20, they return to Starfire Stadium in Tukwila to face the Utah Warriors and then the New Orleans Gold at home on May 27.
Two of my favorite things from the game Saturday: Just before the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, a V of geese flew over the stadium right over the color guard, a perfect flyover for the Pacific Northwest.
I also liked that the crowd sang the national anthem. That’s the way it should be done instead of having some professional do it while the crowd waits to see if the singer can hit the high notes at the end. The person beside me in the stands said our version Saturday sounded like a round with one side of the field coming in behind the other side, but hey, we raised our voices instead of shuffling from one leg to the other.
When the Glendale, Colo., Raptors show up at Starfire Stadium to face the Seattle Seawolves this Saturday (April 28), they’ll be without two of their dominant players.
Ben Landry, second row, and Connor Cook, wing forward, have both been suspended for three weeks by Major League Rugby. Both Landry and Cook received red cards last Saturday for dump tackling – upending a player and driving him head first into the ground – during the Raptors’ 41-26 win over the Austin Elite.
Both Landry and Cook had scored tries before they were ordered out of the game, not to be replaced.
Landry has played for the U.S. national team, and when his MLR season ends, he’ll head off to England to play for the Ealing Trailfinders.
Cook played for the Waimea Rugby Club in Hawaii, for Arkansas State University and might have the best dreadlocks in rugby.
While not having these two players on the field might seem advantage Seawolves, Seattle fans might be wise to hold their glee in check. Despite losing Landry, Cook and then another player who received a yellow card at 73:35, the Raptors were able to prevent the Elite from scoring. Playing 12 men to 15 and keeping the 15 out of the try zone for almost 10 minutes indicates some defensive prowess.
The Seawolves’ lineup will probably be missing Riekert Hattingh this week. He took a blow to the head during the first half of the 39-23 win over the San Diego Legion last week that left him staggering to the sideline with the help of medical staff. Before that, he had startled the San Diego backs and thrilled Seattle fans when he burst out the back of a San Diego ruck that seemed to have the ball well protected and ran 50 yards up the field before passing to his backs. He’s a thrill to watch, but safety says to keep him out for the week.
The Seawolves come into Saturday’s game riding a positive wave of good tidings. They were named the team of the week by Major League Rugby. Both Seawolves’ props, Kellen Gordon and Tim Metcher, made the league’s rep side of the week as did fullback Matt Turner. Player coach Phil Mack didn’t make the team of the week but he was named player of the week.
How does that happen?
Nonetheless, the league had nice things to say about Mack, who took over head coaching duties only a couple of weeks before the first game:
“Mack’s duties over the past few weeks have increased,” the league said. “Stepping into the lead coaching role, he built a game plan based around the Seawolves strength in the scrum. His agility and ball speed out of the ruck put the ball in the hands of his fly-half Will Holder for quick-play. Mack’s timely box kicks took the pressure off the Seawolves when they were within their own half.”
Seawolves’ management says the fan experience will be even better this week at Starfire. Twice as many beer and wine stands. More bathrooms. Another food truck. Lines on the field made more visible (they’ll be the blue ones).
But they promise the sunshine from last week?
Gates open at 5:30, and there is a curtain raiser between two youth clubs: Budd Bay vs. Liberty Club.
The game is sold out, but it’s the game of the week on CBS Sports Network. Kickoff and broadcast at 7:30 p.m.
Predicting the outcome of a game between two rugby teams in their first regular- season pro games in a new league’s first ever weekend of competition is a foolhardy task to attempt, something that would only occur in the mind of a journalist restless on the night before the game.
I plead guilty. Here goes:
The Seattle Seawolves have sold out Starfire Stadium in Tukwila for their game Sunday at 5 p.m. against the San Diego Legion. For Seattle, it’s the first pro rugby ever played in the city.
San Diego had a taste of Pro Rugby – in capital letters as a proper name – in 2016 when that effort had a one-year existence. The San Diego Breakers were part of that league, and Matt Hawkins, who has been a highly visible part of American rugby for more than a decade, was an assistant coach. He reappears in the Legion organization as the general manager. Anyone who has seen Hawkins play knows he is likely to have a hard-nosed team at Starfire on Sunday.
It’s hard to get a sense of the Legion’s roster from the team web site, which is by far the worst in Major League Rugby, but from reading the match reports of their pre-season games, some names stand out. Cam Dolan at Number 8 appears to be a forward who can run in the open and score. Nate Augspurger at scrum half, Ben Cima at center and Taku Ngwenya on the wing are described as backline “firepower.” Tadhg Leader, the place kicker, looks steady. The Legion beat Austin Elite, 32-24, and lost 33-17 to the Houston SaberCats, led by former Seattle Saracen coach Justin Fitzpatrick.
Seattle comes into game under player-coach Phil Mack, known up north as “The Little Magician.” He took over coaching duties after Tony Healy, also from Canada, ran into visa troubles. Whether three weeks running the team has been enough time for Mack to mold a winner gets put to the test Sunday. Pre-season competition has been limited to a 47-7 trashing of the Prairie Wolf Pack, apparently a team of masochists out of Calgary as they traveled on to an 80-12 drubbing Friday at the hands, feet, shoulders and whatever else MLR’s Utah Warriors chose to apply to the Pack’s backsides.
A track meet like the Seawolves’ win over the Wolf Pack has the benefit of showing what every move, play and stratagem looks like in perfect execution against little defense. It has the disadvantage of lacking the kind of competition that reveals what happens when opponents disrupt perfection and your team must pick up the pieces and innovate – the real beauty of rugby.
Asked to make a prediction about Sunday’s game, Seawolves co-owner and operator Shane Skinner was at his political best: “The guys have trained incredibly hard so I predict they are going to put out their best possible effort – 100% confident on that!”
Having seen the Seawolves at practice, I know Shane is correct. They are a hard-working bunch. Shane sets a good example that even a journalist should follow:
I predict both teams will play at full speed and will not disappoint the 3,500 plus fans at Starfire on Sunday. See you there.
Wednesday, July 5, 2017: The grandparents on Cole’s graduation trip to Italy had only one “must see (and hear)” item: an opera at the Roman amphitheater in Verona.
We had our doubts about it, too.
We feared that a 17-year-old who plays Brad Paisley and the Zac Brown Band songs on his guitar might find four hours of Verdi’s “Aida” grounds for divorce.
Still, we were determined. We packed along a libretto of the opera and a quick-read summary of the story (captured princess has to decide whom to betray, lover, father, country, etc. and everyone dies tragically in the end, the usual opera stuff). We hoped they would give Cole a clue about what was being sung in Italian without subtitles. We explained, warned and talked how it is with acquired tastes. We hoped we had him convinced, or at least prepared.
We pulled into Verona on the hottest day of our trip – in the 80s when we found the car park near our Airbnb, an apartment near the Roman arena. Our accommodations, up four flights of narrow stairs, were doing a highly efficient job of retaining the afternoon heat.
At some point during our stay, some of the party went off to visit Juliet’s balcony, as in “Romeo, Romeo, where art thou?” That Juliet. It was almost right across the street from us, tourists flowing in and out of the entrance and me wondering if they knew Shakespeare’s play was a work of fiction. There’s no proof this was THE balcony (how could it be?), but the house was once owned by the Cappelletti family, close enough in name to Willie’s Capulets, the enemies of the Montagues.
I did bite my thumb at the whole affair and remained upstairs sweating in my underwear until it was time to get dressed for the opera.
In 1913, “Aida” was the first opera performed in the amphitheater, which has been around since the First Century A.D.
We had great seats straight across from the stage and the part of the arena used as a desert backdrop. This production started with a strange twist, having 20th Century archeologists setting up to dig and find the final resting place of Aida and the one she didn’t betray (if you don’t call being buried alive a betrayal). Then it launches into the ancient story of Egypt and Ethiopia.
My only disappointment: cardboard elephants. Probably best for the real things that they didn’t have to be dragged on stage as they have been in many productions of this opera, but I figured if there was ever a chance of seeing a full Aida boogie, this might be it. Not so. Animal lovers win again.
A mere four hours later and Aida and friend were safely tucked away and the temperature hadn’t dropped a bit. Crowds were still milling in the streets and around 1 a.m. we found an outdoor table at a plaza near our sweat box.
“That wasn’t half as bad as you guys said it would be,” Cole said over sandwiches and gelato.
I hope you took my advice back in October when I recommended 10 places you should visit before they died. If you wanted to see Bears Ears and Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monuments without oil rigs, you should have left for Utah last night.
A man who thinks wilderness is the long grass beside a golf fairway on Monday signed orders to slice these two areas into five separate areas and reduce their size by 85 and 46 percent respectively.
Lawsuits have already been filed to challenge this largest ever reversal on protecting national lands, and it is in the courts that the best – or the worst – outcome will be determined from today’s assault on the Antiquities Act of 1906, which brought our country’s national monuments into existence.
If the slicer gets his way, then you better make plans to get to the other national monuments that were on the original gift list for the oil, gas and mining industries.
Head to Arizona and stay awhile in the Grand Canyon-Parshant National Monument. Words on its website are calling you: “solitude, isolate, expansive landscape, natural and cultural history, undeveloped landscape, journey into the wild.”
On to California, perhaps on the longest remaining undeveloped stretch of storied Route 66, which is in the Mojave Trails National Monument along with Native American trading routes and World War II training camps.
Six of the monuments on the original slice list were in California, so plan on a long visit there. The Pacific Crest Trail Association is fighting to make sure two of these monuments remain intact since the 2,650-mile path from Canada to Mexico passes through them. Better grab your pack and make the 30-mile trek on the trail through the desert, forest and mountains of the Sand to Snow National Monument.
You’ll need more time for the 87 miles of the PCT through the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, and you’ll probably see more people because it serves as an escape valve for nearby Los Angeles County – reason enough to protect as much as possible to give these city folks room for healthful outdoor activities.
Urban and agriculture growth has taken over most of the grassland that once covered California’s Central Valley. The Carrizo Plain National Monument protects what’s left and should remain untouched to continue doing so.
Yuki, Nomlaki, Patwin, Pomo, Huchnom, Wappo, Lake Miwok and Wintum. Those are the peoples who thrived for 11,000 years in what is now California. The Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument website says the 330,780 acres under protection are “dense with cultural sites.” If Secretary of the Interior Zinke and his boss get to continue their giveway this monument would inevitably leave some of these sites vulnerable.
Stinkee Zinke (that had to be his schoolyard name) said he saw no need to destroy the following national monuments, but there is one good thing you can say about the former Navy SEAL: He follows orders. Gut the national lands other have preserved, orders the slicer-in-chief, and Stinkee guts them. If the Big Cheeto gets his way on Bears Ears and Escalante, nothing is safe.
So add this to your itinerary: Plan a paddle in Washington state in the Hanford Reach National Monument – 33 miles on the last undammed stretch of the Columbia River. It’s home to migratory birds, spring wildflowers, butterflies and elk. The Monument is across the river from the off-limits Hanford Site, which produced the plutonium for the atomic bombs dropped in WWII. Let’s hope this quote on the Monument website holds true: “Born of fire and ice and flood over millions of years, preserved through the war and conflict of half a century, now protected forever.”
Last stop is in Montana at the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, which, the website says, has “remained largely unchanged in the nearly 200 years since Meriwether Lewis and William Clark traveled through it on their epic journey.” Future generations of paddlers and wanderers should have the chance to see the White Cliffs and surrounding lands these early Americans wrote about.
The emphasis in the Trump order and Zinke’s comments has been on local control, allowing state and local officials more say on land owned by all Americans. The lands will be opened to private extraction industries such as timber or oil and gas interests, which is most obvious in the “review” for five marine National Monuments — Marianas Trench, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, Pacific Remote Islands, Papahanaumokuakea and Rose Atoll. Trump’s order entitled this section “Implementing An America-First Offshore Energy Strategy” and gives the rubber stamp to the Department of Commerce (in consultation with the Secretary of the Interior).
Tuesday, July 4, 2017: Oh, to be that sophisticated traveler who passes nonchalantly by tourist attractions as if he or she has seen it all, has way more worldly experience to ever succumb to those ridiculous antics others perform because they think they must. As that sophisticated tourist, I’d like to have the Grand March from Aida as the mental background music as I breeze by without wasting a coin tossed in a fountain, never posing for a photograph as if holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa, never salivating over the cars in the Ferrari museum in Italy.
Instead, I heard “From the Indies to the Andes in his Undies” in my corn pone head and posed (mostly unsuccessfully) for dumb pictures in Pisa and left my DNA for the carabinieri to collect from the hoods of the many cars I drooled over in Maranello, Italy. I resisted the temptation at Trevi Fountain but only because the crowd was so thick I couldn’t get close enough to wet a euro.
When we arrived at the tower of Pisa, we split up, with Kathy headed into the cathedral while Cole and I got in line to climb the bell tower – after taking stupid pictures, of course.
It’s 186 feet to the top of the tower, or 273 steps, which do not always go up because of the lean. The pitch is down and then up as you go from one side of the tower to the other, like climbing in and out of a bowl.
Construction of the tower started in 1174 A.D. and by the time it was halfway up, it was starting to lean. Efforts to keep it standing include adding lead for ballast. Glad it stayed upright while we were inside and on top.
From up there, you can see the entire “Square of Miracles,” a UNESCO World Heritage Site whose central feature (aside from the famous tower) is Il Duomo, the cathedral.
The cathedral features artistic and architectural elements from Classical, Byzantine and Islamic traditions. Note the Moorish influence in the black and white marble arches.
Massive but otherwise relatively unassuming on the outside, it is, on the inside, a marvel of marble, detailed mosaics, grand granite columns (68 of them) and stately sculptures underneath a soaring gilded ceiling, reports Kathy, our insider.
Among dozens of impressive art works stuffed into every nave and nook of this place is Giovanni Pisano’s eight-sided pulpit, considered his sculptural masterwork. Created in the early 1300s, its statues symbolize the virtues, and the intricate marble relief panels above depict scenes from the New Testament.
It’s interesting to note that not all the beautiful works in this place were acquired by, shall we say, honorable means. Loot from the Mosque of Palermo and other spoils of a war with Muslims in Sicily remain ensconced here. Pisa was into power, and the buildings here were meant in part to underscore its position as a major shipping and trading center. These days, it’s tourism that keeps the crowds coming.
Wednesday, July 5, 2017: From Pisa, it was on to Maranello to fulfill Cole’s only other specific request for his Italy trip (besides eating lots of good Italian food): Visit the Ferrari museum. That’s a place we never would have visited on our own, but we’re happy that Cole got us there.I believed deep down that I was so divorced from material wants and needs, from the constant coveting of more, more, more that I could walk through this resplendent display of $250,000 cars (minimum) without an envious whisper of “You should be driving one of these” echoing in my head.
Those whispers started in the first rooms of the museum as Enzo Ferarri tells his story through early designs and wood car models. The history of the Ferrari enterprise unfolds and Brigitte Bardot, Sammy Davis Junior and Jack Palance (born Vladimir Ivanovich Palahniuk) appear in photographs while seated in their sleek sports cars.
Then past row after row of polished automobiles, high octane racing cars, leather upholstery, chrome, bright shiny objects that shouted speed, style and sizzle.
By the time we got to the 166 MM, Barchetta Touring car from 1949, the theme from “Un Homme et Une Femme” was playing in my head and a voice was shouting, “This is THE ONE!” I was ready to hop in and drive it to Genoa for shipping back to Seattle. Alas, there were only 33 of these made, and they don’t go for peanuts. A cruise around the internet shows auction prices today hitting speeds of up to $8 million.
Reality started working its way into my fantasy, and I decided it was time for rubbery pizza (reasonable price) at the museum cafeteria before climbing back into the Citroen for the drive to Verona and Venice.
Sunday, July 2, 2017: Technology is such a boon to travelers – except when it’s not.
Praise to Garmin for getting us from Montepulciano to Castiglioncello on the Mediterraean coast of Italy. We sailed through small towns and around Siena and Volterra with our pleasant Garmin lady announcing every turn and roundabout. While eating fish and pasta on the main drag of Castiglioncello we turned to Booking.com to find the Residence Macchiaioli. We were attracted by its promise of a pool and free parking. It was a ways out of town, but we had the lovely Miss Garmin to aid us.
Then it came “when it’s not” boon time for technology.
The winding roads above Castiglioncello proved a challenge for that Garmin bitch. The “car” on the display never quite kept up with where the real car was on the road. In a tight spot with many twists and turns, the Garmin stutterer wasn’t always in sync with us. In fairness to her, I don’t always agree and tend to strike out on my own, like down a one-way street the wrong way, which almost resulted in a motorcyclist becoming a bug splatter on our windshield. This came during a grocery shopping trip that took way longer than anticipated – parking nearly impossible to find, identifying and/or finding the foods we wanted complicated by our ignorance of Italian and then spending a frustrating hour trying to find our way back to the condo on the hill above town.
Our rental car was a Citroen, a French automobile that only spoke German when we picked it up in Rome. But the dashboard icons were easy to understand — at least they were until they started to disappear. We missed the fuel gauge most of all. We could still see how fast we were going but had no idea of how far we could go.
The next day, we recruited help to recover the gas gauge. Celina, the gracious hostess at the residence, couldn’t figure it out, but she brought on an international board of consultants. A German woman dragooned from the pool could speak English to me but could not read the owner’s manual, which was entirely in Italian. A Polish vacationer, who now lived in England and spoke some German, brought three languages to the front seat of the car to puzzle over the dashboard. Her husband had only Polish and some English in his linguistic quiver, but language might not have been what hit the target. I had already tried random icon pushing, but he found the right combination and not only brought the gas gauge back to the surface but was able to give the Citroen an English lesson. That was especially helpful in keeping everyone calm (me especially) when the car’s many shrieking alarms sounded. Open a door without setting the parking brake produced the loudest and most disarming blare with the longest and least understood explanation flashing in orange on the German version of the dashboard. At least when it was in English, I knew what I had done wrong. I’m sure the German version emphasized the word “dummkopf” many times, thankfully not translated into English.
While the most modern technology brought the most frustration because of our lack of familiarity, this was a day when the old world piled it on as well. We never got the front door key to work and left a back door unlocked so we could come and go. The gas stove didn’t work until we found the main valve to turn on the supply to the apartment. The water shut off mid-morning, but by “signing” with others at the pool we learned that the problem was throughout the building, not just in our unit. Fortunately, water was restored in time to head off caffeine deprivation and before we had to pantomime toilet activities.
Despite the challenges, we loved the Residence Macchiaioli and stayed for two days, visiting the beach at Cecina, chatting with Celina and checking in with our Polish-English auto whisperer, who responded to a late-afternoon inquiry on how he was doing by answering, “A little drunk, but OK.”