Another rugby all-nighter, but only 2 games

Getting ready for another rugby all nighter with Canada playing Italy, starting at 12:45 a.m., and then the United States taking on England at 3:45 a.m. I should be a champ at Pilates at 10 a.m.

I hope Canada remembers how close they came to beating Italy at the Rugby World Cup in 2015. They were behind 13-10 at half but regained the lead with a try. Italy came back with another try, 20-15. Canada added a penalty kick, 20-18, and Italy finished with another penalty to win 23-18. I thought Canada could have, should have.

Maybe having four members on the Canadian team who played for the Seattle Seawolves in the Major League Rugby will help them to a win. Jeff Hassler is starting at wing, and in reserves are two props, Djustice Sears-Duru and Jake Ilnicki, and the Seawolves scrum half and coach, Phil Mack.

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Olive Kilifi at 2015 RWC

The only Seawolves on the United States Eagles is Olive Kilifi, who was also on the team in 2015. Another Pacific Northwesterner is Titi Lamositele, 24, born in Bellingham and an athlete at Sehome High School. He now plays for the London Saracens in the Premiership League there.

If the Eagles beat England this morning, it might knock Trump’s impeachment troubles off the front page (if I were the news editor). ESPN had a good article on the USA chances, noting that the professional league has brought more fit players into camp. The Eagles are in the “Pool of Death,” with England, France, Argentina and Tonga ranked above them. Tonga might be their best bet for a RWC victory in 2019.

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Tit Lamositele at 2015 RWC

One surprise already in the 2019 RWC: Uruguay beat Fiji last night, 30-27. Wales and Australia also have wins in that pool. Can Uruguay beat either one? Georgia, also in the pool, fell 43-14 against Wales. Los Teros also have several team members who played in the Major League Rugby. Maybe that made the difference over Fiji. With several MLR players for the USA, will it make a difference against England?

My new team, Ireland, trounces Scotland. So what?

Irish“Skies growing darker while the prospects for Ireland are growing brighter,” said the announcer during the Ireland-Scotland rugby game early Sunday morning. That may be, as the Irish won 27-3 over Scotland in both teams’ first games in the 2019 Rugby World Cup, but I’m not so sure things are bright enough to see an Irish victory over New Zealand if that match ever came about in this tournament.

The Irish forwards looked strong against Scotland, scoring three of their four tries, before a wing added one more and then “Ireland took all the pace out of the game,” the announcer said, as Ireland played cautious ball to protect their lead. Those four tries  win a bonus point for Ireland, but remember this is Scotland, the team that fell to United States in 2018, the first time the Eagles beat a Tier One team. Ireland will advance out of Pool A, but Scotland, figuring they can beat Russia and Samoa, might have a hard time getting by Japan to move into the quarter finals.

Good bet that New Zealand will advance out of Pool B, and a potential Irish-New Zealand match could come during the weekend of Oct. 19 and 20. I’ll be on my couch cheering for Ireland and hoping for a new nation to win the RWC.

Also happy to report that my scrum slumber during the New Zealand-South Africa game had nothing to do with the strength of my coffee, heavy food or even my age. Simply a matter of too much rugby in the middle of the night and early morning. So I skipped English beating Tonga, 35-3, and I’m laying off viewing rugby until the Eagles take on England Thursday, Sept. 26, at a 3:45 a.m. PDT. No Wales vs. Georgia, Russia vs. Samoa, Fiji vs. Uruguay or Italy vs. Canada (might make an exception there at 12:45 Thursday morning).

USA over England? That would be an upset that would lend big time mystery over who escapes Pool C.

A question: The 2019 RWC is being held in Japan. The stadium was filled with Irish and Scot fans, who were loudly singing along to. . .  John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Road.” Do they know where West Virginia is and what’s there?

 

My rugby over nighter was a huge disappointment

The rugby all nighter turned out to be a disappointment. It started at 9:30 PDT Friday night with the kick off of the Australia-Fiji match in the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Then on to the France-Argentina game and finally the belle of the evening: New Zealand vs. South Africa. Actually, the belle of the morning as it started at 2:30.

What I was looking for was disruption in one of the four pools in which the 20 teams had been organized. An upset. Argentina over France (that’s happened before). Fiji over Australia (could happen). South Africa and New Zealand? Could go either way, but as much as I like rooting for the Kiwis – great country, great haka and greatest rugby – it would be nice to give others a chance. New Zealand has won three of the eight Rugby World Cups, including the last two. South Africa has won twice.

It would be nice if someone besides Tier One nations won this thing – or at least threw in some mystery on where this would all end up on Nov. 2, the day of the championship game.

Fiji could create some mystery in Pool D if they knocked off Australia. Not to be. Fiji made a good run in the first half, but the Wallabies settled down in the second half, got stingy with possession of the ball, and Fiji got tired, frustrated and resorted to reaching in to grab the ball out of rucks and mauls, resulting in penalties and then, a yellow card. Australia won 39-21 and picked up a bonus point for scoring four tries. And Wales and the Wallabies will probably go on to the quarter finals out of Pool D.

Argentina gave the most exciting game of the evening/morning. The Pumas were down 17-3 at half time but scored 18 points to get to a 21-20 lead over France, who had a three point penalty kick to get to 20. France needed a drop goal in the last few minutes to regain the lead at 23-21. A last minute penalty kick to Argentina wandered left of the posts, and they will have to settle for one bonus point for finishing within seven of the winner.

Only the United States and Tonga are left to keep the predictable England and France from moving forward out of Pool C. The USA Eagles get their chance against England on Thursday, Sept. 26, at 3:45 a.m. PDT. Another early day to rise.

Which leads me to my biggest disappointment of the rugby all nighter. The New Zealand-South Africa game displayed superb rugby skills, great runs, good defense and gritty scrummaging – what you expect from these top teams. The Kiwis prevailed 23-13 over the Springboks, and I can’t tell you much about how they did that because I woke up with my iPad on my chest with Kieran Read, the Kiwi captain, giving an interview on how they held off South Africa.

Narcolepsy may be common in baseball stadiums, and it is increasingly reported in the stands of America’s brand of slow football, but no one – no one – falls asleep during a rugby game, even after six hours of middle-of-the-night viewing. Could be the strength of my coffee. It could be from squinting at a small screen. It could be, I can barely stand to say this . . . It could be age. No, no. Lack of exercise. Too much heavy food. Up the night before for the Japan-Russia game? Maybe.

Only one way to find out what is up with my sleep patterns, or lack of them. The Ireland-Scotland game starts Sunday morning at 12:45 PDT. Ireland may have the best chance of breaking the chain of usual suspects. I’ll be on the couch.

 

Seattle Seawolves hand New York its first loss

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Seattle Seawolves defense: Two on one and two more coming soon. George Barton tackling above and Shalom Suniula hangling onto a foot.

The Seattle Seawolves combined strong defense, speedy back play and accurate kicking to hand Rugby United New York its first defeat of the season, 33-21.

All scoring came from tries and conversions with no penalty kicks attempted in the game. The Seawolves scored five tries with Brock Staller converting all but one when his kick bounced off the left post. That may have been the only thing he did wrong all night.

He scored two of the Seawolves five tries including a 75-yard run after picking up an errant New York pass.

The Seawolves win scrambles the Major League Rugby standings with San Diego and New Orleans, the two teams New York has beaten, on top of the standings, and Seawolves coming in third behind the two teams they have lost to.

Eric Duechle started the scoring for Seattle, taking a pass off loose play and touching down in the corner seven minutes into the game that had been dominated by the Seawolves forwards.

Four minutes later, New York set up a dazzling double scissors that left Will Leonard scoring under the post. Cathal Marsh converted his first of three conversions.

New York took the lead seven minutes later when Ross Deacon scored from five yards out after peeling off a set scrum.

Seattle continued winning the ball, pushed to New York’s try line where Tim Metcher put one down for five more points. Then Apisai Naikatini pushed the ball back in a loose ruck, but scrum half Phil Mack’s pass to standoff Ben Cima bounced by him. But Shalom Suniula was there to pick it up and cut behind the loose. New York scrambled, but Suniula stretched out a hand to make the try.

Staller ran for his 75-yard try and the missed conversion one minute before the half ended, 26-14.

In the second half, the Seawolves either had the ball in hand or were putting steady pressure on New York. A well placed cross kick by Cima found winger Staller racing down the sideline to gather up the ball and score one more time.

New York finally broke through the Seawolves defense with 12 minutes left in the game and Mike Brown going in for the try.

The Seawolves forwards were dominant in loose play and in the set formations, with the reserves coming in as strong and well settled as those they replaced. Better control in the lineouts for the Seattle team with extra high lifting of the jumpers. Backs seemed peppier in this match with many exciting breakaways.

New York, now 2-1 in the league, head to Texas next week where they should have no trouble. Whatever happened to rugby in Texas? Between Houston and Austin, the Texas teams, have one win in eight tries.

The Seawolves are off the first weekend in March, but there will be plenty of rugby at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila as the United States national team will take on the Uruguay team on Saturday, March 2, at 7 p.m. Why isn’t that on TV?

On Friday night, March 8, at 7 p.m., Brock Staller, a Canadian national player, will be lining up with Canada in Starfire against the U.S. Eagles, which could include several Seattle Seawolves. Should be good, and why isn’t that game on TV?

Seawolves return to Starfire on March 10 against the Houston Sabercats, who have that one win in Texas.

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Ben Cima’s kicks got Seawolves out of trouble or set up scoring.