Rugby ATL come from behind to beat Utah Warriors 28 to 19 in MLR Debut
Atlanta, Ga (Feb 9th, 2020). Rugby ATL came back from a slow start and a 8 – 16 deficit at half time to secure their first-ever Major League Rugby win, 28 – 19, against a strong Utah Warriors team.
The match, played in front of a close to capacity and very enthusiastic crowd of over 2,500, started slow with a lot of probing tactics from both teams.
Rugby ATL gave up several early breakdown penalties and soon found themselves down 3 – 16 with only a Van Schalkwyk penalty kick on the board.
An aggressive decision to kick for touch instead of taking a relatively easy 3 point attempt led to a Rugby ATL line out close to the Utah Warriors goal line. A well-practiced line out move and effective rolling maul led to Matt Heaton barreling over for a “Birthday Try”. With the conversion missed, the score stayed 8 – 16 until the end of the first half.
The second half opened up as Rugby ATL started to play the patterns they needed to. Good offensive pressure and a Utah Warriors sin bin after a high tackle, helped stir up the crowd and moments later Rugby ATL #8, Ross Deacon, dove over for an unconverted try in the 56th minute.
At 64 minutes, Marno Redelinghuys broke free from several Utah Warrior tacklers to score from 22 meters out. The Kurt Coleman conversion kick gave Rugby ATL the lead, 20 to 19, for the first time in the match.
Just 4 minutes later, Van Schalkwyk added to the score with a darting try off the edge of a ruck to secure the important “4 Try” bonus point for Rugby ATL. Coleman again converted to leave the score at 25 to 19 with 11 minutes left in the match.
The match was effectively closed out and the Utah Warriors denied a “lost by 7 points or less” bonus point of their own when Coleman converted a simple penalty kick in front of the Utah Warrior posts in the 80th minute.
Referee Derek Summers blew the whistle to signal the end of the match immediately thereafter and Rugby ATL fans and players started celebrations of a fantastic come from behind win and 5 points in the Eastern Conference standings.
“It took us a little bit to get into the game and Utah had solid tactical plan that puts under pressure,” said Head Coach and General Manager, Scott Lawrence after the match. “The team leadership showed great resilience that helped us work our way back in. Utah will be disappointed with the result but they have a lot to build from. We wish the Warriors all the best this season.”
Securing the 5 points gives Rugby ATL a great start in the overall Major League Rugby Standings.
After taking Monday off to rest some battered bodies, the team got right back into preparations for their first away fixture which will be against NOLA Gold on Sunday, February 16th at 6pm EST. Viewing details to be announced.
Late breaking news on Tuesday was the announcement of Matt Heaton and Johan Momsen to the All MLR First XV Team from Week 1.
Rugby ATL Scoring details:
Tries: Heaton (1), Deacon (1), Redelinghuys (1), Van Schalkwyk (1)
Conversions: Coleman (1)
Penalty Kicks: Van Schalkwyk (1), Coleman (1)
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