ATLANTA, GA – Rugby ATL came up short in a comeback attempt against Rugby United New York in the Rugby ATL Stadium at Life University’s Lupo Family Field on Sunday afternoon. Rugby United New York had pulled away by halftime but a late surge brought the final score to 19 – 22, and earned your Rugby ATL team a losing bonus point that may well pay dividends come playoff time in the highly competitive Eastern Conference.
Both sides were stingy in defense and it was the bounce of the ball that finally solved the puzzle for Rugby ATL. #10 Kurt Coleman’s chip kick eluded former England International, Ben Foden, and #14 Zander van Schalkwyk was on hand to snatch an opportunistic try. The conversion was on target and the home side took a seven-point lead.
New York didn’t take long to respond. Their lineout drive set the platform, then a set move saw Connor Wallace-Sims peeling around to hold the inside defense and open the space for Foden to attack out wide. Rugby ATL’s gap was too large and there was no second invitation required as the RUNY fullback sped away for the try. Marsh was off target with the extras.
A second try for RUNY came only a few short minutes later. Another attacking lineout, this time on the right side, had Rugby ATL on the back foot. This time RUNY’s forwards did the work themselves, pounding away at the line until James Denise found enough space to duck in for the score. Cathal Marsh chipped over the conversion and New York were ahead by five.
Rugby ATL’s defense settled and it was the unlikely boot of Dylan Fawsitt who conjured the third RUNY try. His chip kick over the line caught the cover unawares and just as Van Schalkwyk had earlier, Mark O’Keeffe pulled the ball from of the air and stepped inside #15 Rory van Vugt for a vital score just before halftime. Marsh was on target again to give RUNY a 19-7 lead at the break.
Both sides looked to the bench early in the second half. Rugby ATL brought in #19 Johan Momsen and #20 Ross Deacon, the latter squaring off against his former team. A compromised Troy Lockyear was replaced by Quentin Pradère for RUNY, with new signing Hanco Germishuys summoned just after.
RUNY were put under pressure and repeat penalties landed Paddy Ryan a seat in the @ReadyRefresh sin bin. At the next scrum, the replacements made their mark, with Deacon tearing off the back. He was stopped short but pulled in three tacklers and Momsen was on hand to pick and drive straight through the remaining defender for the try. Two more points went up as Coleman’s kick sailed over the bar.
A long-range penalty attempt from Harry Bennett drifted wide just before RUNY returned to full strength. Sometime later Wallace-Sims broke through. Rugby ATL won a turnover but they couldn’t clear their lines. Another penalty from much closer gave Marsh a chance for three points and he would make no mistake in extending the lead to 8.
With time winding down #22 Martini Talapusi, now on for Coleman, sent #13 Sean Coughlan through a gap. Talapusi had a second go and his scoop pass nearly freed Zander van Schalkwyk but it was an inch off target, slipping through the winger’s fingertips into touch to the dismay of the partisan crowd.
Van Schalkwyk would get one more say before the end. The game was lost as the clock ticked over 80 minutes but a bonus point was still on offer. RUNY’s defense repelled several attacks until #9 Duncan van Schalkwyk picked out his brother in space, this time the pass finding its home for the try. Talapusi’s kick rang off the upright as the final whistle sounded.
The bonus point for losing by 7 or less ensures that Rugby ATL stays in a competitive position in the league standings despite the loss.
“RUNY were deserved winners controlling territory and converting their opportunities. We were lucky to come away with a bonus point in the end against a star-studded team,” said General Manager and Head Coach, Scott Lawrence shortly after the match ended.
Rugby ATL will welcome another heavyweight to town Lupo as the undefeated Toronto Arrows arrive on Sunday, March 1st. Tickets can be purchased at rugbyatl.rugby/tickets.
Rugby ATL 19
Tries – Z. van Schalkwyk 2 (13’, 80’), J. Momsen (52’)
Cons – K. Coleman 2/2 (14’, 53’), M. Talapusi 0/1
Rugby United New York 22
Tries – B. Foden (17’), J. Denise (23’), M. O’Keeffe (38’)
Cons – C. Marsh 2/3 (24’, 39’)
Pens – H. Bennett 0/1, C. Marsh 1/1 (74’)
Yellow cards – P. Ryan (52’)
1 Chance Wenglewski (17 Jamie Ferrante 65’), 2 Alex Maughan, 3 Cronan Gleeson (18 Julian Montes 76’), 4 Stefan Willemse, 5 Conor Keys, 6 Jason Damm, 7 Harry Higgins (19 Johan Momsen 47’), 8 Bill Fukofuka (20 Ross Deacon 47’), 9 Duncan van Schalkwyk, 10 Kurt Coleman (22 Martini Talapusi 65’), 11 Austin White (23 Harley Wheeler 65’), 12 Ryan Nell (capt.), 13 Sean Coughlan, 14 Zander van Schalkwyk, 15 Rory van Vugt
Not used: 16 Amro Gouda, 21 Kurtis Werner
RUGBY UNITED NEW YORK
1 James Rochford, 2 Dylan Fawsitt (capt.), 3 Paddy Ryan (18 Kirk Hamilton 62’), 4 Charlie Hewitt, 5 Nate Brakeley, 6 Kyle Sumsion, 7 James Denise (20 Hanco Germishuys 50’), 8 Mathieu Bastareaud, 9 Marcus Walsh (21 Mike Petri 62’), 10 Cathal Marsh, 11 Connor Wallace-Sims (18 Kirk Hamilton 52’-62’), 12 Chris Mattina, 13 Troy Lockyear (23 Quentin Pradère 47’), 14 Mark O’Keeffe (22 Harry Bennett 54’), 15 Ben Foden
Not used: 16 Mike Brown, 17 Anthony Parry, 19 Rob Irimescu
Referee: Jamie Nutbrown (New Zealand)
Assistants: Henrique Platais (Brazil) & Dave Edwards (USA)
Match Report Credit: AmericasRugbyNews.com
Photography Credit: @ayalasphotography