Easter brought an important matchup with potential playoff implications to Starfire Stadium. There was no shortage of defense and hard hits throughout the game. Despite only having one try to NOLA Gold’s 4, the Seattle Seawolves came out on top 25-24, thanks to Brock Staller’s right foot.
Staller extended his point tally by 20, going 7 for 7 from the tee. When asked about the win after the game, Staller exclaimed, “It’s massive. New Orleans is the top team in the table. It’s a big win for us and hopefully keeps propelling us to a strong finish in the regular season.”
From the kickoff, the game had the promised dynamism of a heavyweight fight. The Seawall maintained composure and solidarity throughout. NOLA was first caught off guard by a winding run by Shalom Suniula who floated a short pass to a streaking Ben Cima, and the Seawolves were knocking on the door early.
NOLA dug their heels in and showed their own goal line stance as both teams remained defensive and deadlocked until the first of Staller’s penalty kicks midway through the first half.
Shortly after the restart, a thunderous tackle by Seattle’s Tim Metcher sent a shockwave through the stand and was every bit of indicative of the game itself, raw and powerful.
NOLA put themselves on the board with a mauling try off a 5m line-out. With the conversion, NOLA had their only lead of the game, 7-3 (25th minute).
Both teams stayed strong on defense and had steady phases on offense. It was NOLA that allowed their small lead to quietly disappear as the Sewolves looked to Staller for three more penalty kicks before the half and went into the locker room up 12-7.
The second half showed just as much intensity as the first for the Seawolves. From the opening second-half kick, Seattle lifted their momentum to full-tilt, attacking to within 15 meters and pressed over the line, but NOLA held the ball from being touched down for the try. The ensuing 5m scrum showed the grit of the Seattle pack as they would not be denied a second time, driving the scrum over the line for an easy 8-man try. Staller stayed true with the conversion and Seattle extended their lead 19-7 (47th minute).
NOLA brought the score back to within 2 as they scored 10 unanswered points behind Seattle penalties and NOLA quick passes out wide. Both conversions were off the mark from tough angles.
Staller’s confidence grew as did his point total and the Seawolves extended their lead by six with two more penalty kicks, with the second coming from long range and with only four minutes left in the game.
NOLA would not go quietly, however, and attacked hard. The Seawall withstood numerous blows until a high-tackle penalty allowed NOLA to set up a line-out deep in Seattle territory.
NOLA was frantic in the ensuing maul, as their forwards pushed it over for their bonus point try. The conversion was good as time ticked to 80 minutes, the score 25-24.
The ref controls the time, not the scoreboard, and allowed for extra time. NOLA received the kick and desperately held onto the ball for as long as they could.
The Seawall remained solid, even pushing them backwards at times. NOLA threw the bag of tricks at the Seawall, pick and goes, passes to the wing, short pop-ups, and head to head driving. Seattle was prepared for it all and kept them in the shadow of their own goal posts.
An errant NOLA pass hit the turf and Seattle booted it out of bounds to finally finish the game victorious over the top MLR team, 25-24.
Staller still commands the point lead in the MLR with 148 points to his name. “We had our opportunities but when you play a quality team like that is a lot more tactical, more kicking, more putting the ball behind because it’s a bit more structured, we made the best of our opportunities,” Staller noted, “There are things that we can still work on but that’s what next week is for.”
On Sunday, Seattle travels to Toronto to face the Climbing Arrows (5-5-0 29TP) while NOLA gets a bye week to regroup before facing Austin Elite on May 4.
Before the game, NOLA Gold (8-2-0 43TP) sat atop of the table 6 points ahead of Seattle (7-3-0 37TP) who solely held onto second place with a point lead over 3rd place San Diego Legion. With the Legion getting 5 bonus points in their win over Glendale Raptors, Seattle and San Diego are now tied for second and trailing NOLA by only four points.
Seattle Seawolves 25, NOLA 24
Man of the Match: Riekert Hattingh
Tries: Riekert Hattingh (47’)
Conversions: Brock Staller 1/1 (48’)
Penalty Kicks: Brock Staller 6/6 (20′), (28′), (34′), (40′), (62′), (77′)
Tries: Eric Howard (24′), Con Foley (50′), Tristan Blewett (55′), Kevin Sullivan (78′)
Conversions: JP Eloff 2/4 (25′), (79′)