AG and Giltinis Ring In New Rivalry In Final Pre-Season Hitout
AUSTIN, TX (March 15th) – When the final whistle rang out on Saturday night too things became certain: a predestined rivalry between the AGs and LA Giltinis had been set in motion, and the 2021 MLR Regular season had officially begun.
This final week of pre-season for the AGs was going to be tough, there was no getting around that. Two matches in three days was the challenge the coaching staff put to the team; one final test of the team’s mettle ahead of the regular season.
“My key learning from this last week of pre-season is that we have a group of players that are very resilient to training load and playing load because we crammed a lot into these last two weeks: a few two-a-days, two matches in three days, a captain’s run, and six hours of bus travel,” says Harris. “Not only were they physically up for it, but mentally they were still pushing for answers and knowledge as a collective which is huge considering the huge ask.”
AGs 38-43 LA Giltinis
Saturday’s battle with a new rival, LA Giltinis, was the first hitout at Bold Stadium for ten or more AG players. After the gallantry of player introductions, orange smoke, and the national anthem; it was finally time for the AG rugby season ticket holders to get their first look at the 2021 squad. Fortuitously for the AGs, the Giltinis knocked on the opening kickoff which provided an opportune attacking platform for the men in orange. Dom Akina put the first try over the line with a pick from his new position at the back of the scrum.
The Giltinis immediately struck back with a set-piece play of their own, and while the AGs thwarted several waves of Giltinis it wasn’t enough to keep them out. Then after two crucial AG handling errors, the Giltinis were immediately back within 5 meters of the AG try-line. They easily mauled it over on the back of Mahe Vailanu. The Giltinis didn’t take their foot off the pedal and with quick passing from Wallabies centurions Matt Giteau and Adam Ashley-Cooper the opposition had their third try of the match within the first twenty minutes of the match.
It would’ve been easy for the AGs to hang their heads after a demanding week, but instead, they went back to work on defense. They forced a turnover and set up their own maul in the Giltinis five-meter line which saw flanker Maclean Jones over the line.
Like deja vu, the AGs forced another not releasing penalty and Will Magie took full advantage by putting a kick inside the Giltinis’ five-meter line. This time it was Dom Akina that powered over the line for his second try of the half.
With no time remaining in the first half Pele Cowley found Rodrick Waters for a sniping try in the corner to take the lead 24-19. LA struck first with Mahe Vailanu’s second maul try of the match. Then the AGs mimicked the effort with a maul of their own, Hugh Roach came up celebrating.
The momentum seemingly shifted the way of the home team until an unfortunate yellow card saw Robbie Coetzee off the pitch and the AGs down a man for ten minutes.
The final three tries came from set-piece, an area the AGs dominated all night. The AGs pushed the LA scrum over the line for a penalty try, but LA rallied back and mauled two more tries in at the death to put an end to the AG’s fun. The new rivals almost came to blows with a bit of a tussle in the waning minutes of the match, a bit of a ‘see you later’ was in order.
Despite the loss, there was a positive feeling around the team after a tough week’s work. “From Saturday’s match we had some real positives around our set-piece, and we feel like we have the ability to call on our set-piece to dominate,” says AG Head Coach Harris. “Our maul defense didn’t stand up tonight but we have players that can learn from what they saw tonight and rebound quickly, and they’ll have to because Utah likes to attack from their maul.”
“Our discipline let us down in these final two pre-season matches; we gave up too many penalties on the whole and especially late in the game, which proved costly tonight.”
The AGs are in full match week preparation for the Utah Warriors with discipline and maul defense a key focus. If the home opener is anything like the final pre-season match, it’s sure to be a thriller.
“My family was out to the match and they had so much fun in that atmosphere and I think it was good for me and the players to look up and see those people you play for up there in the stands,” says Harris. “It just gives the game a higher purpose and gives you that motivation to go a bit further for the guy next to you.”
Tries – D. Akina 2, M. Jones, R. Waters, H. Roach, Penalty try
Cons – M. Mason 3/5
Yellow cards – R. Coetzee
Tries – N. Den Hoedt, M. Vailanu 2, D. van der Merwe, A. Ashley-Cooper, C. Poidevin, L. Stevens
Cons – M. Giteau 2/5, L. Carty 2/2
Yellow cards – L. Burton
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