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Thrilling comeback caps inaugural Major League Rugby season

By Online Editors
The MLR Shield. Photo / MLR

The Seattle Seawolves have emerged victorious at the end of the inaugural season of Major League Rugby.

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The United States-based competition ended for the season in thrilling fashion, with the Seawolves edging the Glendale Raptors 23-19 at San Diego’s Torero Stadium.

The Seawolves (7-2) – who are backed by New Zealand’s Canterbury Rugby Union and Crusaders franchise – and the Raptors (8-1) finished the regular season as the top two teams, and earned their places in the final after beating the San Diego Legion and the Utah Warriors in their respective semifinals.

Seawolves flyhalf Peter Smith opened the scoring with an eighth-minute penalty, but the Raptors quickly replied with a try through Zach Fenoglio. The Raptors hooker crashed over from a driving maul set five metres from the line.

Seawolves hooker Ray Barkwill then scored a try almost identical to his opposite Fenoglio to give his side an 8-7 lead and cap an exciting first 20 minutes.

Both sides had tries rubbed out in the first half, with Seawolves fullback Mat Turner having a 60 metre try called back after an obstruction call and Raptors wing Harley Davidson denied a try straight after the ensuing obstruction penalty.

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Major League Rugby: Q&A with MLR commentator Dallen Stanford

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Fenoglio grabbed his second try to open the scoring in the second half from another excellent lineout drive. Glendale then extended their lead to 19-8 after a brilliant counter-attacking try that covered 85 metres and was finished by second-five Bryce Campbell.

A valiant Seattle side refused to lay down, striking back just minutes later when blockbusting midfielder William Rasileka crashed over in the corner.

The momentum from the Rasileka try carried over as Seattle scored again through vice-captain and Number Eight Riekert Hattingh.

Hattingh’s try was another long-range strike as winger Peter Tiberio drew several defenders before passing inside, where the Number Eight scampered 40 metres to score. Peter Smith nailed the sideline conversion to give his side a one-point lead 20-19 with less than 20 minutes left to play.

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A Peter Smith penalty minutes later pushed the lead out to four, and the Seawolves were able to hold out to claim their first Major League Rugby title.

The Raptors suffered just their second loss of the season, both of which ironically came at Torero Stadium.

The fixture capped an exciting first season of Major League Rugby, and with more teams to be added next season the future looks bright.

In other news:

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