After a discouraging performance last week, the defense was the main emphasis for the Austin Elite against the NOLA Gold in its home opener in Round Rock, Texas. The Elite played a contentious first half and held a one-point lead at the break. NOLA took the advantage following a yellow card, but two tries and a superb defensive effort in the final 20 minutes of play earned Austin a 30-17 win and its first MLR victory.
“The gameplan was don’t let off the gas, get the lead, and keep pushing,” Austin Flanker and two–try scorer Hanco Germishuys said. “Our main focus was the defense because last week was a little embarrassing for getting so many points being put up against us. Our goal was defense, everybody stood up and stood their ground.”
Coach Pedrie Wannenburg backed up that statement. “We knew the whole game that we had to work on our defense. Last week’s performance was not up to our standards and we worked on it all week. Our defense helped us to get the turnovers at the end to close out the game.”
“The defense was our Man of the Match,” Wannenburg continued. “Our boys did really well from 1 to 23. Everyone went out and did the best for the team and that showed in the win.”
Discussing those final 20 minutes, Germishuys said, “Everybody brought heart. We played to the gameplan and didn’t let off the gas with our defense. The defense won the game for us where everybody came together and said, ‘This is where we are going to win it boys.’ Everybody stepped up and made their positive tackles.”
After an exhilarating opening season win followed by an early bye week, NOLA’s effort was disenchanting, except for a dominant scrum. “We were our own worst enemy today with loads of handling errors and mindless penalties,” said flanker Matt Hughston. “[We need to] just focus on us and the little details. We have the firepower and all the tools, we are not our best when battling with our mistakes throughout the game.”
“Honestly they wanted it more than us,” Gold head coach Nathan Osborne said. “We didn’t start the way we wanted. We found ourselves digging out of a hole… It was a disappointing game for us, but I think we know who we are as a team and that wasn’t how we want to play. We have a great squad. We will get in next week and work hard on fixing something so that we can get back to our winning ways.”
NOLA’s next opportunity for a notch in the win column will be next Saturday at home against Seattle. With the home crowd behind them, Osborne indicated that the Gold will need to bring the energy and enthusiasm to the contest and stick to the gameplan.
“Against the Seawolves, we will have a big forward pack challenge which we love,” Hughston said. “The bigger challenge is to focus on ourselves and execute our game. We are hard to deal with when that happens.”
Getting Austin’s first MLR victory in front of the home fans was massive and incredible. “For the supporters to come out on a Thursday night and get them a ‘W’ was unbelievable,” Wannenburg exclaimed. “If you play in a structure, defend well, and play as a team, you can go a long way. We showed that today and that’s definitely a big step for us.”
Germishuys said that the victory has given the squad confidence and a belief it can compete in the league. The next step to get above 0.500 is at Utah next Friday. “[The Warriors] are a big team. They came out stronger and we are just going to have come out stronger, play them wide, make them tired, and play our hearts out.”
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