The Gold travel to the Big Apple on Sunday to face off with Rugby United New York, as both teams look to earn a spot in the 2019 Major League Rugby Championship Series.
NOLA (9-5, 52 points) sits in second place in the league standings, while RUNY (10-4, 49 points) takes up fourth place in the crowded playoff hunt.
The Gold are coming off back-to-back losses for the first time this season, (27-20 loss vs. Houston in Week 17 and a 26-19 loss vs. San Diego in Week 16).
Head coach Nate Osborne and fly-half Scott Gale said while the team was disappointed in their recent performances, they’ve put the losses behind them and are taking it one game at a time, while remaining focused on their goal of advancing to the playoffs.
“It’s one of those things where we’re not in panic mode. We’ve lost a couple in a row, but like anything in life, we control our own destiny. If we win two, we’re at the top of the top with home playoffs, something that we’ve always strived to do. Our early season form put us in this position and we just need to get back to that,” Osborne said.
“We’re really urgent, but then again we’re back in our systems. We know we’ve got the players and the systems to get the job done and get the win this weekend to start and then we’ll look at next week. So, there’s no worry, there’s no ‘battle stations’ or anything like that. Everyone knows we’ve got the ability here and the players here to do it, the systems in place and it’s just a matter of putting it into play this weekend…We know there’s games we need to win – these last two, if we want to secure home playoffs, so everyone’s really focused and ready to go for this week,” Gale said.
The last time the two sides met was in Week 4, when RUNY came away with the 27-24 win in New Orleans, behind a 17 point performance from fly-half Cathal Marsh.
“They’re a really good side. They’re a really good defensive side. They play the right parts of the field, so they’ll kick a lot to play in the right parts of the field. They don’t try and run too much from their own end. They’re a really well drilled squad, so their set piece is really good, so it’s going to be a challenge for us, but if we play the way we can and play fast like we want to play fast, then they’re going to struggle to hold up with us and we can win the game,” Osborne said.
New York is fresh off a 27-7 win over Austin Elite in Week 17 and a tight 38-31 loss to the Seattle Seawolves in Week 16.
Hooker Dylan Fawsitt leads the New York pack and has a team-high 11 tries (third in MLR) and nine try-assists (second in MLR). Winger Connor Wallace-Sims leads the RUNY backline with eight tries this season (fifth in MLR).
“I think for us, just getting back to winning the middle. I think we’ve been trying to get it wide too early lately. So, winning the middle is big for us and then just getting our defense right. Last week we defended pretty well, but we still had a lot of missed tackles, so just fixing up that understanding of who’s got who and that’s stuff we’ve spent a lot of time this week on,” Osborne said.
The Gold will once again turn to inside center Tristan Blewett to provide a spark, as he leads NOLA with 12 tries (second in the MLR). Captain and hooker Eric Howard has been steady in the middle with nine tries this season (fourth in the MLR) and will help lead NOLA’s forward pack.
“We want to win the field position battle for one – playing down in their end. They’re quite a big side that gets a lot of momentum when they get good field position and good front foot ball. So, we want to win the battle in the territory and then just winning the middle. That’s a big one for us this weekend. As I said, they’re big boys, so putting it on our forward pack and our center pairings this weekend to really get over that gain line and win the gain line battle,” Gale said.
The Gold face Rugby United New York tomorrow at 12:00 p.m. Central Time at MCU Park on Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York.
Join the Gold faithful for a watch party tomorrow at Finn McCool’s Irish Pub located at 3701 Banks St.
If you can’t join the fun at Finn’s, the game will be televised locally on Cox Sports Television and nationally on ESPN+.
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