On a crisp and windy night in Bold Stadium, Rugby ATL faced the Gilgronis in Week 5 of the 2021 MLR Season. The teams exchanged blows for 82 minutes, but Rugby ATL fell short in a bonus-point loss to a physical Austin Gilgronis team.
"Ultimately it was the small details that cost us the game," said Head Coach, Scott Lawrence.
Austin came out of the gates putting Rugby ATL on the back foot for the first 20 minutes with an onslaught of pressure in their attacking half. Consecutive infringements by ATL set up the Gilgroni's for a 5m lineout which was mauled in for a try. Isaac Ross, the former All-Black, was the one who touched it down, scoring in his Major League Rugby debut.
On numerous occasions, Rugby ATL brought the hammer and created stops on and near their defending try line. Many of those defensive stops resulted in turnovers and massive line breaks, but handling errors gave the ball back to Austin almost immediately.
It wasn't until the 34th minute when Marko Van Rensburg put ATL on the board after bulldozing his way into the try zone. Those would be the only points of the half for ATL and would trail going into the sheds.
The 2nd half started similar to the first with multiple set-pieces resulting from infringements and handling errors from both teams.
12 minutes into the half, Lawrence brought in Damm (Deacon) and Momsen (Keys) as reinforcements.
The fresh energy paid off as Momsen and Damm played key roles in a defensive stand from deep in their own half. ATL's Captain, Rory Van Vugt, flipped the field with a clearing kick and ATL outnumbered the AG's in the race to the ball.
ATL quickly turned it over at the breakdown and was on the attack inside the AG's 22m. After a series of pick and go's, Gouws smartly found O'Keeffe on the outside and he waltzed into the try zone untouched. (AG's 7- ATL 12)
Rugby ATL maintained pressure on the Gilgroni's in the first 35 minutes of the 2nd half and had pretty much flattened the energy of everyone in the stadium wearing orange. All that would change when Life University graduate and the 1st overall Draft Pick, Connor Mooneyham, chased down his own clearing kick and took it the distance. Bold Stadium and the AG faithful erupted. (AUS 14-ATL 12)
Rugby ATL composed themselves quickly and turned the ball over after the ensuing kickoff. ATL halfback and Austin native, Ryan Rees, was commanding the attack at pace causing the AG's to commit a penalty at the breakdown. Petzer took the tee and slotted it from 43m out to put ATL back on top (15-14) in the 79th minute.
The AG's were determined for a fight to the finish. Heavy crash balls and an offside penalty against ATL in the 81st minute gave Mack Mason the opportunity to win it from 34m out. To the likes of the home crowd, Mason delivered in walkoff fashion, making it 3 straight wins for Austin.
Final: Austin 17- ATL 14.
At 2-3, and with back-to-back losses, Rugby ATL will need to look inward and bounce back quickly as there's no time to carry this loss into "Rivalry Week."
New Orleans is coming to Atlanta next Saturday night, and they're hot off a win yesterday at home over the New England Free Jacks. NOLA is statistically the best set-piece team in the league and will come in with a chip on their shoulder having been bested by ATL last year at the Shrine on Airline.
A big challenge lays ahead of Rugby ATL as they're the only team in the East to have not had a bye week and need to get back on track in a big game.