NOLA Gold Rugby picks up win against Dallas Jackals in preseason friendly

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Pat O'Toole

DALLAS – The NOLA Gold Rugby team made a statement in their first preseason game Saturday, securing a 45-19 victory against the Dallas Jackals. The scoresheet featured tries from seven Gold players: Cael Hodgson, Tom Florence (2), Pat O’Toole, Sebastian Villani, aciu Koroi, and Liam Hallam-Eames.

Across the formation, the Gold’s training, fitness, and team chemistry proved to be in sound shape with the team’s regular season home opener, slated for February 17, quickly approaching.

The game got off to a fast start with a try from Cael Hodgson in the first minute of play. This was made possible by a knock on from Dallas in their own 22, which led to a scrum and the fortuitous corner try from Hodgson. It didn’t take long for the lead to extend to 12 points by way of a Tom Florence try in the fifteenth minute. The Jackals responded with a try, butFlorence emphatically repositioned the Gold with a double-digit lead. His second try of the day brought the tally to 19-7 in the 32nd minute.

Todd Fitzgerald, Director of Player Personnel, saw the benefit of Saturday’s contest for bringing the team together and getting back to typical Gold speed: “It was great to have our first real hit out against a tough Dallas team today. We were able to get what we needed out of this and the players brought a ton of energy.”

This sentiment is echoed by General Manager Ryan Fitzgerald: “I was really proud of how hard the boys competed today. I think we won the physicality and energy battle and that’s something you always want as part of your team’s identity.”

Throughout the middlegame, the teams traded scores, bringing the total to 33-19 in favor of the Gold. NOLA’s numerical progress can be attributed to tries from veteran Pat O’Toole and first-round pick Sebastian Villani – a positive sign that players old and new will be key contributors this upcoming season. After Villani’s try to extend the lead to 14, the Gold pulled away in dominant fashion to close out the game in the following 30 minutes.

Kevin Sullivan, who was awarded man of the match honors for his hard carries and tone-setting physicality, was excited about how the team looked: “It was a great way to start the season and get a bunch of new guys on the field together. I have a feeling this was only a taste of what this squad is capable of achieving!”

In order to finish off the Jackals, a number of Gold players made important plays on both sides of the ball. On offense, Maciu Koroi and Liam Hallam-Eames added two more tries, including Koroi’s immaculate intercept try that ended with him squarely under the goal posts. On defense, Kenny Jinkins made a heroic try-saving tackle, which stamped out any hopes of a Dallas comeback.

This tough balance of offense and defense speaks to the triumphant harmony that the Gold hope to replicate this upcoming season – a crescendo of advance matched by a fortissimo of counter. With time, such a balance will be easier to find, per captain Cam Dolan: “Obviously we weren’t perfect, so we will review the match and fix what didn’t go well. However, with that said, we saw what worked well too and what could be our strengths for the season coming.”

Villani echoed these throughlines in his analysis of the match: “Being the first game together, there’s always going to be some mistakes and little details that we will fix, but the desire to work for each other was there from the get go.” With game experience under their belt, the Gold are primed and ready to enter the 2023 MLR season with confidence and momentum.

NOLA Gold Rugby is one of the founding seven teams in Major League Rugby, a professional sports league entering its sixth season representing the highest level of rugby competition in North America. The League was founded in 2018 and has expanded to 13 teams.

Rugby-specific terms include “try”, meaning a five-point score, “conversion kick”, meaning a two-point addition after a successful try, “opponent’s 22”, which means a particular section on the opponent’s side of the field, “scrum”, which means the structured restart of play through the players packing closely together and pushing towards each respective try line, and ‘maul’, which means the unstructured advance of the ball towards the opponent’s try line through a similar pack formation.

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