By Earl Heath
Contributing Sports Writer
After months of stopping and starting while being put off by COVID 19, players left their families to be the ‘new kids’ on the block in Major League Rugby and they came away with the title. The Shield as they call it is in L.A.
You can add another title to the City of Champions. The Los Angeles Giltinis knocked off Rugby Atlanta by a 31-17 score at the Coliseum. No one knew what to expect but months of hard work paid off.
“All the obstacles and adversities that we faced over the last 24 months is now easily forgotten,” said utility back Allen Ashley-Cooper. “For me there’s nothing more euphoric than that.”
Trailing 3-0 Matt Giteau hit a penalty kick to tie it at 3. The flyback Giteau a three-time Australia’s Cup star play a major role all day. He connected on three penalty kicks through the day.
Midway through the first half he broke through several defenders and lateraled a perfectly to wing Johnny Ryberg who took in for his first try of the day.
Two minutes later Ryberg a former Iowa Hawkeye took a lateral from Ashley–Cooper bolted over an Atlanta defender and scampered some 40 meters for a try to give LA a 15-3 lead
“When destiny calls answer,” said Team CEO Adam Gilchrist. “You should answer. Everyone from the office to the field answered.”
The team opened the season at So-Fi Stadium and were the first Pro team in California to have fans after the pandemic.
They are the third team in the modern era of pro sports to win a title in the first year. Philadelphia Warriors (now San Francisco) won their first year as a member of the Basketball America Association (now NBA) 1947-47.
The Houston Oilers were AFL Champs the first two years of the league, however the biggest first is they are the first Pro team to win a title in Los Angeles in 2021.
The MLR has 12 teams, 11 based in the USA and one in Canada Toronto. As an expansion franchise it surpassed all expectations with a record of 12-4 the best regular season record. A crowd of about 8,200 looked on and many joined in on the post-game celebration.
Gilchrist plans on helping local clubs and starting more while having clinic to help the sports grow. In the Southland.
The Giltinis now have The Shield in their possession (equivalent of the Lombardi trophy or Stanley Cup) and at this time there’s no better place where it should be.
“You have to get sixty or so people that care and can win together and loose together,” said Gilchrist. They all have to worked together and they all deserve this.”