What’s wrong with the Seawolves?

So if you had a newspaper covering the Seattle Seawolves instead devoting space to a bunch of second stringers playing slow football or a hockey team that isn’t here yet, a beat reporter would be asking the question, “What’s wrong with the Seawolves?”

The two-time champions have started the year with a 0-3 record, and the home opener Saturday, Feb. 22, a 39-17 drubbing by the Toronto Arrows, has diminished our hopes here that the Seattle team can make the playoffs, still months away.

But before we get there, someone has to answer the question: What’s wrong with the Seawolves?

Possible answers:

  1. Injuries. Lots of them, which have kept most of the team’s overseas signings off the field.
    Ross Neal
    Ross Neal

    Ross Neal from England has a broken hand. Harry Davies from Wales is hobbling around in a walking cast after surgery to his foot. I asked him if he came here for USA healthcare, and he said, “No, it was better from where I came.” (It’s Trump’s fault!).

    Harry Davies
    Harry Davies

    Ryno Eksteen has been out from the beginning with a cut foot. David Busby from Ireland played last night, but there was no sign of FP Pelser, another South African.

 

Cima
Ben Cima kicking

And then there is Ben Cima, on a concussion protocol after a nasty collision in the Tasman Mako game on Jan. 26. Scott Dean came in for Cima at stand off and kicked his way to glory and a win. He started there in the first two games in the regular season, both defeats. So the coaches tried Shalom Suniula there last night. He’s a better inside center where he has more time to distribute the ball and set up plays. And Jeff Hassler is a better wing than he is a center. But nice to see him back on the field after recovering from his injury. Also good to see Stephan Coetzee back out there.

  1. What’s missing? Besides Cima, who isn’t there this year who was there last year? Olive Kilifi? The USA Eagle prop is now an assistant coach with the Seattle Saracens, the amateur club in town. (And he reminds us that the Saracens play Glendate, CO, Merlins on Feb. 28, Friday at 7 p.m. at Starfire Stadium). Kilifi was injured much of last year, and as another prop on the Seawolves pointed out, they still won games.
    Front rows
    Front row props Tim Metcher, Djustice Sear-Duru and Jake Ilnicki
    Front row 2
    Prop Kellen Gordon

    And putting Tendai Mtawarira on the Team of the Week after the Seawolves-Old Glory game was an insult to the Seawolves front row who pushed, lifted and dominated the set scrums against Washington on Feb. 16. Bring up No. 2, Mr. Producer, and let’s see the Old Glory front row pedaling with their feet off the ground.

Apisai Naikatini? Api always gave the team at least a strong half. That allowed Brad Tucker to play wing forward (who says he likes playing second row and wing forward, finding challenges in both positions). Tucker, Riekert Hattingh and Nakai Penny at back row with Vili Toluta’u and Eric Duechle coming in as reserves. No drop off in talent there.

Phil Mack
Phil Mack

Phil Mack? He has been the coaching steadfast since day one, leading the team as player-head coach after last-minute call-up the first year and then as player-assistant coach last year. Now he’s the full-time assistant coach. Time to get back on the field? He’s a steady influence there, and he could play scrumhalf with JP Smith at No. 10 until Cima reappears.

  1. Culture. The team talks about that a lot, from owners, coaches and players. Ask Toluta’u about bringing new players into the fold, and he will talk about “getting them into our culture.” Second paragraph in the team’s media press kit defines that as:

“The organization strives to develop, cultivate and expand the sport of rugby in the US while empowering discipline, duty, respect and the spirit of inclusion both on and off the pitch. The Seattle Seawolves aim to foster a winning culture by enabling its members to meet their true potential while pursuing excellence in the MLR competition. Community outreach is a key tenet (not “tenant,” Rebecca and Kate!) of the Seawolves’ philosophy, and the organization strives to continually help enrich and give back to the greater Seattle area and the Pacific Northwest.”

Mack seems to bring that onto the field. He probably would not say much, but meeting his eyes when a player was not meeting “their true potential while pursuing excellence” would not be a pretty sight.

And no one connected to the Seawolves ever talked more about culture than Kevin Flynn, who served last year as team manager. Now he continues that with the Seattle Saracens where he has been president for many years. Is there some one with the Seawolves who can get them re-connected to the culture where they do community outreach, help enrich us and start playing together?

Getting everything right is going to take some time, but time they have. The Seawolves can come in third in their division over Utah, Austin and Colorado. They beat Houston, the second place team in the Western branch of the league, in the playoffs. Hand San Diego, the first place team, their second defeat against the Seawolves this year and then go on to meet the winner of the Eastern Division (which is looking very strong these days).

What could go wrong?

 

 

New Seawolves faces, same results — a win

Lost

Lost 2
What it looks like when the lineout is lost: Ball overthrown and the Houston, in yellow, take it.

Some new names in the Seattle Seawolves professional rugby team’s starting lineup Sunday night, but the same results – another win.

This one against the Houston Sabercats, 27-14. at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila, WA.

Scoring in the first half was limited to a penalty kick by Seawolves’ Brock Staller, and a try by Houston after they stole a Seattle lineout, won a scrum, scurried the ball out to the backs and Osea Kolinisan scored in the corner. Sam Windsor uncharacteristically missed the conversion kick but added a penalty later after Seattle failed to release a tackled player. The half ended 3-8 with Houston ahead.

Seattle stayed on the Houston side of the field in the first half but found every way in rugby to loose the ball, the momentum and scoring opportunities – offside penalties, lost lineouts, knock-ons, ball not thrown in straight in the lineout and giving up the ball in their own loose rucks.

A long run by Eric Duechle looked like it might overcome the scattered play as he broke through several tackles and flopped into the try zone, slamming the ball behind him. Looked like a try, but the referee called it a dribble – didn’t touch the ball down to score – and a Houston player picked up the ball and ran it out of trouble.

With six minutes gone in the second half, the Seawolves took the lead again on a maul off their own lineout when Jeremy Lenaerts touched down for five points. Staller converted for two more.

Then it looked like the kicks by Staller and Windsor would decide the game. Windsor slotted a penalty kick after Seattle was offside to lead 10-11. Minutes later, Staller put up three more points after Houston was offside – 13-11. Staller had two more penalty attempts but missed them.

After a Seattle player entered the loose ruck from the side, Windsor connected to put Houston up, 13-14.

And that was it for Houston as the Seawolves took over the last 10 minutes of the game. The forwards pushed the ball down to just short of the Houston try line before getting the ball out, spotting one well aimed pass and Sequoyah Burke-Combs got the ball down just inside the out-of-bounds pylon. Staller kicked the conversion from the corner.

Duechle made up for that dribble earlier, running beneath an up-and-under kick, gathering in a deflected catch and holding off tacklers before touching down. Staller’s kick was good for a 27-14 win.

Houston has only won one game, but for Seattle it has to feel good to win without some of their regular players. Phil Mack played for Canada Friday night against the USA national team at Starfire. J.P. Smith filled in well for him at scrum half. Kellen Gordon, Dan Trierweiler and John Hayden spelled Stephan Coetzee and Tim Metcher. Oli Kilifi, who had played Friday night for the USA Eagles, sat out until well into the second half. Ben Cima and Peter Tiberio shuffled the stand-off and fullback positions for missing Matt Turner, the usual fullback.

With four wins and two losses and 20 table points, the Seawolves are right behind the New Orleans Gold, who have only played five games to collect 21 points. Right behind Seattle is the Glendale, Colo., team with 20 table points and a 3-2-1 record.

The Seawolves are back at Starfire Stadium on March 31 against the San Diego Legion, who saw the Toronto Arrows score 24 points in the second half Sunday night to win 27-20.

Next Saturday, Seattle is at Austin, who have yet to win a game this season. The game will be on ROOTS-TV. Seawolves have a bye on the weekend of March 23-24.

Won

Won 2.jpg
When the lineout is won: Ball straight to jumper, then on to the scrum half.