Giltinis And RATL Battle For The Shield


Source: MLR


The MLR Shield will be on the line this afternoon as the Western Conference Champions LA Giltinis will host Eastern Conference Champions Rugby ATL in the famed LA Memorial Coliseum. The match is set up to be a massive occasion as two superstar loaded squads will clash in the league’s biggest stadium complete with a Steve Aoki halftime show.


The match itself should be thrilling! It will be the league’s best offense vs the league’s best defense. Their previous match saw RATL walk away with a 17-12 victory at Lupo Family Field. This match featured a signature performance from the RATL defense as they put on an absolute tackling clinic to shut down the Giltinis’ attack. The match was arguably the best game of the season, which only builds the hype even more for their Championship rematch.


How They Got Here


The LA Giltinis stormed onto the MLR scene as a new squad with plenty of superstar talent from across the globe. Matt Giteau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, and DTH van der Merwe highlighted a plethora of massive signings for the club. Their high-octane offense helped the Giltinis storm out the gates to a 6-0-0 start.


Ultimately, the perfect first third (and a bit) of the season helped the Giltinis be wire to wire leaders of the Western Conference with a 12-4-0 record and the best point differential in the league at +240.


In the Western Conference Final, the Giltinis met the Utah Warriors. It was a tight game that saw both sides struggle in the set piece. The reality of this struggle lies more with both teams demonstrating exceptional ability in lineout defense. After a tight opening half Ryan James stepped up with two massive tries to give the Giltinis a 17-13 victory.


After a tight start to the season that saw the Eastern Conference table constantly influx, Rugby ATL soon emerged as the team to beat in the conference. They have had to deal with their fair share of injuries to key players such as Kurt Coleman throughout the season.


Unlike the Giltinis, Rugby ATL stumbled out of the gate. However, after a 2-3-0 start to the season, they quickly rattled off (yes, this pun is intentional) a 6-game winning streak. Rugby ATL would finish with a 11-5-0 record with the fewest points allowed in the Eastern Conference.


The Eastern Conference Final saw Rugby ATL take on Rugby United New York, the only team that beat them twice this this year. The game was an intense physical affair as the humidity made handling the ball difficult. Rugby ATL was able to earn the bulk of the possession and territory, however, they had little to show for it. RUNY was struggled with discipline throughout the match and gave RATL opportunity after opportunity to take the lead.


It took a while, but eventually, Alex Maughan was able to break through the RUNY defense and score a 75th minute try. Coleman would add the extras and RATL would win 10-9.


CANCON


The MLR Championship match will boast plenty of Canadian talent in this match. The Giltinis feature superstar winger DTH van der Merwe, back rower Corey Thomas, and hooker Lindsey Stevens. Both van der Merwe and Thomas will start, while Stevens will be ruled out with injury. Van der Merwe has an absolutely stellar season. He has scored 10 tries, the most of any Canadian in the league, and trails only his teammate Angus Cottrell (11) for the league lead.


Thomas was able to use this season to get on Rugby Canada’s radar and he earned his first cap when Canada played England earlier this summer.


Rugby ATL will be led onto the pitch in the Championship game by Matt Heaton, one of the league’s top defensive players. The Giltinis will remember Heaton well as he had an absolutely monstrous game when the two sides met in the regular season. Heaton will be joined by lock Conor Keys, who is getting his first start of the postseason.


Keys has been in and out of the starting lineup throughout the season, his prowess in the set-piece could be a major factor for RATL success this afternoon.


The Preview


Both teams are dealing with injuries heading into the match. The Giltinis are down Adam Ashe, Glenn Bryce and JP Smith, but are able to welcome back Cottrell who is returning from suspension. RATL faces similar issues with Jason Damm and Te Rangatira Waitokia ruled out, but they get Rory Van Vugt back from injury. The two squads’ lineups are as follows:

As mentioned before, this game will put the league’s best offense against the league’s best defense. In their first meeting, RATL tackled with absolute precision. They have brilliant line speed and that defensive line rarely makes a wrong step. Players like Heaton, Momsen, and Marno Redelinghuys are terrific in defense and will likely set the tone for the game’s physicality early.

The Giltinis will need to get creative if they are to put some points on the board. Harrison Goddard is the man charged with keeping up the high pace of the Giltinis’ attack. He has an uncanny ability to change the direction of attack and it has led to a significant amount of tries this season. He could be key in opening up some space for the rest of the dangerous backline to work in.


The set piece was an area of the game where the Utah Warriors heavily targeted the Giltinis. They did that successfully in their week 18 matchup, but were unable to pull out the victory a week later in the Western Conference Final. The Giltinis’ lineout struggled mightily against Utah and it will not get any easier with RATL.


Momsen, Redelinghuys, and Conor Cook are some of the best in the league at wrecking your lineout. Dave Denis and Nathan Den Hoedt will have their work cut out for them.


Of course, like most MLR teams, the Giltinis and RATL score the majority of their tries from the lineout. This battle could be key to determining who leaves the coliseum with the Shield.


So, who do you think it will be? Can the Giltinis’ attack break down the Rugby ATL defense? We will find out this afternoon! You can watch the LA Giltinis battle Rugby ATL for the 2021 MLR Shield on TSN2 at 4pm!


For all your MLR news, be sure to follow @BressetteTheJet and @LaymansSports on your favourite social media network.


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