Toluta‘u, Seawolves claim second MLR title

Toluta‘u

The Maui News

Maui’s Vili Toluta’u and the Seattle Seawolves are back-to-back champions.

And it took them all 80 minutes to do it.

The Seawolves scored a last-minute try to rally past the San Diego Legion 26-23 in the Major League Rugby championship match Sunday in San Diego.

Toluta’u, who returned last week after missing months due to injury, is the reigning MLR MVP after leading the Seawolves to the MLR shield in the league’s inaugural season last year.

On Saturday, he helped clear the way for the winning score.

The Seawolves led 14-6 at halftime, but the Legion scored two unanswered tries to take a 20-14 lead.

With time ticking down, Seattle’s Riekert Hattingh rumbled in for a try in the 73rd minute, but Brock Staller was unable to hit a tough conversion, leaving Seattle trailing 20-19.

San Diego was able to extend its lead to four with a drop goal with just two minutes to play, giving the Seawolves one more chance.

Seattle capitalized on a Legion penalty on the ensuing possession, and as the final seconds ticked away, Brad Tucker scored on a driving maul — with Toluta’u leading the way — to give the Seawolves the victory.

“It was crazy, man,” Staller said in a story on MLR’s website. “That last 15-20 minutes for myself personally was kind of an emotional roller coaster.”

Last year, the Seawolves had lost twice during the season to the Glendale Raptors before beating them in the championship. Likewise, Seattle lost both of its matches against San Diego this year before persevering to bring the shield back to the Pacific Northwest.

“Patience,” Staller said of his team’s effort in the closing minutes. “Family. Belief in each other. We’ve gone through tough times, as I’ve said in the past. Last season. This season. Coaching changes. Some off-field issues. But you know what, that resiliency you saw in the last five minutes really defines our season.”