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San Diego Legion defeat Toronto Arrows 40-30 in Major League Rugby play


MARIETTA, Ga. — Josh Furno scored two tries and Joe Pietersen kicked 16 points to lead the San Diego Legion to a 40-30 victory over the Toronto Arrows in Major League Rugby play Sunday.

The teams combined for 41 points in a free-flowing second half at Lupo Family Field at Life University.

Ethan McVeigh and Tiaan Loots also scored tries for San Diego (5-6-0). Pietersen kicked three penalties, two conversions and a drop-goal. San Diego was also awarded two automatic conversions.

Joaquin Tuculet, Gaston Mieres and Leandro Leivas scored tries for Toronto (4-7-0), which trailed 16-13 after a sloppy first half. Tayler Adams kicked three penalties and three conversions.

Mieres' try was his 12th for the Arrows, tying the club record.

With the game tied 23-23, San Diego was awarded a penalty and elected for a scrum in front of the post rather than kick for goal. The gamble paid off when Furno, a six-foot-six 250-pound Italian international, crashed over from close range in the 61st minute. Pietersen kicked the conversion for a 30-23 San Diego lead.

Legion No. 8 Dan Prior was sin-binned in the 68th minute for a high tackle. But Adams missed the penalty kick.

Loots then broke through a Toronto tackle to score in the 73rd minute. The converted try, set up by a fine run by former England captain Chris Robshaw, increased the lead to 37-23. Mieres then set up Leivas for a 76th-minute try in the corner that reduced the deficit to 37-30. But Pietersen added a late penalty to extend the lead to 10 points

The game was a noon ET kickoff, an early start for the San Diego players attuned to Pacific time.

The Arrows' matchday 23 featured 17 Canadians with 10 featuring in the starting 15. The squad included 13 internationals -- eight from Canada three from Uruguay and two from Argentina.

Michael Smith, a flanker from White Rock, B.C., started for San Diego. Robshaw, who suffered a shoulder injury in the first game of the season, came off the bench midway through the second half.

Arrows co-captain Lucas Rumball left in the first half for repairs to a facial cut. He returned looking like the Mummy, with bandages around his head and face. The flanker was able to shed the bandages for the second half.

Siaki Vikilani came on for Rumball while he was off the field, making his Arrows debut.

San Diego built a 6-0 lead in the first eight minutes thanks to two Pietersen penalties. McVeigh added to the lead with a converted try under the posts in the 12th minute, taking advantage of quick ball after a strong run by prop Faka'osi Pifeleti.

Adams cut the lead to 13-6 with penalties in the 15th and 21st minutes before Pietersen added to the Legion lead with a 23rd-minute drop-goal.

Toronto was plagued by handling errors in the first half. San Diego, meanwhile, lost Loots to the sin-bin in the 35th minute for an infraction at the breakdown.

Tuculet cut the lead to 16-13 with a try on the stroke of halftime as the Arrows took advantage of a San Diego decision to kick the ball away. The converted try capped off a nifty attack down the left flank that saw some tic-tac-toe passing in narrow quarters.

Toronto had to bring on its replacement props in the first half with both Cole Keith and Tyler Rowland giving way.

Adams tied the game at 16-16 with a 47th minute penalty after Loots was called for a late hit. But San Diego pulled ahead on a 54th-minute Furno try after another thundering run by the six-foot 254-pound Pifeleti.

A San Diego error on the ensuing kickoff gave Toronto the ball back and Mieres went over a minute later after a powerful run from Mason Flesch opened up the Legion defence to tie it at 23-23.

The Legion came into the game on a two-game win streak after dispatching the Houston Sabercats 39-11 and NOLA Gold 43-17. Toronto lost 14-12 loss at the New England Free Jacks last time out.

It marked San Diego's first-ever win over Toronto. The Arrows won both previous meetings in 2019.

Both teams have been on the move in 2021.

Toronto is sharing Rugby ATL's training facilities and stadium due to pandemic-related travel restrictions. San Diego started the season in Las Vegas due to restrictions in California but has since returned to its home base.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 6, 2021.

The Canadian Press