Seattle Seawolves' Home Debut - "Something Special"
The line-up for merchandise said it all.
Over an hour before kickoff, the line was 30 metres long, with a palpable buzz infiltrating the Seattle Seawolves fans who were antsy to grab a jersey, a hat, or both. Everyone wanted the stuff. Of the 23 items listed on their website, nine are labelled as “sold out.” So, frankly, not having something Seawolves – a brand perfectly aligned with Seattle’s NFL-playing Seahawks and the MLS-playing Sounders in both colour and cool factor – would have made you the outsider.
Just over an hour later, with a sold out crowd of 3,500 eagerly awaiting the first-ever Major League Rugby game at Starfire Sports Complex, the Seawolves –hosting the San Diego Legion – took the pitch down a flame-throwing runway while a thunderous crowd roared their approval.
With “the bombs bursting in air,” fireworks took to the sky, and after the anthem singer went falsetto with her final notes, both the sky and supporters exploded once again.
Seattle’s Eric Duechle, who was a back-row substitute on the day, may have said it best.
“It felt like we were Seahawks players out there,” he said with a grin.
Sheesh, even the weather played it’s part, with the sun drenching the mid-April day from top to tail. A Seawolves staffer suggested perhaps the San Diegans brought that, but on a day when everything seemed in perfect harmony, it may have just been Seattle’s rugby gods going over the top.
And that was all before the game even started.
With Seattle dominating in the forward ranks – this despite losing No. 8 and quasi-coach Riekert Hattingh to injury midway through the first half – the Seawolves marched out to a 20-6 lead by the half, and by the end of the contest they had earned three penalty tries and a 39-23 victory.
In a nod to the relentless pressure from the Seawolves pack, Seattle’s entire front row was honoured for their efforts, with hooker Ray Barkwill being named man of the match, while props Kellen Gordon and Tim Metcher both made their way onto the MLR’s First XV of the Week.
Gordon was pleased.
“Our biggest thing is we want to be a set piece team and we want to be a defensive team,” Gordon said. “I think we really showed that today. It’s fun to know we can bully teams. It’s a great starting point and we’re only going to get better from here.”
Amongst the backs, player-coach Phil Mack was named the MLR’s Player of the Week, fullback Mat Turner joined his teammates amongst the league’s First XV of the Week, and the Seawolves were named the Team of the Week.
For Seattle, it was kind of perfect. The Legion tried to put a bit of a damper on the party with a pair of tries from Chris Turori and Drew Gaffney in the final 20 minutes, but Sunday was for the Seawolves.
From the weather to the crowd to the to the on-field action, it almost seemed a little scripted. Except it wasn’t.
In Mack’s post-game scrum, his final few words wrapped it all up with a tidy green and blue bow.
“It was something special.”