With one round of regular season fixtures to go, we take an in-depth review of this weekend’s action as the race to cement Conference Final play-off places reaches a crescendo.
Austin bounce back to keep pressure on Giltinis
It was a ferocious battle in Austin as two Western heavyweights battled it out, both with Play-Off aspirations on the line. The Gilgronis needed a reaction after a shock loss to Utah in R16, which ultimately cost them top spot in the West to their rivals LA. San Diego still had plenty to play for, knowing a win would keep them in contention for a play-off Eliminator spot.
With the top two teams for points scored in the 2022 regular season facing each other, it was a battle that lived up to the expectation. The Gilgronis highlighted their intent within the first 7 minutes. With an attacking, free-flowing style that we’ve seen all season, they struck first as scrum-half, Ryan Louwrens pounced over the gain line after a number of slick offloads.
It's the hosts @Gilgronis who strike first from Ryan Louwrens after a couple of brilliant offloads as they take an early 7-0 lead over @SDLegion!
📺 @therugbynetwork | #AUSvSD | #MLR2022 pic.twitter.com/LZVWnxyMgj
— Major League Rugby (@usmlr) May 29, 2022
That immediately set the tone for the match and by half-time the Gilgronis had stretched their lead to 31-14. Austin look set to banish the demons of Round 16.
More than a point per minute in the first 40 minutes as the @Gilgronis have taken a 31-14 lead into the half time break against @SDLegion in Texas!
Tune in to the 2nd half now on @therugbynetwork 👀
📺 @therugbynetwork | #AUSvSD | #MLR2022 pic.twitter.com/lP2IkwlHUg
— Major League Rugby (@usmlr) May 29, 2022
In the battle of the penalty kickers, Gilgronis Mack Mason came out on top. It was the penalty count that hampered San Diego’s game plan. With 3 penalty kicks, all successfully completed, for Austin compared to 0 for Legion, it was accuracy that counted.
San Diego’s Joe Pietersen continues to be the leading point scorer (142), while Mason lies fifth (82) with one more regular-season round to go.
With more tries (5-4), more conversions successfully completed (5-3) and penalties kicked (3-0), Austin in the end exhibited their attacking ruthlessness.
Final score: Austin Gilgronis 44 – 28 San Diego Legion
Austin have put themselves back in a position to fight for the top spot in the Western Conference with LA and with it the chance to have home advantage in the Conference Finals. They entertain third-place Houston next.
For San Diego, their late charge was not enough and with this being their final game of the season they will finish just outside the play-offs.
- New England Free Jacks 57 – 5 NOLA Gold
- Old Glory DC 49 – 59 Rugby New York
- Utah Warriors 32 – 39 LA Giltinis
- Rugby ATL 34 – 23 Toronto Arrows
- Seattle Seawolves 43 – 36 Houston SaberCats
Here’s how the Conferences check out…
Play-off outlook: Eastern Conference
New England Free Jacks have confirmed their place in the Eastern Conference finals and the winners of the regular-season table, with a nine-point advantage over Rugby ATL who currently occupy second.
Both Rugby ATL (2nd) and Rugby New York (3rd) have their Conference Eliminator places confirmed with 52 points each. Toronto Arrows, the nearest challenges in fourth, are too far behind with 40 points to make a late contest.
Play-off outlook: Western Conference
Either LA Giltinis or Austin Gilgronis will progress straight through to the Conference finals. LA have fate in their own hands. If they win, they finish first, but lose and Austin will be ready to pounce with a win against Texan rivals, Houston.
Houston know their place in the Conference Eliminator is confirmed after fourth-place San Diego Legion finished their campaign in Round 17. Will they look to rest key members of the squad knowing they will potentially be back to play the Gilgronis?
Final Round fixtures
- Rugby ATL (10-5) v NOLA Gold (4-11), Friday 3rd June 7:00pm (ET)
- New England Free Jacks (13-2) v Rugby New York (10-5), Friday 3rd June 7:00pm (ET)
- Houston SaberCats (9-6) v Austin Gilgronis (11-4), Friday 3rd June 9:00pm (ET)
- Dallas Jackals (0-15) v Utah Warriors (4-11), Saturday 4th June 8:00pm (ET)
- Toronto Arrows (8-7) v Old Glory DC (2-13), Sunday 5th June 12:00pm (ET)
- LA Giltinis (11-4) v Seattle Seawolves (8-7), Sunday 5th June 6:00pm (ET)
You can catch the highlights of all Round 17 fixtures on the MLR YouTube channel here.