In a week that saw the U.S reignite their declaration to host the Women’s 2029 and Men’s 2031 Rugby World Cups, the MLR circus aims to showcase the best of national Rugby Union in North America.
There are key matchups in both conferences with significant stories at both ends of the table. In the East, Rugby New York can make it 4-0 with their first home match up of the season against the high-flying Free Jacks. While in the Western Conference the bottom two clubs meet as Utah Warriors and Dallas Jackals look for the first win of their stuttering seasons.
It’s a weekend of full-throttle rugby that cannot be missed!
Can Rugby New York make another statement of intent for the season ahead?
It’s clear to see how Rugby New York have been so successful so far this season. Built on solid defense, they have conceded less points than any other team in the league with 43.
While having only scored 87 points, fifth best in the league, their demolition of Dallas Jackals in Round four helped to increase the attacking numbers with a 41-5 victory.
The victory in Round four equaled the clubs largest ever winning margin of 36 and the team struck up the milestone of 150 tries, making them the fifth in history of the league to do so.
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Prop Kalolo Tuiloma was instrumental in the victory and will be a key player in this weekends game. The New Zealand born Samoan international will again need to be at his best in a game that will be much tighter and lead to more defensive resilience.
New England Free Jacks are 2-1 for the season, coming off the back of a tight 19-15 loss to LA Giltinis, they will want to make amends this time around. Fly-half for the Free Jacks, Beaudein Waaka was named The Rugby Network’s Player of the Month for February. The penalty count could be a major contributor in this game. So, the importance of Waaka’s attacking intent and safe kicking will be crucial if New England are to stop New York in the path to unbeaten glory.
This feisty Eastern Conference rivalry will be a close call. It will be a battling and bruising display. Don’t expect too many tries and a large score line differential, but be prepared for guts, teamwork and a bruising encounter. It could go either way.
Prediction: Rugby New York to win by 5
Warriors take on Jackals in bottom of the conference showdown
On Saturday, Utah Warriors face Dallas Jackals with the prize of the first victory of the season on the line. It’s the worst defence in the Western conference (159 conceeded for Jackals) against the worst offence in the conference (56 scored for the Warriors).
This week, 34 year old full back Chris Pennell, who spent the whole of his professional career with Worcester Warriors in the English Premiership, sat down with the official MLR Kickoff Podcast team to discuss why the attitude and skill of the players enticed him to MLR. Will his addition to the new franchise give them the push they need to secure the first win of their short history?
On the other side, last week Utah Warriors re-signed USA international Paul Lasike after his time with Harlequins. Lasike, who also has a background within the NFL, will be a notable figure in attack for the Warriors as the centre looks to make an impact in his second debut for the club.
𝐆𝐮𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐖𝐡𝐨’𝐬 𝐁𝐚𝐜𝐤
Welcome back to Utah, Paul Lasike.#ForTheNation
— Utah Warriors Rugby (@utwarriorsrugby) February 22, 2022
They are a team desperate for some attacking intent and the hope is that Lasike can help unlock that. In the Round three game against Austin Gilgronis, which resulted in a 24-10 loss, they only had 80 ball carries compared to 148 by the Gilgronis. With 100 passes less than their opponent as well, the Warriors know what they need to work in order to stop the loosing rot.
While you feel this is the best chance of the season yet for the Dallas Jackals to record an historic first win, you get the feeling that the 41-5 loss to Rugby New York will be playing on their mind. The Warriors have been close in all the games they have played so far. They only lost by two on the opening day of the season to the Legion and then by a penalty to the Seawolves in Round two. It’s going to be tight, but with home advantage we make the Warriors favourites.
Prediction: Warriors to win by 10
Austin Gilgronis looking to continue fine form against resurgent Giltinis
In the primetime match up on Sunday, the LA Giltinis head to top of the table Gilgronis in a ferocious match up that will keep rugby fans glued to the screen.
Wing back, Julian Dominguez, is the leading try scorer in the league for Austin and you wouldn’t bet against him scoring more. He scored another try against the Seawolves in their win last weekend, taking his tally to four overall.
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The Austin Gilgronis boast the best offensive stats in the league, having scored 149 points from four games and the best defensive stats among the teams who have played four games, only conceding 47 points.
However, the reigning champions have back-to-back wins in their locker. After a shock loss in Round one to Houston SaberCats, the Giltinis have recovered to a 2-1 record for the season so far. In a well-earned victory over the New England Free Jacks in Round four the Giltinis will look to influential centre, Billy Meakes and wing-back John Ryberg to open up the Gilgronis defense that’s standing very strong.
Don’t be surprised if this goes either way. However, you feel that the reigning champions are on a roll and will be a stern attacking test for the Gilgronis in Austin.
Prediction: Giltinis to win by 7
Other fixtures this weekend:
Seattle Seawolves (3-1) V Nola Gold (0-3), March 4th 22:30 (ET)
Rugby Atlanta (2-1) V Houston SaberCats (2-2), March 5th 15:00 (ET)
San Diego Legion (3-1) V Old Glory DC (0-4), March 6th 19:00 (ET)