Last Weekend was the kickoff for the inaugural season of Major League Rugby. It was an action packed weekend that taught us a lot of what is to come this year.
Six of the seven Major League Rugby teams started off the season – Utah Warriors had a week one bye. To begin the season, Josh Bradham brings you his Major League Rugby breakdown column.
All three locations had great turnouts for the first week of action, and the competition was very well received. New fans made, and this is only the start! And with the Seattle Seawolves selling out their field, for their first ever match in the MLR, it was nothing more than a sensational start!
The first weekend included several close games, as well as potentially the first upset of the season when the Seawolves decimated the San Diego Legion, 39-23.
Major League Rugby Breakdown – Week One
As rightly earned the Seattle Seawolves lead the table after Ray Barkwill and the Seawolves’ scrum won three penalty tries (and the match) for their team. The team played smart, controlled rugby and dominated the set pieces all throughout, making San Diego look completely ineffectual during the match.
It’s been 3 days since I took my coworkers to the @glendaleraptors vs @Austin_E_Rugby match. Today, and I find this in our lunch room. I think the @usmlr is growing a fan base, quickly. Before Saturday only one other coworker had been to a rugby match. #MajorLeagueRugby #Rugby pic.twitter.com/LrcIGPZQq6
— Dónall mac Cuarta (@dmaccuarta) April 24, 2018
Glendale were lucky to have a nice cushion going into the final 10 minutes of the match. After already being down to 14 players from a red card earlier in the match against Ben Landry, Glendale then suffered two more losses; with an additional red card and a yellow against Raptors players.
The ineffective attack of Austin Elite only managed one unconverted try, with a three man advantage giving Glendale the win. They are going to have to do better than that in 2018.
NOLA Gold finished third in this weeks standings after a strong home opener against the Houston Sabercats. JP Eloff had a very good match, with 75% kick percentage on the day as well as the final try of the match and was responsible for 20 of NOLA’s 35 points.
Both Houston Sabercats and Austin Elite scored bonus points, for with four tries apiece in their matches. They finish 4th and 5th, in that order. Meanwhile, San Diego Legion had a truly devastating start to their season, finishing down the standings. The only team held to less than four tries. It proves, bonus points will count plenty, for teams to meet the Major League Rugby breakdown standards.
Looking ahead – Week 2 schedule
Houston Sabercats v Austin Elite
Houston form guide:
Week one for the Sabercats did not go as well as planned. In two preseason match-ups against NOLA Gold, Sabercats won at home and drew on the road. Then in the opening weekend they played their third match and ended up losing this time to NOLA. Things could have been much worse.
Houston allowed the fewest points of any losing team and scored the most(tied with Austin Elite). This week they go against Austin Elite in another home field match. Austin does not have nearly the powerful attack that NOLA has so the Sabercats defense should have an easier time of it.
Joshua Vici (see main photo) was great in week one, with some amazing runs as well as two tries. Expect more big work from him in week two.
Here is Josua Vinci’s @Hou_Sabercats try – the one that could be try if the season
— JudgeRugby (@JudgeRugby) April 21, 2018
Austin form guide:
Week one was very difficult for Austin Elite. On the road against one of the favorites to win the competition is not the way to start the season. For Austin it was a less than polished performance.
The prime example was when Elite ended up with a three man advantage. Sadly, Austin only gained one try from that unbelievable advantage. In week two, Austin will need to improve their attack, as well as ball handling and especially, in game strategy and taking full advantage when presented with it.
Hanco Germishuys is an absolute all star and needs to be utilized more heavily going forward. Reece Czarnecki had a great match as well week one, scoring two tries against Glendale. Austin needs to work to improve ball handling as well this next week. The match may have been very different had the Elite been able to maintain possession inside the opponents 22.
Seattle Seawolves v Glendale Raptors
Seattle form guide:
The Seawolves made an absolute statement week one. Their scrum was absolutely destructive against the seemingly unprepared San Diego Legion. Three penalty tries were awarded to the Seawolves. All to do with the amazing work of Canadian international Ray Barkwell and the Seattle front row. The match however was not above reproach.
Going forward the Seawolves will also need to improve their attack and gain line success. Only two of Seattle’s five tries ‘crossed the tryline’. If not for San Diego’s struggles with their scrum, Seattle would not have won this match.
— Major League Rugby (@usmlr) April 24, 2018
Glendale has a lot of weapons and will put points on the board, Seawolves must be prepared to do the same.
Glendale form guide:
Discipline, Discipline, Discipline. The Raptors performance would have been the talk of the MLR had it not been for finishing the match with 12 people. Two tip tackles and sloppy play near their own try line, nearly cost them the match. It was lucky for them the Elite attack was not up to the task and Glendale still managed the win.
— Major League Rugby (@usmlr) April 22, 2018
Going forward discipline is what must improve. Glendale must also fill the hole left by a three week suspension for Ben Landry and Connor Cook. That will leave horrible gaps in the Raptors pack though, and against the Seawolves ‘your scrum must be on-point’.
San Diego Legion v Utah Warriors
San Diego form guide:
Last weekend, Legion was unable to get any purchase with their set pieces. Although, the lineout was not as bad as the scrum, it was not that far off.
The severity Mike Te’o’s injury is unknown at this time, but every week he is out will be a major blow to this team. The team has the bones of a great team, but the set piece must be better.
Utah form guide:
The Warriors will be making their debut this week, and the Major League Rugby breakdown has less data to go by. Their preseason was not ideal; taking losses to Glendale and the Ontario Arrows.
The Warriors were able to end the preseason on a good note though, with a dominant performance against the Alberta Wolfpack.
NOLA proved in week one, losses in the preseason don’t mean anything. Hopefully Utah will do the same.
Be sure to keep your awareness up-to-date on the Major League Rugby breakdown, here on Last Word on Rugby.
“Main Photo Credit”
Embed from Getty Images