With only three weeks left of the regular season, Major League Rugby is still wide open.
This week provided a lot of insight into the Major League Rugby season. The top two positions seem to be all but wrapped up by Seattle Seawolves and Glendale Raptors. The other two playoff positions are still open to all remaining five teams in MLR.
The Seawolves were right at home on the road against the Sabercats. There cannot be enough said about the Seattle forwards pack. Seattle has the best set pieces and only consistent set pieces in MLR. The Seattle defense was ball hungry throughout, causing turnovers every time Houston began making ground.
The Utah Warriors had the opportunity to pull away from the pack on the road in Austin. Unfortunately the bastion of Round Rock proved too much for Paul Lasike and the Warriors. Austin’s defense was not what it has been in other home matches, but Timothé Guilliman’s three penalties in the final 12 minutes allowed Austin to remain perfect at home.
The Glendale Raptors gave a destructive performance in New Orleans to gain on Seattle and the number one position. Glendale managed seven tries from an extremely sloppy performance. There was barely a passage of play by the Raptors that didn’t result in a handling error or penalty against Glendale. With those issues the Raptors still managed a strong attacking performance against a NOLA Gold that simply had no answer to.
Looking Ahead- MLR Week 8 fixtures
Glendale Raptors v Houston Sabercats
Houston is 6 points out of fourth place, but the road to the playoffs starts on the worst possible foot. Houston will need their strongest attack and and defense unknown up to this point in the season.Joshua Vici has been a powerful force for the Sabercats and combined with Connor Murphy’s kicking can make for a dangerous pairing. The best performance by Houston will be necessary against the Raptors.
They are helped along by the seven Raptors who will be away on international duties with the Eagles. Nearly half of Glendale’s starting XV including key players Shaun Davies and Will Magie are potentially catastrophic losses for Glendale. The small piece of good news for Glendale is they have not lost star player Harley Davidson who has been a cornerstone of the Raptors attack this season. The depth of the seemingly impervious Raptors will be tested this weekend against the last place team in the league.
NOLA Gold v San Diego Legion
This match will pit two teams who are fighting hard to work their way into the MLR playoffs. This match is essential for both teams to keep their hopes alive. NOLA will have the easier run of it playing at home and having their full compliment of players for the upcoming match.
New Orleans has been struggled through most of the season, but are still within striking distance. To this point NOLA has only managed victories against Houston at home and on the road. NOLA must break through this limited record and this is the perfect time to do so.
San Diego is only one point behind NOLA. Legion has a fast attack, but have suffered from a lack of power. This combined with six players lost to the Eagles squad, makes the Legion task a very tall one. As with the Glendale Raptors, Legion will be starting many new players. Although this may seem like a weakness, this will give San Diego a chance to reassess their team. San Diego is loaded with talented national players, yet are near the bottom of the standings. There are problems within this squad that looking at new players may help to alleviate that problem in the long term.
Austin Elite v Seattle Seawolves
The might of Round Rock will be tested. Utah managed to break the low scoring record in Austin, but were unable to win. Can Seattle find a way breakthrough on their way to the playoffs?
Neither team is losing many players to the national squad. Austin is losing the bigger piece in MLR’s lead try scorer, Hanco Germishuys. This loss may not have a large impact though as it is likely that Captain America, Todd Clever, will step into the role in Hanco’s absence. Austin has a extremely brutal attack, and at home a tight defense that it will be difficult for Seattle to counteract. Add to this the struggles of Seattle in the Southern heat of late spring and this match becomes much closer.
Seattle as been very successful in large part because of the strength of their set pieces, namely the scrum. The set piece is where the Seawolves will need to continue to dominate here for their success to continue.
The Seawolves’ defense has been strong throughout the competition and their attack has finally come up to match. Conditioning is the biggest concern for Seattle. Austin is extremely muggy this time of year and will wreak havoc on the Seattle longevity.
“Main Photo Credit: Norma Salinas”