After a short but powerful season, seven teams have narrowed to two for the 2018 Major League Rugby Championship grand final.
The second attempt in the United States for professional rugby has been a fun and exciting season. Seven teams that span over half the country, have battled over ten rounds of Major League Rugby fixtures. After all of that, it comes down to the top teams of the MLR; the Glendale Raptors and Seattle Seawolves.
Both teams came into the season highly rated, and have proved the hype to be true.
Glendale Raptors look to prove their greatness
Of all the teams in the competition, Glendale was the most well known. They were the first team in the United States to begin paying their players, ensuring a high performing club that has continued to develop in both guises of professional rugby in the US. As a result, they have seen a plethora of USA Eagles emerging from within their squad over the years.
During the Summer International series, the Raptors were one of the most heavily affected teams by call ups to the Eagles. But, even with those losses, the side won all of their matches; that was until the regular season final fixture up against San Diego Legion.
Glendale has a large contingent of great capped players, but their ‘Breakout player of the year’ is Harley Davidson. Davidson has had a tremendous year, finishing the season with six tries – tying for second in the league statistics. The Raptors have played a fast paced, expansive game of rugby, that has allowed Harley Davidson’s skills to be fully utilized.
— Glendale Raptors (@glendaleraptors) May 5, 2018
As well, another powerful force in the Glendale system is the quick footed scrum half, Shaun Davies. Davies has the keen ability to create absolute havoc on the pitch, that can leave even the greatest defenses ‘befuddled’.
If the side can keep their composure, can stay focused in the ‘away’ final setting of Torero Stadium, San Diego, then traveling Raptors fans might be partying well into the next day.
Seattle Seawolves’ set piece their strongest hope
The other powerful side coming into the 2018 Major League Rugby season, were the Canadian-heavy Seattle Seawolves. Throughout this formative season, the Seawolves have developed a stronger attack than they possessed at the beginning of the season.
They have progressed enough that their fullback, Mat Turner, received votes for the f’irst team’ All-MLR side in his position. He stood alongside Phil Mack, Tim Metcher and Vili Toluta’u.
#MLRugby First XV of the regular season is here 🏅
The 1st & 2nd All-MLR Teams represent the best from each positional group who consistently demonstrated top play on the pitch throughout the regular season.
— Major League Rugby (@usmlr) July 3, 2018
The key to Seattle’s success though is their set pieces. Specifically their scrum. The Seawolves pack, is led well by Canadian captain Ray Barkwell. In only their second match of the season, they secured three penalty tries off the scrum against San Diego Legion.
A close second to the power of their scrum is the Seawolves lineout, which sets them up nicely for any restart in the match. Even with the lighter attack of the Seawolves, they have used their strengths, only losing two matches in the regular seasons.
The biggest issue is that both of those matches were against their finals opponent.
Seattle out to frustrate Glendale in Major League Rugby grand final
The best opportunity for Seattle is to use their set pieces to frustrate Glendale. The Raptors have struggled with ill-discipline all throughout the season. An overwhelming set piece may be enough to wear-off the impermeable veneer of Glendale discipline. Smart play, even disruptive play from the experienced group, will no doubt give them a ‘sniff’ in the grand final.
After a competitive year, with an engaging pre-season, followed by an highly entertaining season stretching over spring 2018, these two teams stand on the brink of something special.
This is one of the greatest moments in American Rugby and it seems that it appears to be the beginning of many great years to come. The future of American rugby is now! And it’s all thanks to Major League Rugby.
2018 Major League Rugby grand final – Saturday July 7. Torero Stadium
“Main Photo Credit: Seth McConnell.”