MLR Week 3 Preview

Last week was full of upsets and international stars getting their feet wet in MLR. How will this week unfold?

NOLA Gold at Colorado Raptors

Where to Watch: FTF Saturday at 6PM EST

After a dominant Week One win, NOLA slipped with a 22-10 loss last week. This talented Colorado squad is still searching for its first win after an 0-2 start. Tough one to pick, as both teams are capable of looking like a contender one week, and dropping a dud the next. I’ll go with the Raptors on home field picking up its first win of the year. If it goes the other way, Colorado will be in full-on panic mode.

Utah Warriors at Austin Gilgronis

Where to Watch: ESPN+/KMYU Saturday at 6PM EST

Utah picked up an impressive victory in a shootout over the Free Jacks last week. Austin showed some bright spots, but continues to struggle. Warriors improve to 2-1.

Old Glory DC at Houston Sabercats

Where to Watch: NBC Sports Washington, Saturday at 8PM EST

Old Gory is riding high after introducing The Beast and fixing its set piece issues. There might be even more reinforcements on the way, as New Zealand 7s veteran Declan O’Donnell has yet to make an appearance on the wing. Old Glory moves to 2-1 over the ‘Cats.

Toronto Arrows at Seattle Seawolves

Where to Watch: CBS Sports Network/TSN, Saturday at 10PM EST

Seattle has its backs against the wall, as the reigning champs are winless heading into this match against the undefeated Arrows. Look for the “Seawall” to slow a vaunted Arrows’ attack that sits second in the league with a +33 point differential. Home field advantage gets the Seawolves into the win column, but just barely.

RUNY at Rugby ATL

Where to Watch: ESPN+ Sunday at 3PM EST

Rugby United New York (RUNY) got back on track with a balanced effort from its forwards and backs. The momentum continues with a victory over a scrappy ATL side.

New England Free Jacks at San Diego Legion

Where to Watch: Fox Sports 2 Sunday at 7PM EST

New England is the latest to try to stop the 2-0 Legion. With 73 points in its first two games, the Free Jacks can score with anybody. But how will the defense hold up against a San Diego attack that has put up 82 points in its own right? Not well enough, I say. The home team breaks 50 on the way to the win in a high-scoring affair.

Last week’s predictions: 3-3

Season record: 3-3

MLR Week 2 Recap

Warriors 39—New England Free Jacks 33

The first match of the week set the tone for the rest, as Utah held on to hand New England its first MLR loss.

A 13-12 match at halftime was opened up by back-to-back tries from the Free Jacks. Ill discipline proved the squad’s undoing, however, as Utah took advantage of two New England men in the bin to get right back in it. In the end, it was the Try of the Week at 76′ that sealed this one for Utah.

RUNY 49—Austin Gilgronis 31

Credit coach Greg McWilliams for shaking up the roster after a disappointing 2020 debut. After a flat start last week, Mathieu Bastareaud moved into the pack at #8 and his impact was felt all over the pitch. He scored the game’s first try at the back of a driving maul, helped set up the second by drawing the attention of the defense and had a number of nifty offloads and big tackles throughout his shift.

Moving the big Frenchman to the pack played double dividends, as Bastareaud’s replacement at 13, Cal product Troy Lockyear, scored two tries in his RUNY debut.

Rugby ATL 22—NOLA Gold 10

Rugby ATL continues to impress, with a 2-0 start to its first MLR season. NOLA Gold struck first with a try from Lindsey Stevens at the back of the maul, and this defensive affair was just 7-5 at half.

Back-to-back penalty kicks gave Rugby ATL an 11-7 lead at 53′ before Carl Meyer responded 10 make it 11-10 four minutes later. That would be all the points for NOLA on this day, however, as the ATL defense held with Rury Van Vugt scoring a late try to seal this one.

San Diego Legion 49—Colorado Raptors 22

Can anyone stop the Legion? The impressive start continues with a second straight dominant win, this one over a Raptors’ squad that falls to 0-2.

It was back and forth early, but a first half run that included Ma’a Nonu’s first MLR try saw San Diego turn a slim 10-8 lead into a 31-8 advantage. Colorado got it within 31-22, but the result was never much in doubt. The Legion look like a team on a mission.

Toronto Arrows 27—Houston Sabercats 22

One of two matches this week decided in stoppage time. Houston had a two-man advantage, and used just about all 15 players in a maul that started at the Toronto 22. Houston powered across the try line but was held up as as the Arrows needed all 83 minutes to secure this one.

The Sabercats nearly stormed all the way back from 24-5 down but will drop to 1-1 on the year as the Arrows improve to 2-0.

Match of the Week: Old Glory 28—Seattle Seawolves 22

Not just the Match of the week, but the Match of the Year, thus far. And it’s not really close. Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira’s presence was immediately felt as he helped stabilize the Old Glory scrum, which was on roller skates alst week. Local product Dante Lopresti (Potomac Exiles) showed hooker might be his spot moving forward as, likewise, he helped the DC lineouts. But this one was about the drama.

The DC hosts struck first and second for an 8-0 lead, but Seattle was only getting started. A couple of Seattle PKs made it 8-6 before fullback Dylan Taikto-Simpson found wing Doug Fraser, in what has the makings of a devastating combo in the back three. Another Seawolves’ PK made it 13-9 at the break. The second half is when the fun truly began.

It took only two minutes for Seattle to close it to 13-12, then another two to take the lead 19-13 via a nice phase that led to a #8 Riekert Hattingh try. Then it was Old Glory’s turn to chip away with a PK from fly half Jason Robertson 19-16. Seawolves’ wing Brock Staller followed up with ayet another penalty conversion and the advantage was again six, 22-16.

Wing Roberts-Te Nana took one in next and Robertson hit the pivotal conversion to give Old Glory the lead, 23-22 with 21 minuted to go. The scores held for 18 minutes before the home team scored again, but the conversion was no good to give the Seawolves a chance.

True to to form, Seattle showed its championship mettle, turned the ball over on the kickoff, and got deep in Old Glory territory. The Seawolves crossed the try line at 80+, but were held up as DC secured its first MLR victory in its home debut.

MLR Week 2 Preview

New England Free Jacks @ Utah Warriors

Where to Watch: FTF TV, Eleven Sports live Saturday at 2:30PM EST, tape delay 5PM Sunday on NESN

The New England Free Jacks shocked the MLR world with a debut victory against RUNY, one of 2019’s semifinalists. The perfect debut continues on the road against the Utah Warriors.

Austin Gilgronis @ RUNY

Where to Watch: ESPN+ Saturday at 6:30PM EST

Austin is in a transition period, and got worked 38-10 last week. Hard to see a different outcome on the road against a RUNY squad that will be hungry to prove that last week’s loss was just a fluke.

Houston SaberCats @ Toronto Arrows

Where to Watch: ESPN+, Sunday at 2:30PM EST

Tough one to pick. Houston continued last season’s late momentum with a Week One win against a talented Colorado Raptors’ squad. Toronto, meanwhile, picked up a blowout win against Austin. I’ll give the Arrows the edge at home.

Seattle Seawolves @ Old Glory

Where to Watch: NBC Sports Washington/ESPN+, Sunday at 3PM EST

A Match of the Week contender. The Beast has landed in DC and Declan O’Donnell should be available after missing Week One with the flu. Bouncing back against the two-time defending champion Seawolves—coming off a Week One loss, no less— is a tall order, however. Seattle picks up the victory to spoil Old Glory’s home debut.

Colorado Raptors @ San Diego Legion

Where to Watch: ESPN+ Sunday at 6PM EST

Another early contender for Match of the Week. There will be a lot of talent on the field in the forms of Rene Ranger, Digby Ioane, Ma’a Nonu and a host of Eagles in the Legion backline. The Legion take it to move to 2-0.

Rugby ATL @ NOLA Gold

Where to Watch: CBS Sports Network at 6PM EST

Rugby ATL debuted with a strong win last week. However, NOLA Gold is a tough order for any opponent when healthy. It’s full speed ahead for one of MLR’s most exciting teams, as NOLA Gold starts out 2-0.

MLR Week One Recap

Houston Sabercats 21-Colorado Raptors 12

Houston follows up on a strong finish last season to secure the home victory against Colorado. The Raptors have reinforcements on the way, but the opening-week loss has to be a bit concerning to a team that was disappointed to miss the playoffs last season after losing in the championship in Year One.

Rugby ATL 28-Utah Warriors 19

Rugby ATL secures the home win its debut match. ATL has to be happy, recovering from a 19-8 deficit in the second half to secure take the debut victory.

NOLA Gold 46-Old Glory 13

In the best of times, it was going to be a tall task for Old Glory to keep up with NOLA’s pace in its first game together. Absences of The Beast and Declan O’Donnell certainly didn’t help matters. Old Glory faces another tough match next weekend vs. the two-time defending champion Seawolves, who are also coming off a loss. For NOLA, can they keep this pace up for all 16 weeks and finally capture that elusive playoff spot?

New England Free Jacks 34-RUNY 14

The absolute shocker of the weekend. The star-laden semifinalists go down in brutal fashion to the upstart Free Jacks. Was RUNY feeling itself a bit much in Week One, or are the boys from New England here to stay? Big-name signee Mathieu Bastareaud looked a bit frustrated in his debut, so that is one to watch for RUNY moving forward.

Toronto Arrows 38 -Austin Gilgronis 10

No surprise her as last year’s semifinalists continue their winning ways. Austin is struggling to find an identity off the field as much as on it, with a new ownership group and three names/rebrands in three years. It’s a talented roster that will be bolstered by the additions of Adam Ashley-Cooper and Roland Suniula, but after two listless seasons, including an 0-16 2019 campaign, this team needs to see improvement— soon.

*Game of the Week: San Diego Legion 33-Seattle Seawolves 24

The Championship Rematch did not disappoint. Seattle looked like it was going to continue to dominate this rivalry with an early 10-0 lead. However, it was all Legion from there as the squad popped off for a 33-0 run. Ma’a Nonu made his presence felt in his MLR debut, assisting in two second-half tries.

The Seawolves showed their championship heart to fight back and make it competitive at the end, but the damage was well done. Seattle has proved to be a late and postseason team, however, and will have plenty to say as the hosts in the April 12th rematch.

MLR Season Predictions

Eastern Conference Playoffs:

  1. RUNY (Bye)
  2. Ontario Arrows
  3. Old Glory

The addition of Mathieu Bastareaud to an already explosive and experienced backline carries RUNY through to the bye. Newcomers Old Glory recover from a relatively slow start as they gel to capture the final playoff spot in the East and upset last year’s semifinalist Ontario Arrows in the first round.

Eastern Conference Semis

RUNY’s cohesion and experience end the dream debut for Old Glory. RUNY avenges last year’s heartbreaking semifinal loss to play for ‘Ship.

Western Conference Playoffs:

  1. San Diego Legion (Bye)
  2. Seattle Seawolves
  3. Colorado Raptors

The Raptors have been a disappointment in the MLR thus far, but serious investments in the forms of Rene Ranger and Digby Ioane get the team into the playoffs. However, defense beats offense as the Seawolves advance once again.

Western Conference Semifinals:

San Diego finally gets vengeance over Seattle, who bounced them in the semis in Year One, then stole the championship at the death from the Legion in Year Two. The grudge match in MLR’s first true rivalry proves to be the game of the year.

MLR Finals— San Diego over RUNY

The Legion brought in Ma’a Nonu in the hopes that he can push the squad over the top, and he does jus that. Nonu proves to be the perfect addition to a backline that features Eagles Nate Augspurger, Dylan Audsley, Ryan Matyas and Mikey Te’o (sevens responsibilities pending). Of course, it all starts up front and the loss of Paddy Ryan will hurt. But the forwards are able to do their job just enough throughout the year to retain ball and let the backs do their work.

MVP: Ma’a Nonu

Nonu’s still got plenty left in the tank, and his experience proves to be a weekly nightmare for the weekly opposition. Look out for matchups vs. Thretton Palamo (Old Glory), Bastareaud, and the Rene Ranger/Digby Ioane combo in Colorado to highlight the season.