Major League Rugby: Five things we learnt as Ma’a Nonu and Matt Giteau fall to shock defeat plus USA’s new Welsh star

Joe Harvey
Split image featuring Steffan Crimp, Ma'a Nonu and Greg Peterson.

Our wrap up of the weekend's MLR action. (photo credit: Griff Lacey and Laura Stroud).

Week 16 of the 2024 Major League Rugby season again brought its drama as we unpack the weekend’s action and the five things we learnt.

Along with play-off places getting decided, there were upsets, and the centre of attention now falls on the Eastern Conference.

There is also a nod to Test rugby as USA Rugby announced their squad for their summer internationals.

Dallas Jackals confirm play-off place

Despite losing a thrilling Friday night encounter with Old Glory DC 36-34, the Dallas Jackals have locked up a place in the MLR play-offs for the first time.

Two late tries for DC’s replacement hooker KoiKoi Nelligan helped the Eastern Conference side strengthen their own post-season ambitions.

In the process, Old Glory put Dallas’ own hopes in the balance, with Agustin Cavalieri’s team waiting with bated breath as the Utah Warriors and RFC Los Angeles played out their Week 16 fixtures.

With the Warriors subdued 26-27 by the New England Free Jacks and NOLA Gold overcoming LA 38-21, it meant the Jackals could let out a collective sigh of relief.

All eyes on the East

With the Dallas Jackals having confirmed their play-off position, it means that only the Eastern Conference has places up for grabs.

It is the Chicago Hounds, Old Glory DC and Miami Sharks vying for the final two post-season spots in the final fortnight of the regular season.

Due to their 36-34 win over the Dallas Jackals last Friday night, it is Old Glory that are in pole position to advance with 36 points, while Chicago are just one point behind the men from Maryland.

Jeopardy has been created in no short part thanks to Miami’s 20-14 win over Anthem last time out, with Santiago Videla racking up 13 points as Nick Grigg and Felipe Etcheverry dotted down.

On 27 points, the Sharks have the least likelihood of clinching a play-off place, but with their final two matches of the regular season coming against DC and the Hounds, all options remain firmly on the table.

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Monday night rugby provides stunning drama

MLR enjoyed its first-ever outing on a Monday evening this week and boy did it deliver.

Pitting the Chicago Hounds and San Diego Legion against one another in the Midwest, it was Chicago that ground out a 22-16 win.

Less than a week on from saying goodbye to their first-ever head coach, Sam Harris, the Hounds ground out an impressive victory against a full-bore Legion side boasting the talents of Ma’a Nonu and Matt Giteau.

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Julian Dominguez and Dylan Fawsitt were try-scorers for the home team, while Luke Carty registered 12 points and carried on their postseason push in the process.

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30-player USA Eagles roster confirmed for American Series

As the mid-year Tests prepare to take a stranglehold of rugby’s attention, the USA have named a 30-player roster and reserves for the visit of Romania and Scotland.

Unsurprisingly the lion’s share of players come from MLR, with a series of seasoned campaigners, players enjoying superb individual campaigns and those plying their trade abroad, it is a group in line with head coach Scott Lawrence’s previous selections.

San Diego Legion’s Greg Peterson has also been named as captain, the 33-year-old rewarded for his decade’s service to the Eagles and leadership which has gone from strength to strength since arriving in California.

There are a number of senior players unavailable for selection, including Joe Taufete’e, David Ainu’u and Paul Lasike.

Bristol Bears’ AJ MacGinty is back in the squad to lead the attack from fly-half, while Ruben de Haas also returns to the team, while Renger van Eerten is named in the squad for the first time after a magnificent season with CA Brive in Pro D2.

Crimp thrives with Anthem RC

Just a couple of weeks ago Steffan Crimp was a new name to many US rugby fans.

Named in Lawrence’s wider USA Eagles training squad for this summer’s Tests, the full-back arrived after time with Cardiff Met.

Wales born and bred, Crimp qualifies for the USA thanks to his mother, Tina, and has previously spent time with Old Aztec RFC in San Diego.

Picked up by the Eagles’ age-grade teams during his time in California, the 20-year-old signed for MLR side Anthem RC to strengthen his Test rugby cause.

Quickly he has turned out a number of mature performances for Alama Ieremia’s side, who are still yet to win a game in their debut season.
Now one of 30 players named by Lawrence in the Eagles’ roster for their two July Tests, Crimp’s stock will only continue to rise and will likely feature against Romania and Scotland next month.

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