Major League Rugby: Five things we learnt as Matt Giteau’s efforts fall short against high-flying New England Free Jacks

Joe Harvey
New England (credit) Burt Granofsky and Dallas Jackals (Sherry Milliken).

We recap the weekend's MLR action.

Things are starting to take shape in Major League Rugby’s 2024 season as we recap the weekend’s action with five things we learnt.

At the top of the Eastern and Western Conference, the competition’s favourites are starting to emerge, while other clubs are starting to make strides into the play-off positions.

Huge New England win on the road

The New England Free Jacks have tightened their grasp at the top of the Eastern Conference thanks to a 24-23 win over San Diego Legion.

Both sides scored three tries each at Snapdragon Stadium in an enthralling repeat of last season’s Championship Final.

Australia legend Matt Giteau kicked for eight points, while Danyon Morgan-Puterangi racked up nine points, which proved to be the difference in an intense match-up.

Free Jacks centre Wayne van der Bank received Player of the Week for his efforts in California, the South African scoring a try and making 109 metres for his team.

With Western Conference side the Houston SaberCats, beating the Chicago Hounds 23-22 to strengthen their own position at the top of their division.

It would not be a surprise to see the two teams leading the way at this stage of the season going blow for blow in the Championship Final in August.

All Blacks legend Ma’a Nonu’s blunt assessment of the MLR and suggests the USA Eagles follow Los Pumas’ lead

Jackals make Western Conference stride

Thanks to their 14-7 win over Western Conference rivals the Seattle Seawolves, the Dallas Jackals have moved up to third.

A more stable position on the hunt for play-off rugby, the low-scoring affair saw the Texas club battle to a two-try lead at Choctaw Stadium.
Nic Benn and Daemon Torres both crossed the whitewash, with Martin Elias’ two place-kicks and kicking game helping to put the home team out of sight.

It is a result that means that will not worry Allen Clarke’s team as they hope to challenge the Houston SaberCats at the top of their division, but the Washington club will be hoping for victory this Friday night against Old Glory DC.

League marks 150 years of rugby in the US

A week ago, MLR recognised the birth of rugby in the USA.

150 years on from the first official rugby game that took place between Harvard and McGill, the league catalogued the sport’s history in the country.

Including Olympic gold medal wins at the 1921 and 1924 Olympic Games, winning the inaugural Women’s Rugby World Cup and hosting the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens, it was a reminder of a history that extends far beyond less than a decade of professionalism.

Anthem come close to first win

Anthem Rugby Carolina’s wait for a maiden win continues after losing 33-29 to RFC Los Angeles at American Legion Memorial Stadium.

Competitive from start to finish, ultimately it was the place-kicking of Jordan Chait which proved to be the difference in a game where eight tries were scored across the 80 minutes.

Semi Kunatani scored a brace for Los Angeles in a game with Anthem at one stage led 19-3 in the first half.

For their efforts in the victory, LA’s Dane Zander, Ben Strang, Regan O’Gorman and Kunatani were named in the RTIC First XV of the Week, while Anthem’s Cliven Loubser was awarded a place in the squad at fly-half thanks to his 14-point haul.

Nigel Owens warns the scrum will be ‘gone for good’ after World Rugby’s potentially ‘damaging’ amendment

Nola Gold win put them in second

Another shootout at The Gold Mine saw the NOLA Gold move up to second in the Eastern Conference.

Beating the Utah Warriors 21-14, Jarred Adams, Malcolm May and Maciu Koroi all dotted down, as Reece Botha’s conversions pushed the Louisiana side out of touch.

For their exploits NOLA were awarded the Team of the Week award, with Cory Brown’s team gathering good momentum as the regular season’s finishing line hones into view.

On the lookout for a first-ever place in the postseason, NOLA have put themselves in a prime position to fight it out for the Shield this July.

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