Major League Rugby: Five things we learnt including a returning Rugby World Cup star and a yellow card frenzy

Joe Harvey
Namibia star Le Roux Malan being stretchered off against New Zealand at the Rugby World Cup.

Namibia star Le Roux Malan being stretchered off against New Zealand at the Rugby World Cup.

It is safe to say that Week Six of the 2024 Major League Rugby season had it all.

From five-try outings to returns from horrific injury, Joe Harvey has taken a look at all the matches that took place to see who made a big splash across the pond.

Here are five things we learnt in Week Six of the 2024 MLR season…

Namibia centre returns after horror World Cup injury

You may well remember Le Roux Malan’s horrific injury at the Rugby World Cup last September.

Coming up against New Zealand in the pool stages, the New England Free Jacks centre sustained a fractured and dislocated ankle.

Since his arrival in MLR for the 2022 season, the 25-year-old has been one of the competition’s stars, and in 2023 provided the decisive try in the Championship Final which handed his team the Shield for the first time.

Almost seven months on from that day in Toulouse, Malan was back in action for his club as they continued their title defence against the Miami Sharks.

Thanks to a physical and dogged performance, Malan and his team-mates picked up a 25-3 victory, with the side now preparing for a match-up with the unbeaten Houston SaberCats.

Quiz: Can you name all 44 two-time Rugby World Cup winners?

Free Jacks put up big numbers in comprehensive victory

As was just mentioned, it was a tenacious performance to keep Scott Mathie’s New England Free Jacks at the top of the Eastern Conference.

It is testament to the Miami Sharks and the mentality of the defending champions as the Free Jacks ground out a three-try victory.

Making an eyewatering 228 tackles against their opponents from Florida, team captain Josh Larsen put the shoulder in 25 times and was named Player of the Match for his exploits.

Hoping to become back-to-back champions in the 2024 season, New England have gone about their business astutely and will certainly be in the chase later this summer.

Kotze scores five in losing effort

It is not often you will see a player score five tries and end the 80 minutes on the losing side.

But that is precisely what happened to the Dallas Jackals’ Dewald Kotze on Friday night as his side succumbed to a 34-32 defeat at the hands of the Seattle Seawolves.

Named MLR’s Player of the Week for his exploits, the majority of Kotze’s scores came from close range, the Jackals set-piece coming up trumps as they visited one of the favourites to win this year’s competition.

Kotze has now taken the league’s record of most tries scored in a single match from former San Diego Legion and Houston SaberCats hooker Dean Muir, who scored four tries against Old Glory DC in 2022.

If the Jackals had converted more of these scores, then they could well have finished as the winning side.

Even so, the overall competitiveness of the fixture is further proof of how much the Texas club have grown.

Only possessing four franchise victories since being introduced to MLR in 2022, Dallas’ performances are not indicative of a team languishing four points adrift from the play-off places.

With six games played, there is still much rugby for Agustin Cavalieri’s team to play and they could well provide some upsets.

Los Angeles survive yellow cards frenzy

While Kotze was out scoring five tries against the Seattle Seawolves, Rugby Football Club Los Angeles were battling hard to secure a 22-22 draw with Old Glory DC.

Alex Maughan received two first-half yellow cards, while Theo Vukasinovic and Andrew Coe were also sent to the sin bin by referee Moe Chaudry.

A staggering performance soon followed by Los Angeles, who battled hard against the odds to frustrate Old Glory.

It took a late converted try from ex-Harlequins scrum-half Niall Saunders to rescue a draw for the California club after a breathless match in Maryland.

Great of rugby in the USA to coach the next generation

Following his retirement at the end of last season, Ryan Matyas is back with the San Diego Legion.

Playing for the Southern California side for six seasons, the ex-USA Eagle is back with the side as a Youth & Community Lead.

The Arizona-native has already dedicated his life to rugby, spending time with New Zealand and Wales before establishing himself as a 15s and seven-a-side international.

Coaching the community game since his teenage years and after hanging up the boots is passing on his years of knowledge.

As rugby in North America continues to grow, it is important to keep the likes of Matyas in the game to help nurture the next generation and introduce rugby to a wider audience.

Quiz: Can you name every Rugby World Cup Final try-scorer?