Major League Rugby: Five things we learnt including the team to beat and fierce competition

Joe Harvey
Anthem Rugby player celebrate a try.

Anthem Rugby player celebrate a try.

Last weekend Week Three of the 2024 Major League Rugby season happened over the pond, where more drama and intrigue occurred.

Already things are starting to take shape in the North American competition’s sixth season and here are five things we learnt from the most recent round of fixtures.

Seawolves the team to beat in 2024

With their 23-13 win over the Utah Warriors on Saturday, Allen Clarke’s Seattle Seawolves have cemented themselves as the team to beat this season.

Travelling to Salt Lake City, a first-half onslaught laid the foundations for their win. Ex-Leicester Tigers hooker Joe Taufete’e and former Super Rugby wing Toni Pulu both crossed the whitewash for the visiting team, while Mack Mason’s penalties and a second-half try from Jade Stighling did the rest of the work.

While the Houston SaberCats currently lead the Western Conference by a point, there is a real edge to this Seattle team which makes them seem a different prospect.

Seattle will host Houston this Friday night in Washington, and the encounter is already a decisive match just four weeks into this season.

2016 Olympian secures Player of the week honours

Arriving at Old Glory DC during the offseason, Axel Muller brought with him eight years of experience of playing in France and at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Better yet the 30-year-old wing spent almost a decade of his formative years in Arizona and even holds a US passport, although he is ineligible for selection by the Eagles.

Making his debut last weekend as DC drew 22-22 with the Chicago Hounds at their new Maryland SoccerPlex home, Muller scored two tries for his new side, made 103 metres and completed nine tackles.

If one performance is ever anything to go by, then Old Glory can expect to have a potent try-scoring threat out wide all season and could well be the difference as the team looks to go deep into the play-offs.

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Anthem secure first-ever league points

Anthem Rugby Carolina’s life as a professional club has been short.

It was only in late January that Major League Rugby, World Rugby and USA Rugby would be combining forces to provide a team solely focused on the development of local talent.

Coached by former All Blacks and Samoa centre Alama Ieremia, the side opened their debut campaign with losses to reigning champions, the New England Free Jacks, and the NOLA Gold.

Having such a short runway to starting life as a professional franchise and while their 68-28 loss to the Dallas Jackals was their heaviest loss of the lot, it did provide the team’s first-ever league point.

Making consistent strides week on week, Anthem impress with each 80 minutes that pass and were rewarded with four tries in Week Three.

Build it and they will come

There is still a conception that professional rugby does not exist in America.

In fact, you go to most rugby clubs in the country and say to someone that there are 12 professional clubs in the USA, you will be looked at as though you have two heads, and they will stop serving you at the bar.

The 2031 Rugby World Cup is set to be USA Rugby’s magnus opus as the planet descends upon the country to see the Webb Ellis Cup up for contest.

MLR’s job on this journey is to increase the competitiveness of players and the profile of the sport. Into the league’s sixth season, there have already a series of positive attendances at fixtures and is a tremendous sign of progress in what is a reasonably short space of time.

This includes attendances of 4,500 and 2,307 for the Miami Sharks and Anthem RC for first-ever fixtures and consistent crowds in the low thousands for some of the league’s more established teams.

This competition has never been more competitive

It was not that long ago you could look at a round of MLR fixtures and predict which teams were going to win that weekend.

This was often a by-product of the squads that the two teams had, the star power that a team had recruited or just a gut feeling.

So far in 2024, the same cannot be said.

For example, in Week Two you would have put good money on the New England Free Jacks beating Old Glory DC, only for Simon Cross’ team to edge the champions 35-34 in Massachusetts.

You then add to that the number of games decided by a score or less, then there’s plenty to look forward to with every match played.

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