Welcome to the Major League Rugby Grab Bag where I highlight some of the best things I’ve seen from around the league every week.
The scenes in Hoboken, New Jersey looked incredible on Sunday afternoon.
Rugby New York hosted the New England Free Jacks in what was their first home match of the season and their first match at JFK Stadium.
The weather looked lovely, the match was exciting, and the fans in the stands were electric. What I enjoyed seeing most was the people turning their attention away from their tennis match or from their Sunday afternoon chores in their apartment and towards the rugby match.
That’s the benefit of playing your matches in a high school football stadium in New Jersey. It’s surrounded by a park, some tennis courts, and buildings that allow people who likely wouldn’t otherwise catch a rugby match to do exactly that.
One thing that I’ve actually enjoyed throughout the first five seasons of Major League Rugby is the quirkiness of the venues as teams find more permanent homes.
I never experienced a match there in person, and even though I’ve heard that the fan and the broadcast experience were not the best, I was a fan of the idea of New York playing in Maimonides Park – home of the Brooklyn Cyclones baseball team – on Coney Island.
NOLA Gold’s first venue wasn’t ideal. It was two parts football field and one part construction site.
Was that a fun surface to play on? Probably not. Was it pretty? It certainly wasn’t. Was that a sustainable venue? Not in the long term. But it’s how the league was able to get to where it is today.
It’s like when you move into a new place and you have to sit on camping chairs in the living room for a little bit before you can pick up a couch. That’s not pretty. You’re probably not planning on sitting on camping chairs forever. But it makes for a fun memory when you are in a more comfortable position and do finally get that couch.
That’s the same way I’ve tried to look at the venues through the years.
Now let’s get to the Grab Bag!
Mikey Te’o is FUN!
I love watching Mikey Te’o play rugby.
The first time I remember seeing him play was at the 2016 RugbyTown Sevens with the SoCal Griffins. Who was this fellow with the Snoop Dogg braids that was lighting up the tournament? I quickly found out.
The Utah Warriors fullback is built like a slab of granite at 5’9” and 212 pounds. He runs like the wind and can cut on a dime. If defenders aren’t fully committed to tackling him, he’ll make you pay.
He scored his 10th and 11th try as a member of the Warriors in Utah’s 69-22 drubbing of the Dallas Jackals on Saturday to pass Tonata Lauti and become the Warriors’ all-time leading try scorer.
Te’o – who is also the San Diego Legion’s all-time leading try-scorer – made the jump to the Warriors from the Legion ahead of the 2021 season and has made the most of his change of scenery. His nine-try campaign helped earn him first-team All MLR honors and the 2021 Player of the Year award as he helped lead the Warriors to an appearance in the 2021 Western Conference Final.
It’s been a sluggish start to 2022 for Te’o and the Warriors, but Saturday’s match might’ve been exactly what he needed to get going.
That’s not only good for the Warriors, but that’s good for the MLR as well because Mikey Te’o is fun to watch.
The Warriors Win Big
2022 hasn’t started the way that the Utah Warriors would’ve liked.
An 0-3 start to the season after a Western Conference Final appearance in 2021 isn’t ideal. But they finally got into the win column for the first time with a record-setting win over the winless Jackals in Round 5.
Every winless team in any competition should take notes. The recipe to getting back on track is simple:
- Score the most points in a match in the history of your competition (69)
- Tie the record for the latest margin of victory (47)
Mix in two tries from Te’o and a Mike Kruse hat trick and that’s all it takes!
Whether or not that win changes the trajectory of the season for the Warriors remains to be seen, but that’s quite the way to get the first win of the season out of the way.
Try of the Week
I’m a sucker for a good cross-field kick for a try.
Rugby New York’s Sam Windsor and Andrew Coe worked it to perfection in the first half of their loss to the New England Free Jacks on Sunday afternoon.
Canadian Olympian @AndrewCoee started AND ended this try with epic catches on both ends of the field! ?#MLR2022 @rugbynewyork @RugbyCanada pic.twitter.com/rSGdJ8ZLyO
— The Rugby Network (@therugbynetwork) March 6, 2022
What a beauty!
That looked like Tom Brady finding Randy Moss on a go route in 2007. Pitch and catch.
Did I miss anything? Let me know on Twitter @DNVR Rugby.