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.
With the conclusion of Round 9, we have officially hit the midway point of the 2022 Major League Rugby season.
One thing I’ve liked about Major League Rugby since the league’s inception is the unpredictability. Every week is full or surprises, and that makes every week fun.
The halfway point of the season is also usually when the contenders separate themselves from the pack. While there are certainly a few teams that have been consistently at the top of the table throughout the first half of the season, I enjoy the fact that almost every team is still in the mix for a playoff spot. There are really only three teams – Old Glory D.C., Dallas Jackals, Utah Warriors – that don’t have a realistic shot at the playoffs at this point in the season. NOLA Gold is toeing that line with a 3-5 record, but every other team has a record of .500 or above.
That’s generally been the case since the league’s been around. Teams are generally in the mix for playoff spots until the tail end of the season, and that makes it fun to be a fan. It’s tough to get excited about a team that’s not playing for anything, so creating a balanced competition should be commended.
Now let’s get into the Grab Bag!
Lay of the Land
Here are a few teams that I’ve been surprised by so far:
- LA Giltinis – I thought the reigning champs would come out of the gates way hotter than they did. They’ve ripped off a three-game win streak after a two-match skid and currently sit in third place in the Western Conference. I never thought that LA would miss the playoffs, but was simply surprised by their sluggish start to the season.
- New England Free Jacks – It’s hard not to be pleasantly surprised with how well they’ve played throughout the first half of the season. They’ve proven that they are not messing around. Let’s see if they can keep their form and punch their first ticket to the playoffs.
- San Diego Legion – The San Diego Legion had a rough 2021 season. A large part of that wasn’t in their control. They didn’t have to move to a different country for the entire season as the Toronto Arrows did, but they were never able to call a place home for much longer than a few weeks, either. It seems as if the stability has done wonders for them as they have pieced together a 5-3 season and sit in second place in the Western Conference.
- Utah Warriors – I think everyone is surprised to see Utah take such a big step back after a stellar 2021 season that resulted in a Western Conference Final appearance. On one hand, it’s surprising to see the Warriors part ways with the 2021 Coach of the Year Shawn Pittman, but at the same time, a 2-6 start leaves anything on the table. MLR Kickoff’s Dan Power said it best after the news dropped yesterday:
Hoadley now Pittman!!!! Coach of the year is as good as a tombstone it seems. ?
— Dan Power (@dan_power15) April 4, 2022
Try of the Week
The week nine #PureGoldPlay of the game is brought to you by Michelob Ultra Pure Gold. @MichelobULTRA Pure Gold: The Official Beer of NOLA Gold Rugby.
? #NOLAGritNOLAGold pic.twitter.com/MEw651tTAw
— NOLA Gold Rugby (@nolagoldrugby) April 4, 2022
I was conflicted whether I should call this the Hit of the Week or the Try of the Week. It has all of the components of both, but I think it has to be the Try of the Week because the collision with the upright is what makes the clip.
It made me think of this story that former Chicago Bears owner George Halas told about his fullback Bronko Nagurski. After Nagurski barreled through a handful of defenders en route to a touchdown, he ran through the back of the end zone and was stopped by one of the brick walls at Wrigley Field.
When he came back to the sideline, he reportedly acknowledged that the last guy hit him awfully hard.
To be honest, I am kind of surprised that you don’t see more people colliding with the uprights during rugby matches. Hopefully, everyone involved in this play was alright.
Hit of the Week
It’s not often that the Hit of the Week is distributed by the ballcarrier instead of the tackler. Danny Barrett is the exception to that rule, though. He runs the ball like Larry Csonka
Did I miss anything? Let me know on Twitter @DNVR Rugby.