Round 11 of Major League Rugby’s 2021 season brought with it the twists and turns that have made this season so fun to follow.
There was a point in the season that the Los Angeles Giltinis looked untouchable. Now when you take a look at the table, they look human. That’s because of the superhuman performance that Rugby ATL put forth in their match with the Giltinis on Saturday night. Atlanta didn’t win the possession battle, had less carries, were out carried by nearly 500 meters, and walked away with a 17-12 victory over the league-leading Giltinis. That’s because Atlanta brought their lunchpail and made a whopping 263 tackles on Saturday night. Theire heroic defensive effort kept the Giltinis bottled up, and Atlanta picked up a massive victory as a result.
With the win, Atlanta improved its record to 7-3 on the season and maintained their hold on first place in the Eastern Conference. They now sit six points back of the Giltinis in the overall table with six matches to play.
With the top dogs in the compeition stealing the show, the other four matches were equally as important but weren’t equally as competitive. The excpetion to that was the first match of the weekend. The Toronto Arrows were inches from knocking off the New England Free Jacks on Saturday afternoon, but weren’t able to do enough to get the result. It was the Free Jacks who help off the Arrows and escaped with a 14-12 victory to stay within striking distance of a playoff spot. While the Eastern Conference is still as compeittive as ever, the margin of error is becoming smaller for teams across the board. New England’s victory propelled them into third place with 25 table points while the Arrows are now in the basement of the east with 23 table points. New England has the opportunity to build on their momentum from Round 11 when they take on fifth place Old Glory D.C. in Round 12, while the Arrows can steal some points back with a victory over a streaky San Diego Legion team.
That streaky Legion team picked up their second big victory in as many weeks with a solid 39-11 victory over the Houston SaberCats in Round 11. Their two-match homestand at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center treated them well. Their little win streak has the Legion within striking distance of the second playoff spot in the Western Conference. Anything is possible if they can keep up their play from the last two weeks. They will look to make it three in a row against a hungry Arrows team that will be ready to get a bad taste out of their mouth. The SaberCats on the otherhand are trying to pull themselves out of a tailspin that began back on April 17. Their loss to the Legion brought their losing streak to six matches, and it will be tough for them to get back in the win column with matches against the Austin Gilgronis and Los Angeles Giltinis in the coming weeks.
Saturday’s final match was massively important for table standings in the Western Conference. Both the Gilgronis and the Warriors still trail the first-place Giltinis by double digit table points, but they’re neck and neck when it comes to the second playoff spot. The Warriors took care of business on Saturday night and picked up a 45-24 victory over Austin to give themselves some breathing room in the table while they get set to chip away at the first place spot. They should continue to make up ground in the standings when they take on the last-place Seattle Seawolves in Round 12. The Gilgronis will attempt to stop their two-match losing streak against the Houston SaberCats in Round 12. They defeated the SaberCats 26-0 in their first meeting back in April.
The final match of the weekend saw Rugby United New York drop the hammer on Old Glory D.C. to pick up their seventh victory of the season. The 46-10 win keeps RUNY in second place in the Eastern Conference with 34 table points, while the loss dropped Old Glory down to 4-5-1 on the year and fifth place in the table with 24 points. The victory also keeps the top seed in the Eastern Conference in play for RUNY who would’ve reclaimed the top spot in the table had Rugby ATL lost to the Giltinis. RUNY will now get a week of rest before taking on Rugby ATL in a match that will have massive playoff implications. Old Glory D.C. will try to claw themselves back into playoff contention with a match against the New England Free Jacks in Round 12.