The 2021 Major League Rugby season has been jam-packed with razor-thin results and that has led to what will surely be a photo finish for the two playoff spots in both the Eastern and Western Conferences.
Round 12 brought with it much of that same action. While the Houston SaberCats continued to sputter in a 28-9 loss – their seventh straight loss – to the Austin Gilgronis in the second leg of the Texas Cup, the other four matches on the weekend were in line with what we’ve come to expect out of Major League Rugby this season.
Austin took care of the SaberCats to start Round 12, and held onto the third-place spot in the Western Conference with 31 table points as a result. At the same time that the Texas Cup was taking place, there was an important match taking place down in New Orleans between the Gold and Rugby ATL. It took everything in the tank, but Atlanta held off the Gold in an 8-7 defensive battle to maintain their top spot in the Eastern Conference. The loss places New Orleans in fourth place with 30 table points while the win gave Atlanta a bit of breathing room over Rugby United New York as they enjoyed a bye week. Even with the bye, RUNY is still right on NOLA’s tail, as they remain one bonus point win away from catching the Gold’s 39 table points.
The first match of Sunday’s triple-header featured the surging San Diego Legion and the Toronto Arrows. Making the playoffs in any competition is all about getting hot at the right time. It doesn’t matter how you start, it’s about how you finish, and the Legion could be peaking at the right time of the season. Despite an up and down start to the season, the Legion seems to have figured things out and have put themselves in a great position to steal a playoff spot at the finish line. They kept that dream alive with a 40-30 victory over the Arrows on Sunday afternoon.
Sunday’s victory was the third straight for San Diego as they attempt to claw their way back into a playoff spot. Their next three matches are against with matches against Utah Warriors, Los Angeles Giltinis, and the Austin Gilgronis – the three teams in front of them in the table. The Legion will either be steadily in the mix or making their summer plans by the Fourth of July weekend.
Unlike the Legion, the Arrows are trending in the opposite direction. Toronto’s month-by-month results tell the story of a team that’s had a hard time putting victories together. The Arrows seemed to have it all figured out in April. They won three of their four matches and finished the month with a +80 point differential. That momentum disappeared in May as they finished with a 1-3 record, and that momentum seems to have carried over into June. The Arrows may be in sixth place for the time being, but they’ll have the chance to climb out of the basement as four of their final five matches will be against Eastern Conference teams.
The New England Free Jacks used a 38-34 victory over Old Glory D.C. to make up some ground in the highly competitive Eastern Conference. Like the Arrows, the Free Jacks are in a unique position as the season winds down because four of their final five matches are against Eastern Conference opponents and one of those matches is against Atlanta. The win over the weekend places them in third place in the east with 30 table points, and a strong finish to the season could propel them into their first playoff appearance.
Old Glory D.C. is on the outside looking in at the fifth spot in the table with 26 points, but with five matches to play, they aren’t out of the mix by any means. Their path to the playoffs will be more difficult than other clubs, though, because they don’t have as many conference opponents on the schedule. While they can still climb the table, they will be keeping an eye on the scores around the league down the stretch.
The final match of the weekend featured the Utah Warriors and the Seattle Seawolves in a match that was massively important for Warriors team trying to keep ahold of the second playoff spot in the Western Conference. After beating the Warriors in a match back in April, Seattle was only a few minutes away from doing it again on Sunday night. A last-second try and conversion propelled the Warriors to a 29-28 victory to keep them in second place in the Western Conference. They are now just five points behind the Los Angeles Giltinis who enjoyed a bye week in Round 12. The Warriors season finale against the Giltinis could wind up being extremely important.
The Seawolves moved out of the basement and into the fifth spot in the west with 14 table points. They will try to end their season on the right foot with six matches to play.