It sounds crazy that it’s taken until Round 13, but the cream is beginning to rise to the top as Major League Rugby’s 2021 season enters the home stretch.
With five rounds to play, the race for the two playoff spot in each conference remains as tight as it has been all year long, but some of the teams at the bottom of the table are beginning to completely work themselves out of the equation.
Both the Seattle Seawolves and the Houston SaberCats are out of the hunt with their losses on the weekend. While the path to the playoffs will be more difficult for some, many teams did themselves favors in Round 13.
NOLA Gold was one of those teams that helped themselves out over the weekend when they picked up a 25-21 point victory over Old Glory D.C. For a team that’s had a hard time stringing wins together, NOLA bounced back from a one-point loss to Rugby ATL the week prior to keep themselves in the mix for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. With the victory, they sit in fourth place with 34 table points. The New England Free Jacks – who sit in third with 34 points as well – have one more win than NOLA does, but both the Free Jacks and the Gold sit five points back from Rugby United New York for the second playoff spot. NOLA has the chance to continue to climb the ladder with matches against the last-place Toronto Arrows and the Free Jacks in the next two weeks.
Old Glory will have a steep road to the playoffs, but they should be glad that the road exists. D.C. sits in fifth place in the East with 27 table points. They are 12 points behind RUNY with only four matches to play, but they have the chance to gain some ground with two of their next four matches coming against the Toronto Arrows and first-place Rugby ATL. They’ll have a bye week in Round 14 before they try to snap their three-match skid.
Another team that helped themselves out in Round 13 was the Austin Gilgronis. A two-match skid to close out the month of May bumped them down in the table a bit, but Austin has picked up two convincing wins over the Houston SaberCats and the Toronto Arrows in as many weeks. While neither of those teams is at the top of their respective tables, Austin is doing what good teams do. They are beating the teams they are supposed to beat.
Saturday’s win over the Arrows was a convincing one. They cruised to a 47-21 victory over the Arrows and maintained their hold on the third spot in the Western Conference in the process. They remain five points behind the Utah Warriors and 10 points behind the Los Angeles Giltinis for the two playoff spots in the West. With three of their next four matches coming against Western Conference teams, they are in a solid spot as the season winds down.
With the loss to the Gilgronis, the Arrows need to play flawless rugby and get some help from around the league as the season comes to a close. They sit in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with 23 table points and trail RUNY by 16 points in the table. Fortunately for them, all four of their final matches will come against Eastern Conference opponents. While a playoff berth is not impossible, a lot will have to go right for the Arrows as they try to climb out of the hole they find themselves in.
Round 13 was almost a really bad one for the Utah Warriors. Not only were they staring down the barrel at a 17-point deficit to a surging San Diego Legion team, but they were also looking at the reality of falling out of the second playoff spot in the Western Conference with the loss. Just as they’ve done several times this season, the Warriors cheated death to steal a 45-41 victory over the Legion. The win gives them 41 table points on the season and leaves them in control of their own destiny with four matches to play. If the chips fall their way, they could be playing the Giltinis for the top spot in the West in the season finale. The loss makes San Diego’s path to the playoffs harder as they are now 10 points back from a playoff spot, but they can make up ground over the next month as two of their next four matches are against the Gilgronis and Giltinis.
The biggest match in the Eastern Conference featured the top two teams from said conference. Rugby United New York handed Rugby ATL their first loss since April 17 to keep pace with Atlanta in the table and maintain their hold on the second playoff spot. RUNY put together a complete performance to pick up the 31-24 victory, which is the most points that Atlanta has conceded this season. Both sides have now won eight matches, but Atlanta remains in first place with 41 table points while RUNY possesses a game in hand over the Rattlers. The standings are far from set.
The New England Free Jacks picked up a 25-21 victory over the Seattle Seawolves that not only helped them keep pace with the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, but also eliminated the Seawolves from the playoff picture. The league will have a new champion as the Seawolves will watch the playoffs from home for the first time in their history. The Free Jacks’ dreams of a title are still alive and well with their victory over Seattle in Round 13. All four of their remaining games are against Eastern Conference opponents, including RUNY and Atlanta.
The final match of the weekend featured the first-place Los Angeles Giltinis and the last-place Houston SaberCats. The last time we saw the Giltinis, they picked up their second loss of the season to Rugby ATL. They used a bye week to regroup and picked up a huge 52-5 win over Houston to maintain their hold on the top of the table and eliminate the SaberCats from postseason contention. While LA remains in the driver’s seat with a game in hand, they will have to stay on top of their game as Utah and Austin stay hot on their tail.