The first month of Major League Rugby’s 2021 is in the books after last weekend’s round of matches, and the one thing that remains certain is the unpredictability of how every match will shake out.
The exception to this rule has been the Los Angeles Giltinis, who have put beatdowns on the New England Free Jacks, Seattle Seawolves, and most recently the Toronto Arrows in their first three matches. Momentum is a valuable asset in sports, and any worry that the Giltinis had about losing their momentum after their Round 3 bye was squashed in their 43-16 rout over the Arrows in New Orleans in Round 4. The Giltinis started slow for their standards on Saturday. They took a 17-9 lead into the half as Toronto did their best to hang around. Hanging around is all teams have been able to do against Los Angeles so far, and that’s why the Giltinis sit atop the table with the only unblemished record in the MLR and a match in hand over half of the competition.
Hot on their heels in the table is owner Adam Gilchrist’s second team in the competition. The Austin Gilgronis picked up a thriller of a victory over the NOLA Gold on the same pitch that the Giltinis took care of business only a few hours earlier. The Gilgronis used a Roderick Waters try to down the Gold 18-15 and pick up their second win in as many weeks after starting the season with two close losses. Their victory on Saturday marked only the second time Austin had ever won back-to-back matches, with the first coming in May and June 2018 – Major League Rugby’s inaugural season – after wins over the San Diego Legion and the Utah Warriors. Austin will look to ride their hot streak to another victory with Rugby ATL coming to town in Round 5.
The third match of the weekend took place down in Houston between the SaberCats and the San Diego Legion. After getting shut out in back-to-back weeks, the SaberCats were due for a big game. That’s exactly what they got, but the Legion gave them all they could handle in the process. A match that consisted of tries tailor-made for the highlight reel – with one coming in the 81st minute – ultimately was decided by a conversion that Legion fly-half Joe Pietersen was unable to hit after the final try. The SaberCats picked up a 34-32 victory to get back in the win column before their big bout with the Giltinis in Round 5.
The defending champion Seattle Seawolves headlined MLR’s Saturday night slate as they made the trek to Utah in search of their first win of the season against the then first-place Warriors. After a rough start to the season, Seattle took a 12-7 lead into the half and ultimately held on for a 20-15 win over Utah in a nailbitter. After starting the season red hot, Utah has now lost their last two matches and will need to play a solid match against a hungry Legion team in Round 5 to get back to their winning ways.
An eastern conference showdown between Rugby United New York and Rugby ATL in Atlanta on Sunday put the bow on Major League Rugby’s fourth round. After a solid victory over San Diego in Round 3, Atlanta had the chance to string together another win over a RUNY team fresh off of a bye and establish themselves at the top of the east. RUNY had other plans, though, and knocked off Atlanta 27-17 to move into second place in the east with 10 points in the table. Atlanta held onto the top spot in the east even with the loss but will need to put together a solid performance against the Gilgronis in Austin next week if they plan on staying there.