Round 8of Major League Rugby was the best of the season.
All six matches that happened over the weekend were decided by less than seven points. It seemed like every match was coming down to last-second scores and game-saving tackles. On top of all of that, the unthinkable happened when the almighty Los Angeles Giltinis were dealt their first loss of the season, and that was just one piece of a wild weekend around the league.
Roun8 started down in New Orleans with the visiting Houston SaberCats looking to put an end to their two-game losing streak against the streaky Gold. Unfortunately for the SaberCats, the Gold broke free from their biweekly winning schedule and used a 28-26 victory over Houston to put together their first wins streak of the season. The win stopped a five-match streak of alternating wins and losses after starting the season with a draw. It also put them in second place in the table with 24 points on the season. Houston fell to 2-5 on the season with the loss, and find themselves in 11th place in the table with 13 points. They sit just two points ahead of the last-place Seattle Seawolves.
The second match of the weekend featured the red hot and now well rested Austin Gilgronis taking their four-match winning streak on the road to face the New England Free Jacks. The Free Jacks came back from an 11-5 halftime deficit to defeat the Gilgronis 22-18 and hand them their first loss since Round 2. The result of this match reshuffled the standings as the Free Jacks rode their two-game win streak into the sixth spot in the table and third place in the Eastern Conference. The loss combined with a Utah Warriors win bumped the Gilgronis from second place in the Western Conference down to third and fifth overall in the league table. Austin has a chance to get back on track when Rugby United New York – last week’s world beaters – but that will be no small task.
New England will try to push their win streak to three matches when they head to Georgia to take on almost an identical team to themselves in Rugby ATL. Through seven matches, both New England and Atlanta are 4-3, they’ve logged five bonus points and have 21 table points. New England has a +24 point differential to Atlanta’s +21, and the Free Jacks hold a +4 try differential to Rugby ATL’s +3. Atlanta finds themselves in that position after defeating the Toronto Arrows in their second roommate bowl of the year – now dubbed the Fire and Ice Cup – and for the second time this year, Rugby ATL defeated the Arrows by less than seven points.
Old Glory D.C. traveled to Utah to take on the Warriors for Saturday’s final match. Just like all of the matches before it, this one came down to the very end and featured game-saving tackles by two Warriors and a game-winning try by Mika Kruse as the Warriors stunned Old Glory 34-33. That win propelled Utah back into second place in the Western Conference after they were leapfrogged by Austin a few weeks ago. Old Glory D.C. fell to 2-4-1 with the loss and now find themselves in ninth place in the table with 15 points and sixth in the Eastern Conference.
The biggest upset of the weekend happened on Sunday afternoon. The juggernaut Los Angeles Giltinis took their 6-0 record on the road to take on Rugby United New York in Jersey City. For the first time all season, a team put the clamps on the Giltinis for a full 80 minutes. Defense was the name of the game between these two teams, but it was RUNY that came out on top of an 18-16 streetfight. RUNY brought their lunch pail to win the inaugural Champagne Cup and sent the Giltinis back to California with their first Major League Rugby loss. RUNY can continue to throw a wrench in the Western Conference table as they head to Austin next week to take on the third place Gilgronis while the Giltinis and the second-place Warriors will slug it out in SoFi Stadium next weekend.
The final match of the weekend featured two original seven MLR clubs in the Seattle Seawolves. These matchups have historically decided playoff seeding, home-field advantage, and even the 2019 MLR Championship, but Sunday’s match featured two teams that we fighting to keep their heads above water as the mid-way point of the season approaches. Seattle used a solid first half and a strong end to the match to hand the Legion a 21-15 loss to close out the Round 8 action. Even with the loss, the Seawolves still find themselves in last place 1ith 11 total table points. San Diego is may be fourth in the Western Conference, but they are 10th in the table overall and have the most losses of any team in the competition through eight weeks with six.