The first half of Major League Rugby’s 2021 season is officially in the books as Round 9 came to a close on Sunday afternoon.
There have been a few constants through the first nine weeks of the season. Every match has been unpredictable, the standings will be jumbled around after every single match, and the Los Angeles Giltinis will sit atop the table when the week has concluded. Round 9 brought more of the same results, and while the action wasn’t as cutthroat as it was in Round 8, it was as good as it’s been all year long.
The first match of the weekend took place between the San Diego Legion and the NOLA Gold at the Chula Vista Elite Training Center as the Legion wait for permission to return home to Torero Stadium. Through the first nine weeks, the Legion has hosted matches in Las Vegas, Dignity Health Sports Park, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and the Chula Vista Elite Training Center. They’ll play one more match in Chula Vista when they host the Houston SaberCats in Round 11.
It can’t be easy going through a season without true home grounds, and that’s exactly the problem that the Legion are dealing with as the midway point of the season comes and goes. The Toronto Arrows have found themselves in a similar situation, but they at least have the luxury of shacking up with Rugby ATL for as long as they need before they are granted permission to head back to Canada.
It’s fair to assume that the lack of stability has played into the up-and-down season that the Legion is currently in. But despite all of that, they put a 43-17 smackdown on the visiting Gold on Saturday afternoon to pick up their third win of the season. The Gold has had a hard time getting anything strung together, and Saturday was proof of that. After winning two straight matches for the first time all season long, they dropped this match to the Legion and dropped down to third place in the Eastern Conference. They’ll host a 4-4 Utah Warriors team that finds themselves in a similar position to the Gold in Round 10 while the Legion will enjoy a week off.
The aforementioned Arrows went to Houston to take on the SaberCats in the second match of the weekend. The Arrows took care of business, beating the SaberCats 19-10 and handing them their fourth-straight loss and their sixth loss on the season. Houston has been all over the place in 2021. They’ve proven that they can run with some of the top teams in the competition, but they’ve also been shut out twice. Their two wins came over the team directly above them in the table – the San Diego Legion – and the team directly below them – the Seattle Seawolves. Houston will try to get the train back on the tracks in Round 10 when they host Old Glory D.C.
Toronto finds themselves smack dab in the middle of a heated race for the Eastern Conference after their win on Saturday. They’ll have a week off to prepare for an opportunity to get back to .500 in Round 11 when they go up to New England to take on the Free Jacks.
While Houston and Toronto were locking horns, Rugby United New York was in Austin to take on their second Gil team in as many weeks. They used a heroic defensive effort to beat the table-topping Giltinis in a low-scoring affair in Round 8, and almost did the exact same team in Roun 9 to knock off the Gilgronis. Instead, it was Austin who handed Utah a 16-9 loss on Saturday at BOLD Stadium. That win nudged the Gilgronis back into second place in the Western Conference after a slip up in Round 8 saw them drop down a notch. RUNY dropped out of the top spot and down into second place in the Eastern Conference, but they trail Rugby ATL by just two table points.
Rugby ATL earned the top spot in the Eastern Conference by beating the New England Free Jacks 33-18 on Saturday night. Holding onto the top spot in the Eastern Conference will not be an easy task for Rugby ATL as only six table points separate them from last place Old Glory D.C. While the Free Jacks may sit at 4-4 at the midway points, they’ll have the best opportunity of any Eastern Conference team to make up ground over their final eight matches as seven of them will be against Eastern Conference foes. The first of those seven will be a road match against Rugby United New York in Round 10. Rugby ATL will take their first-place record on the road to face a Seattle Seawolves that plays a little better every single week.
Saturday’s final match took place between the first-place Los Angeles Giltinis and the Utah Warriors at SoFi Stadium. Fresh off a loss, the Giltinis wasn’t about to let another match slip through their fingers. The Utah Warriors went into the match with aspirations of closing the gap that existed between them and the Giltinis, but Los Angeles had other ideas. While Utah did their best to make it interesting in the second half, the Giltinis took care of business in the form of a 38-27 victory. With the win, the Giltinis are 10 table points better than anyone else in the competition. They’ll take on the second-place Austin Gilgronis in the long-awaited Gil Bowl on Wednesday night. The Warriors remain right in the thick of the hunt for second place with the loss and will try to make up some ground with a match against the Gold next week.
The final match of the weekend took place on Sunday afternoon between the Seattle Seawolves and Old Glory D.C. After a rough start to the season for the Seawolves, they went into Round 9 looking to manufacture their first winning streak of the season. Old Glory D.C. had other plans, and used a solid second half to pick up their third win of the season and hand the Seawolves their sixth loss of the season. Old Glory’s D.C. 22-18 win over the Seawolves leaves them in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, but it helps keep them in the mix down the stretch of the second half of the season. The Seawolves continue to show improvement, but find themselves 14 points back of the second-place Gilgronis with eight matches to play.