For Immediate Release
January 29, 2018
Glendale Raptors ready for professional rugbyOver a decade in the making, Raptors ready to earn new acclaim in Major League Rugby
GLENDALE, Colo. - Professional rugby has arrived in the United States, with the Colorado-based Glendale Raptors as one of the seven founding member teams in the new professional league, Major League Rugby (MLR).
Starting in April 2018, MLR will field a 10-game schedule with each team playing eight regular season games with two bye weeks. The season will begin April 21, 2018 at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colorado with the regular season concluding on June 24, 2018.
The Raptors will join six other founding teams in the inaugural season of MLR including the Utah Warriors, San Diego Legion, Seattle Seawolves, Houston SaberCats, New Orleans Gold and Austin Elite Rugby.
Each team is deeply invested in its respective community in order to increase youth participation and grow the game. Athletes take pride in the values of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship. MLR looks forward to establishing these values in youth programs throughout rugby communities.
The Raptors have assembled an impressive player pool, signing many from their championship winning elite men’s team that have competed since 2007 in USA Rugby Men’s Division 1, Pacific Rugby Premiership and, most recently, Major Rugby Championship. A number of the Raptors squad have also been selected to play with the United States national team, the USA Eagles, further demonstrating Glendale’s ten-year history of consistent success. Raptors Head Coach David Williams acknowledges the team’s readiness for professional competition, noting that the Raptors have had “really good preparation and a great platform, making us ready to launch into the MLR.”
MLR has partnered with CBS Sports Net who will broadcast the season opener April 21st from Infinity Park, and with AT&T Sports, who will broadcast the remaining home matches.
Season tickets are available for purchase now at glendaleraptors.com
Roster and Staff
Glendale Raptors Squad
Bryce Campbell – Center
Jake Christmann - Scrumhalf
Connor Cook – Back Row
Dustin Croy – Wing/Fullback
Peter Dahl – Back Row
Harley Davidson – Wing/Fullback
Shaun Davies – Scrumhalf
Maximo de Achaval – Fullback
James DelBozque – Hooker
Zach Fenoglio – Hooker
Kelepi Fifita – Prop
Seth Halliman – Wing/Fullback
Kyle Hitt – Center
Nick Kwasniewski – Prop
Benjamin Landry – Lock
Chad London – Center
William Magie – Flyhalf
Ata Malifa – Center
John Quill – Back Row
Casey Rock – Lock
Blake Rogers – Prop
John Ryberg – Wing
Devin Vaughter – Back Row
Brian Wanless – Back Row
Luke White – Prop
2018 Glendale Raptors Coaches & Staff
Glendale Director of Rugby
By Liam Madigan-Fried
(Photo Credit: Judy Teasdale Photography) The Houston SaberCats have pulled themselves up to .500 on their official Exhibition Season after a 42-13 defeat of the James Bay Athletic Association. Josua Vici of the SaberCats took home Man of the Match honors.
The match began on pretty even footing for both teams, as each squad was able to quell potential splash plays by the other. Houston saw its first opportunity for points wasted when they elected not to kick for the posts and instead for touch. The ensuing lineout would remind fans in Texas that of one of the ‘Cats biggest weaknesses is throwing it in straight down the tunnel. Fortunately for Coach Fitzpatrick’s squad, James Bay’s own first opportunity for points wound up being a wide shanking kick that fell into the arms of Josua Vici.
The first score of the match would eventually come from the ever-entertaining Connor Murphy (9), who used a quick tap opportunity to put the SaberCats ahead. Zach Pangelinan quickly followed that up with a try of his own, before Player-Coach Sam Windsor would connect with the team’s first dropkick of the season to climb ahead 13-0.
Knowing their window to shorten the gap between them and the home team was closing, James Bay capitalized on ‘Cats penalty in the lineout (go-figure), resulting in a Mitch Richarson-delivered try. Their good fortune and momentum would continue on from there, after a yellow card would put Houston down a man. James Bay wouldn’t let the opportunity go to waste, allowing Blake Mahovic to get the team’s second try of the half, narrowing the gap to 13-10.
Just before the first half’s conclusion, the SaberCats would extend the lead to 20-10 with 0:00 left on the clock after a try from Josua Vici and a successful conversion from Sam Windsor.
If James Bay expected themselves to mount a furious comeback after halftime, they must’ve been sourly disappointed. Although they managed to secure the first points of the half through a successful penalty kick, the SaberCats controlled the pace and possession throughout, hardly allowing the visitors an opportunity to gain or sustain any kind of momentum.
While Houston saw an astounding 22 points scored in the second half, the closest James Bay would come to finding the try zone would be a held-up call after Blake van-Heyningen fought furiously through the stout Houston defense. Meanwhile, Houston would end up seeing a second try from Josua Vici, tries from Jack Riley and Kyle Sumsion, and a three-point kick from Zach Pangelinan.
Although us fans were once again deprived of the chance to see the ‘Cats play via live stream, based solely on the commentary you could tell this was a lot more cohesive and fluid of a team than we saw against Vancouver, especially in the second half when the time came to put the final nails in the coffin. However, the same glaring issues for this team remain heading into the regular season.
Lineouts: The SaberCats have lost a chance at a few key possessions now thanks to their tendency to not get the ball in straight on a lineout. We saw (or heard I guess) this week even how it even resulted in a try for James Bay. This isn’t going to fly against tougher competition.
Penalties: Jesus…16 penalties in the first half compared with two for James Bay. If Tom Brady played for this team you all would be having a stroke. Houston played with a man down not just once, BUT TWICE in this game. Although to fair, the second one was with the game far out of reach. But still, you will get your ass kicked by the Raptors and The Elite if you play a man down for thirty accumulative minutes.
As we here at Penguin Tundra prepare for the first edition of our MLR Power Rankings, it will be interesting to see how the results of the other six teams’ exhibitions compare with what’s going on at Sugar Land.
By Liam Madigan-Fried
Two top-notch squads of North America are set to do battle this Saturday after walking away from different results the previous week. The James Bay Athletic Association, who are coming off a commanding victory over the Seattle Saracens 25-10, and the Houston SaberCats, who came close but no cigar to upsetting the 18th ranked Uruguay National Team, but ultimately fell 32-24.
After three matches to date, it’s pretty clear what the SaberCats’ strengths are. Their defensive play is solid, with a litany of powerful players who make the opposition have to fight for every meter gained. Plus, with Zach Pangelinan acting as the last line of defense at fullback, teams are wary about sending it his way for fear he might take it the distance, or at least pin them back farther than where they started using his own powerful boot.
Then, there is their scrum, which absolutely bullied Uruguay in the first half of last Saturday’s game. For Houston to come away with the win, the front line trio of Dever, Maquieira, and Macklin need to keep that momentum going consistently. However, dominance in the scrum is not always conducive to wins, which is what we’ve seen the last two weeks from the SaberCats since their blowout victory over Seattle.
Even without the ‘professional’ designation, James Bay Athletic Club is no joke. True, their victory over Seattle didn’t come to the tune of 50-7 or whatever that hell it was, but after heading into halftime with a 16-10 lead, they held Seattle to 0 points the rest of the way to a 25-10 victory. Overall, they have proven to be a troubling and challenging opponent for many teams in the BC Premiere League, currently sitting at fifth place in the standings with a record of 7-5. For some perspective, the UBCOB Ravens, Houston’s week two opponent who gave them their first ever loss, currently sits at second in the BC Premiere rankings with a record of 10-2, while Seattle rests at 5-7.
If you want to get really analytical about it (and you know I am, otherwise I wouldn’t have used that transition) let’s take a look at how each team has been at scoring over their last three games:
James Bay (Last Three Games):
Opponents- vs SEATTLE (WIN), vs UBC (LOSS), vs U OF VICTORIA (WIN)
Average Tries per Game: 3.6
Average Points per Game: 25.3
Houston (Last Three Games):
Opponents- vs URUGUAY (LOSS), vs UBCOB RAVENS (Loss), vs SEATTLE (WIN)
Average Tries per Game: 4.6
Average Points per Game: 32.3
Over the course of the last three games, Houston has averaged one more try and seven more points with two losses than James Bay has with two victories in their last three games. If these numbers remain consistent in Saturday’s bout, Houston might be able to ride its scrum and defense to a victory as long as they can put up points early like they did vs the Ravens and Uruguay. For James Bay to win, they will need to show the kind of offensive play they did against U. Victoria when they put up 4 tries to seal the deal.
James Bay: 25
By Liam Madigan-Fried
(Credit Bigshots Snapshots)
A weekend full of pre-MLR season action wrapped up on Saturday, with the two professional clubs splitting the day with a victory and a loss respectively. The New Orleans Gold secured their first win as a club with a 68-15 victory over The Capital Selects, while The Houston SaberCats came close but no cigar up against the Uruguay National Team 32-24.
New Orleans vs Capital Selects
In a game that some analysts (including myself) were foreseeing a back and forth yet sloppy affair, New Orleans ended up finding themselves ahead by a large margin early at 35-0 thanks to a series of fantastic phases, including a beautiful ‘pick-five’ by Sebastian Kalm.
While the offense saw two tries from John Sullivan, and five consecutive conversions by capped-Eagle JP Eloff as two particular highlights for this team to hang their hat o, the defense doesn’t get out of this without a few pats on the back. The Capital Selects would be held out of the try zone until just before halftime, when West Virginia standout CJ Burnes would reel in a deep pass down the line to bring it in for the score which would ultimately go unconverted.
The second half wouldn’t get much better for the visiting side, as it didn’t take much time for JP Eloff to put down a score in the left hand corner, which would end up being his only unconverted try of the day. The Selects would end up garnering two more tries by way of Jake Humphrey and Brian Molloy before the conclusion of the game, while NOLA saw scores from Vincent Jobo, Eric Howard, and Derek Van Klein.
Word from Reddit:
I made the observation in my Weekend Rap-Up Discussion on Reddit that the NOLA scrum didn’t exactly impress, only amassing 2 clear wins to the Capital Select’s 4 (by my count at least). The sentiment wasn’t shared by Reddit user TheStroBro:
“I disagree here Liam. Their scrum dominated the Capital scrum for most of the match, they got lower and took ground every time until the end. What did concern me though was that they lost their legs, sort of like how at the end of the Mayweather-McGregor fight, [Connor] was struggling to stand because his aerobic capacity just wasn't there.”
The user would go on to make the point that scrums are judged by a lot more than just wins and losses, which is absolutely true. Looking back at the film, you can clearly see during the first half especially that NOLA was getting lower and with greater force on the initial push. If not for the lightning quick leg of Selects’ Hooker Adam Floyd and some opportunistic grabs by their Scrumhalf Sean Hartig, NOLA’s time of possession could’ve been a lot steeper.
But! Wins are wins, and if NOLA doesn’t get possession of more scrums than they did against The Selects, it won’t do anything for their odds going forward.
Uruguay National Team vs Houston SaberCats
“TRY TIME!” was a phrase heard around my house even hours after the conclusion of an exciting matchup between one of the USA’s most exciting new clubs and the #18 ranked rugby team in the world.
Uruguay dominated the game’s time of possession throughout thanks to the likes of players like Santiago Arata, but unlike the events that unfolded in New Orleans, this one didn’t up escalating to the point of a blowout. Instead, Houston’s stout defense and strong scrum kept them in the game all the way into the final minutes. If it were not for a few mental lapses, some trouble in the lineouts, and the seemingly absent backline, this game may have had a very different outcome.
Unfortunately for the SaberCats, what happened is what happened, and Coach Fitzpatrick has to be at least somewhat disappointed in the result despite how his team fared overall, especially considering how close they really came in the end. Houston would go into halftime down just 20-14, with both tries coming from the week-in-week-out wonder fullback Zach Pangelinan.
The deficit, however, was not to be surmounted. Uruguay would see more tries from players Leandro Leivas and Arata, while Houston players Eric Howard, Pangelinan, and Connor Murphy (no tries, but a hell of an effort all around) did their very best to keep the game close. The game would come to a close with a final score of 32-24, with Houston scoring one more consolation try to close it out.
Word from Reddit:
We mentioned how Houston managed to stay in this game thanks to a combination of their strong defense and scrum, but the ability to get it out to their backline remained an issue. According to Reddit user TxnG8R, this wasn’t much of a surprise.
“To me, it was obvious that when Fitzy and the boys were [putting] together the team, that it would be a very Forwards dominant side. I think the talent and skills are there for them to take advantage of in the backline. I also think it is a feature of their game plan to get the ball wide on occasion. I think they need more time together to iron out the kinks and we will start to see them improve in this regard as the preseason goes on. It might take until the end of the regular season for it to click, but it will get there.”
Hope seems to spring eternal in Houston, here’s to hoping it remains that way.
By Liam Madigan-Fried
While much attention has been paid to the recent developments inside the city of Houston, MLR fans will be excited to know that there is more preseason action ready to get underway just a few hours eastward on I-10.
This Saturday, Coach Osborne’s NOLA Gold will take on some of the best the mid-Atlantic conference has to offer with the Capital Selects side in their first exhibition match of the season. Although the team has made some major signings over the past couple of months, it will be interesting to finally see how they come together and operate as a unit.
Two of NOLA’s most excitable players include capped Eagles Ben Tarr and J.P Eloff. Tarr broke out onto the USA Rugby scene in 2014 as a Select team candidate himself during the USA’s run in the ARC Developmental Tournament. He made his debut for the Eagles later that year against Romania.
Meanwhile, Eloff (younger brother of capped-Eagle Phillip Eloff), will hopefully ignite a spark in the backline to help them get going early against a stout defensive front. As fullback, Eloff will need to exhibit some great leadership skills from the bak to ensure his wings get moving quickly and fluidly.
Tarr will hopefully provide that veteran presence in the scrum to ensure NOLA maintains possession. And he will definitely have some help in the form of Hubert Buydens later in the season (EDIT: I originally listed Buydens as active for Saturday, he's not. Ooops. Bruh is training in Canada), who if you don’t remember him, was an absolute FORCE of a loose-head Prop during the PRO days, and he’s made many a USA Rugby fan groan with his punishing runs playing for the Canadian National team. However, If they can’t come through in the scrum, well…
John Brown of the Selects will be there. The Rocky Gorge 8-Man is built with a POWERFUL pair of legs that he can use to provide that extra push from the backside of the scrum and rucks, but he can also make opponents pay by leaving them in the dust. An early September MAC Championship rematch against the Pittsburgh Harlequins saw Brown score two tries on his team’s way to a 49-28 victory. A repeat of this performance could prove to be disastrous for NOLA should they allow it to happen.
Brown isn’t the only player NOLA will be hoping to keep under control, as the Selects have come with own fusion of youth and explosion in the form of CJ Burnes, a Wing/Center from the University of West Virginia who has proven to be quick within the trenches and capable of turning on the burners at any point. He’s not just a runner, however. This kid will be more than ready to lay somebody out when the time comes.
In the end, if NOLA hopes to come away with the victory, they are going to have to heavily rely on the vets of their team to navigate this game and keep it at a manageable pace. If the game speeds up too much, the lack of chemistry (a result of this team only being together a few months) could cause the play to become sloppy and eventually downright awful, allowing the more familiar-with-one-another Capital Select side to take advantage.
Capital Selects: 23
No matter what, I think this game is going to get sloppy. There’s a ton of new and young players who are going to be really unfamiliar/taken aback by the professional speed of play, and the lack of time spent playing actual games together will have an effect. However, NOLA has Coach Osborne game planning for Saturday, which nothing against Coach Moore for the Selects, but…yeah. NOLA gets this by a hair on the strength of their scrum and a few winger-splash plays in the second half.
By Liam Madigan-Fried
Before they attempt to spoil Canada’s World Cup hopes, the Uruguay National Rugby team is heading to Houston to see if it can stand a test against one of the U.S.A’s newest and most exciting clubs, The Houston Sabercats.
Despite starting their exhibition season strong by cruising to a 50-7 win over the Seattle Saracens, the Black&Yellow fell back to Earth last Saturday, getting narrowly defeated by the Vancouver Ravens 26-23. Although the Houston Squad seemed to be in control heading into halftime with a 17-10 lead, it ultimately wasn’t meant to be, as they couldn’t stave off a furious second half comeback by a Ravens squad dotted with capped Canadian players.
The difference may have been made in the first half when Fullback Zach Pangelinan missed on his first two try-conversion attempts. Although the Sabercats still held a 10-0 lead at that point, it would eventually come back to haunt them. This is something the ‘Cats have to avoid before taking on their toughest opponent yet with Uruguay, which is missing out on points when they’re right there for the taking.
And it’s not just kicks that I’m talking about. After a breakdown penalty opened the door for the Ravens to take a 26-23 lead via kick, the Sabercats found themselves in a similar position to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, except this didn’t have a happy ending that would send chairs flying backwards across an entire region. A last ditch attempt by the ‘Cats backline to secure the game winning try ultimately fell short, and the SaberCats tasted defeat.
If Houston intends to work out the chinks in its armor, then it better do it fast, because a squad like Uruguay is not going to come in soft as they prepare for a RWC Qualifier against Canada next week, and playing two men down through part of the first and second halves due to yellow cards will be sure to yield even worse results than it did against Vancouver.
So what exactly is Uruguay bringing to the table? Well, for starters, they’re a National Rugby Team, so it’s safe to assume they’ve faced their fair share of stiff competition together, at least at some point. This might not seem like biggest point to make, but even with Uruguay being one of the newer National teams, this Houston squad didn’t even exist a year ago. The fact that they’ve come on this far as a unit together is nothing short of inspiring.
Other than the edge on experience playing together, Uruguay brings with them a host of capable players who Coach Fitzpatrick will have to be mindful of as he prepares his men for Saturday’s matchup. Rodrigo Capó Ortega, for instance, despite having mulled retirement was listed on the travel roster for his team’s qualifier against Canada. Ortega is currently a player with Castres in the French Pro 14, and has scored nine tries and 45 points in total for Uruguay in his career. Watching him and Sam Windsor, Houston’s resident Old Boy Vet…from England, square off is going to be entertaining. That is, if Ortega even plays.
More than likely, Uruguay will be fielding some of its reserves ahead of next week’s qualifier. So expect to see names such as Augustin Ormaechea, a young but talented scrum-half who left his home in Uruguay in 2013 to play for Stade Montois in France, get some serious minutes as well as others such as Juaquin Prada (Center), Diego Magno (Flanker), and Alejandro Nieto (8-Man).
If Houston is to win this game, it’s by playing to their strengths. Control possession of the ball by not allowing Uruguay the opportunity to counter-ruck, win in the scrum, and for God’s sake, score some damn points when you’re knocking at the door of the try-line. If Uruguay is to win this game, they will need to outpace Houston in the passing game, making sure they’re playing too fast for the American competitors to keep up. They’ll also need to jump out to an early lead, because if Houston is able to head into halftime in the lead, this time, they might not give it up.
Let's face it. When it comes to sports in the United States, we're a nation obsessed with stats and fantasy. Major League Rugby is still in its infancy, so we're probably not going to be getting any kind of online fantasy format for it for a while (fingers crossed though!)
To hold us over until that time comes, we here at Penguin Tundra have created a do-it-yourself fantasy scorecard that you and your fellow fans can fill in and compete with one another from week to week. Check out the rules and how to play below, with the score card and season tracker sheets available for download here:
Full Package: Includes the score card, season tracker sheet, and list of rules and how to play.
Score Card: Just the Score Card.
Season Tracker: The season tracker for your league.
Rules and How to Play:
-Players in your league set a line-up each week, choosing ruggers from each club’s game day roster. There is no limit to how many rosters one player can appear on.
-Starting line-up contains three Backs, two Forwards, and one Full Team.
-Backs gain points via Tries (Five Points), Conversions (Two Points), and Kicks/Drops (Three Points).
-Forwards gain points via Tries (Five Points), Conversions (Two Points), Kicks/Drops (Three Points), and Scrums Won (One Point).
-Full Teams start out with TEN POINTS to begin the match, and gain points via Tries (Three Points), Conversions (One Point), Kicks/Drops (Two Points), Scrums Won (One Point), and either PLUS ONE POINT for a Win or MINUS ONE for a Loss.
-Players and Full Teams lose THREE POINTS for Red Cards, and lose TWO POINTS for Yellow Cards.
-The player with the most points at the end of a week gets a ‘Win Bonus’ for the end of the year tally, each one being worth five points. A Win Bonus is signified on your season tracker card as a WB in the corner of each week’s box. The WB is circled every time a player receives a Win Bonus.
-Scrum-Halves may be played in either a Forward or Back slot, but may not gain points for Scrums Won if designated as a Back.
-Player must be designated as a ‘9’ on the game day roster to played as a Scrumhalf.
-You may only designate one Scrumhalf per game.
-Even if a player switches from a Forward to a Back or a Back to a Forward mid-game, they remain in whatever designated slot they began the game in.
-League champions are decided by calculating the total amount of points plus whatever Win Bonuses they may have. In the event of a tie, the breaker goes to whoever has more Win Bonuses. If it is still tied, then the breaker goes to whoever had the most Full Team wins. If it is still tied, the breaker goes to whoever had the fewest Red Cards. If it is STILL tied, then you ruck.
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The PRO hangover is officially done, and the rugby community here in the USA can breathe a collective sigh of relief that it is. Because, with the expiration of PRO and USA Rugby’s agreement, the door for the MLR to become the official rugby premier league of the United States is officially and legally open.
Now, I understand that there are probably some nice-words-or-no-words folks out there who will wag their digital finger at me on Twitter for celebrating PRO’s exit from existence the same way I did for those sunglasses Kanye used to rock with the bars on them in the early-2000’s and say “But PRO’s on field product was great!” Yeah? And those glasses were fun to wear at school dances…kind of.
Anyway, on to why you’re reading this article. Seven teams will take part in the MLR’s inaugural season, with each drawing players from surrounding local clubs and abroad. Many of these players were part of PRO teams themselves before having their contracts terminated like indentured servants (Get it? Because a ton of them didn’t get paid! “Not funny Liam!” It’s kind of funny. Okay, I promise, I’m done).
Although news of more player signings continue to roll in, I thought I’d highlight certain players who could strongly affect their team’s ultimate on-field success. I want to say, first and foremost, there are a ton more players that deserve to be mentioned here. Every rugger who earned their way onto an MLR roster deserves it in their own way, but these are just a few to shine a light on.
New Orleans Gold
Head Coach: Nathan Osborne
Founded by former LSU Prop Tim Falcon, NOLA was among the most active clubs during the contract signing frenzy that occurred this past fall, picking up a few former Eagles to bolster a roster that is looking more and more competitive. Along with a handful of native New Orleanean players such as Bobby Johns and Cam Falcon, the team also features a host of other former PRO and club talents that have made names for themselves over several circuits.
Ben Tarr, for instance, is a hard-hitting Prop who broke out onto the USA Rugby scene in 2014 when he was selected to the USA Selects team for the ARC Developmental Tournament. He was able to make his international debut for the Eagles later that fall against Romania. Tarr would go on to sign with the Denver Stampede, winning the one and only PRO Rugby Championship with them that year (by points, not sure how many people remember the heartbreak felt by the Ohio Aviators that day).
New Orleans has also dipped their toes into the international pool, with players such as Vincent Jobo, a Flanker who has played for several senior clubs in South Africa, including an appearance during the 2012 Under-21 Provincial Championship, scoring a try for his squad off the bench. There’s also 2011 College Player of the Year J.P Eloff, a South African native who’s the younger brother of capped-Eagle Phillip Eloff. The younger Eloff made his own debut for the Eagles during the 2016 ARC against Canada before signing with PRO’s Ohio Aviators.
Head Coach: Justin Fitzpatrick
Houston has impressed fans early with a few exhibition games before the official start of the MLR season, garnering wins over elite clubs such as the Dallas RFC (21-5) and the Austin Blacks (55-14). Led by former Irish Union player Justin Fitzpatrick, the Cats’ have put the league on notice early with a powerful group of forwards, who if they remain healthy, might dominate teams in the scrum throughout the course of the season.
Just a few names from this powerful group of front men includes former PRO standout Cecil Garber IV (Flanker), who led the league in tackles playing for the San Diego Breakers that year, Jake Turnbull (Prop), a former USA Selects representative who most recently played in Australia for the Eastern Suburbs Rugby Union team, and young English lad Jack Riley, a versatile player capable of playing across the Front Row who Coach Fitzpatrick called an “imposing athlete” with “undoubted potential.”
Although if truth be told, the talent on this team isn’t exclusive to the scrum. Thanks to his impressive effort in their bout with Dallas, Houston’s Fullback Zach Pangelinan, a capped Eagle who’s been arguably one of the best players in the country for the last few years, was the first MLR Club player to be named to Americas Rugby News Team of the Week. Pangelinan made his debut for the Eagles during the 2012 International Series and later signed with the San Diego Breakers. He’s also appeared as a mid-fielder for his native Guam’s soccer team.
Head Coach: David Williams
Bruh…it’s the Raptors. Remember the Austin Huns’ dominating path to the D1 Championship last year? Their one stumble? The Glendale Raptors.
Although they’ve lost a few players to other MLR Clubs (Peceli Rinakama to the Gold for example) and have yet to post the official roster on their MLR site, there’s a few players we can assume will be present and ready to make an impact when they take the field.
Shaun Davies (Scrumhalf), for one, has been a stalwart presence for the Raptors over a number of seasons. Originally playing his College ball at BYU where he won the 2009 National Title, Davies made his Eagles debut in 2013 versus Russia and has held a Player/Coach position with the Life Men’s Rugby Club.
Then, there is the imposing force known as Ben Landry, a 6’5 Flanker who opened the floodgates for the Eagles recently against Germany by creating a turnover off a powerful tackle. The USA would go to win the match 46-17, due in large part to Landry’s efforts.
Honorable Mention: Will Magie (No offense Will, I just finished up 22 credits this semester and I’m dying to join my friends currently partying outside my room as I write this, and that’s one less paragraph.)
San Diego Legion
Head Coach: TBD
This team could literally be fielding a team of fu#%ing dragons led by Ryan Matyas and we wouldn’t even know. That’s how much information has come out about them.
The only reason we know about Matyas is because of the league-wide uniform photo shoot, and honestly, for all I really know, the dude could have just been there that day and wanted to take some photos. Seriously, just an educated guess we’ll be seeing him in red this season.
That aside, Matyas is a capped Eagle with some time spent playing professionally in New Zealand for the North Harbor Sevens Team, as well as with the San Diego Breakers here at home. He should make a talented veteran presence on the field.
Austin Elite Rugby
Head Coach: Alain Hyardet
So these guys have to be heading for a name change sometime soon, right? Are they going back to The Huns orrrr….? Never mind, not important.
The Huns were by far one of the most fun teams to watch in USA Rugby last season, and it was no small thanks to a number of talented players who now reside on the Elite’s roster who could display speed and physicality on the inside and out. And, although it won’t be the same team that made Huns Rugby club history a few months ago with a Championship victory over NYAC, GM Thierry Daupin has done a tremendous job making sure it has a chance to be pretty darn similar.
It all starts with Michael Reid, the former All-American who looks like he would feel just as at home defending The Wall from White Walkers as he would on the pitch. Reid has a unique energy when he plays, darting around from ruck to ruck to get the ball out while being able to dish out hits like a Flanker. His ability to shoot the gaps himself when there’s nothing open on the wing could come in clutch for Austin this season when games get close or when they need to run the clock, and his leadership on the field will be unquestioned.
Peter Malcolm is another name to keep an eye on with this team. The capped-Eagle Hooker is still young (24), but his floor and ceiling are as high as anyone else’s in the league. The last year has been a roller coaster for the young man, who seems to have caught a hot-streak for winning, not only helping the Huns win the 2017 title over NYAC, but also being a part of the team to help The Eagles qualify for the Rugby World Cup over Canada.
Head Coach: Alf Daniels
So far, Utah is preparing to field a unit that looks more like a Slytherin Quidditch team than anything else (that’s nerd speak for putting an emphasis on size and toughness). Now, that’s not to say that this team is full of future Dark Wizards, but it is to say that Utah is looking like a team who won’t give out any easy wins to its opponents.
Beginning with one of Utah’s most seasoned internationals, Lote Tuipulotu is a Hooker/Prop who has seen starting time for Tonga’s International Rugby League team, as well as earning a cap with the Tonga A Rugby Union squad in the 2015 World Rugby Pacific Challenge. That wealth of experience is sure to come in handy with a squad of younger players who haven’t seen much professional playing time, if any at all.
One of the squad’s most recent and ‘smaller’ player signings, Joshua Whippy, is a versatile center/back player with experience that stems from time playing in New Zealand and for BYU, where he was a collegiate All-American in 2014 and 2015. Whippy was recently named MVP of the 2017 Utah Select Sevens team, with whom he won back to back championships in 2016 and 2017.
Head Coach: Tony Healy
The city of Seattle’s obsession with aquatic animals/references for mascots with some variation of a blue, green, and white color scheme continues. However, unlike the SeaHAWKS of the NFL, this squad by the bay hopes to find themselves in the postseason when all is said and done.
They certainly find themselves in good position to do so, signing the ‘Little Magician’ Phil Mack to act as a player/coach. Mack brings a treasure trove of experience, having earned 52 caps with the Toquaht First Nation team in Sevens competition over the course of his career. He has also earned two gold medals in the Pan Am tournament representing Canada.
Another name from North of the border most should recognize is the tough as nails Ray Barkwill, who has 45 Canadian National caps to his name. Barkwill made his presence known here in the U.S while a member of PRO’s Sacramento Express, acting as a steady veteran presence in one of the league’s most dominant scrums, which should come in handy against teams like Utah and Houston.
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Penguin Tundra Sports Blog was created in 2016 by a very bored college student who was obsessed with Rugby and Football. That same college student knew how to write pseudo-intelligently, so what better way to show off than to create a blog. Along your journey though the Tundra's domain, you may come across outlandish opinions, horrible spelling errors, and some shit that is just outright wrong. Well then, you should comment, give my blog more attention, and we will have our day in internet court. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy talking about sports as much as I do.
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