By Liam Poach
Another Saturday has come and gone, and the hype building up to the debut of Major League Rugby has reached a near fever pitch. The Utah Warriors saw over 9,000 people in attendance at their first game ever, NOLA steamrolled their way to a victory over the Austin Elite, and RUNY notched its second straight victory over Boston in a much closer game than anticipated.
New Orleans Gold vs Austin Elite
After nearly staging an improbable comeback last week against San Diego, the Austin Elite crashed back to Earth this weekend when they found themselves on their heels for much of their match against the Nate Osborne-led Gold.
The Gold experienced most of their success through the use of their forwards, especially Cam Falcon and Sebastian Kalm, who were more impressive than your average scrummie in their ball-carrying today. Throughout the match, the Gold were able to methodically move the ball up the middle against a weak Austin counter-ruck, while their versatile set of backs (Bobby Johns went and had himself a day) though not flashy, were able to do just enough to gain valuable ground when it was needed.
The counter-ruck wasn’t the only glaring weak point for Austin today. While the second half saw some slight improvement in all facets, overall their performance came up sub-par in the lineouts and scrum, losing them valuable time of possession, especially while threating in NOLA territory.
It wasn’t all bad from the group that calls themselves ‘Elite’, though. At times, their passing was some of the most crisp and fluid that I’ve seen in the MLR pre-season, especially when it came to tight windows. In fact, I would feel confident in saying that the Elite’s backline possesses more big play potential than NOLA on either team’s best day, all they need is more time to build chemistry. Unfortunately, a laundry lists of mistakes coupled with the aforementioned problems in the line out and scrum didn’t make for a good winning formula; or even a competitive one.
Austin experienced a ton of problems inside the 22 as well, both offensively and defensively. Offensively, their average meters gained per pass seemed at times to be in the negatives thanks to a solid NOLA defensive front that rarely seemed to find itself out of position all game. Meanwhile, defensively, they tended to get drawn into the middle by the stampeding forwards of the Gold, and if that didn’t result in a try, then all NOLA would have to do is be patient while waiting for a numbers advantage to materialize on the outside.
Austin had its moments at times when their backline was working well, and I can’t say enough about their tight window passing, but in the end it was their defense and bad tackling that did them in. Two yellows in the second half didn’t help either. Despite the positives they can build upon for the future, they couldn’t seem to finish when it was most crucial. 48-17 final.
Mystic River vs Rugby United New York
God DAMN IT! I was so close to having some bragging rights on Reddit and Twitter, but in the end for my Mystics, it was RUNY’s ability to capitalize on and turn Boston’s mistakes into points.
Coming into the game, RUNY was hoping to duplicate their performance from last week when they defeated this Mystics team to the tune of 50-0. Too bad for them, Boston had former Club Rugby Coach of the Year Josh Smith making adjustments in the meantime.
Mystic tightened up on defense a ton, especially on the outside where they were able to apply more pressure on the RUNY backline while forcing them to commit a few handling errors. This cut down on the big-play factor that put New York so far out ahead last week.
On offense, Mystic was able to get the ball in the hands of their key playmakers a bit more, players such as Vinnie Daley, Steven Dazzo, and Paolo Aukuso. Steve Dazzo in particular had himself a great night, scoring two tries for Mystic to keep them in the game until RUNY hammered in the last two nail-in-the-coffin tries within the final two minutes.
Despite the improvement by Mystic River, RUNY still demonstrated how they could be a real force to be reckoned with come 2019. Above all else, the play of their forwards, with guys such as Anthony Parry, were able to gouge Mystic River up the middle for most of the night, there by opening up some room for the wings on the outside.
Their maul had to be the most impressive aspect to their game overall, though. While Mystic struggled to win in the lineouts, RUNY made them pay by gaining valuable meters with their ability to shift Boston into reverse. This not only allowed RUNY to control the pace, but it ate up clock when Mystic was desperately trying to stage a comeback, which at one point was only six points away.
In the end, Mystic couldn’t get it done, and allowed the two aforementioned tries to happen within the final three minutes. And just like Austin’s game against NOLA, two yellow cards in the second half wasn’t exactly a big help. It’s going to be interesting to see how each of these teams respond in their upcoming respective games against the Ontario Arrows, who are another likely candidate for MLR’s 2019 expansion.
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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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