MLR Talent on Display as Eagles Defeat Canada in Pacific Nations Cup Opener
July 31, 2019 - Major League Rugby (MLR) News Release
The talent that makes up Major League Rugby was on full display in the United States 49-17 victory over Canada that kicked off the Pacific Nations Cup for both squads. In a match that featured 26 MLR players representing nine different teams on both U.S. and Canada, it didn't take very long for someone to make a play.
The first try of the match was a familiar site for MLR fans as Dylan Fawsitt, Rugby United New York's first team All-MLR hooker, rode a driving a maul into the in-goal to help give the Eagles a 7-0 lead 10 minutes into the match.
The maul that Fawsitt rode in for the first try of the match featured four other players - Paul Mullen, Malon Al-Jiboori, John Quill, and Cam Dolan - that competed in the MLR in 2019, one - Chance Wenglewski - that will play for Rugby ATL in 2020, and one - Ben Landry - that played for the Glendale Raptors in the inaugural season in 2018. According to Shaun Davies, Glendale's current captain and the Eagle's starting scrum-half on Saturday evening, the proof that the MLR is already making a difference is in the pack.
"I think the big thing on the USA perspective is that, when did the USA have a scrum that was that dominant?" Davies said after the match. "And that's without Oli (Olive Kilifi), Joe (Joseph Taufete'e) and Titi (Lamositele). So the depth is there, it's getting better, and I would say that's majority thanks to MLR."
Davies would know. He went into Saturday's match with 22 XVs caps, which made him one of the most experienced players on the 23-man roster that the Eagles assembled leading up to the match.
Landry, who started at lock on Saturday evening and scored the Eagles' third try of the match, is living proof of the opportunities that the MLR can create. The 6'6", 270-pound forward earned first-team All-MLR honors at lock in 2018 and parlayed that performance into a contract with the Ealing Trailfinders of the RFU Championship in 2019.
"Well the MLR is fantastic for just putting players in a professional environment," Landry said after the match. "A few years ago, people are working jobs nine to five, lifting in the mornings and then they are practicing at night. MLR gives the opportunity for everybody on the U.S. team to get in that professional environment and working eight to five looking at film, working in the gym and of course, the physical fitness that playing full-time gives you. You can really emulate that anywhere else."
While things didn't go the Canadians way on Saturday evening, they did their best to right the ship early. With their starting lineup featuring five MLR players - Hubert Buydens, Cole Keith, Kyle Baillie, Phil Mack, and Patrick Parfrey - the Canadians almost turned the tides by scooping up a ball that became dislodged during the tackle and returning it for a try, until it was determined that Canada had actually knocked the ball on in the process. Pending the conversion, that try could've cut the deficit to just 10 points heading into the half.
The Canadians started off the second half with a big try, but that depth that Davies' mentioned was on total display for the Eagles in the second half. The USA used tries from Landry, Gannon Moore of the Utah Warriors, and Kapeli Pifeleti of the San Diego Legion to put away Canada.
According to Davies, the strides that the MLR is helping North American rugby take were on display throughout the course of Saturday evening's match.
"Definitely the depth and it's just having the ball in hand more often," Davies said of the difference that the MLR is making. "I remember before MLR I was one of the guys trying to juggle a job and do USA and in the summers I'd have to quit the job so I could go do the USA stuff and now it's just playing rugby. All you have to do is concentrate on having a rugby ball in your hand. USA Rugby is only going to get better because of that."
Both the USA and Canada will travel to Suva, Fiji to take for the second and third rounds of the Pacific Nations Cup. The Eagles will take on Samoa on Friday at 8:30 PM MT while Canada will play Fiji on Friday at 11:15 PM MT.
"I think if we cut the turnovers down, are a little more patient with the ball in hand, and a few other tweaks, I think USA Rugby is going to be in a good place a few months from now."
Tries: Dylan Fawsitt, Blaine Scully, Ben Landry, Gannon Moore, Kapeli Pifeleti, Ruben De Haas
Conversions: AJ MacGinty (3/4), Will Hooley (1/2)
Penalty Goals: AJ MacGinty (3/4)
Tries: Tyler Ardron, Penalty Try, Ben LeSage
Conversions: Peter Nelson (1/2)
Penalty Goals: N/A
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