Round 15 Recap
June 28, 2021 - Major League Rugby (MLR) News Release
#1 New York, Atlanta Continue to Look Playoff Ready...
Rugby United New York and Rugby ATL picked up wins over the weekend to keep each team in a great position to secure a playoff bid. Both have looked like two of the league's elite for a couple of months now, with only losses to other Championship favorites (New York took the head to head, then dropped a one-point game to the West's #2 Seed Utah) breaking up lengthy winning streaks.
New York closes with two out of three games at home, including back-to-backs to finish the season. If Rugby United sweeps the finish, it could steal the 1 seed from Atlanta.
Atlanta enters a much-needed bye week after eight straight weeks of play, then closes with two straight road games.
#2 But Don't Count Out NOLA Gold
NOLA's win Saturday night narrows the playoff field in the Eastern Conference. While the Gold stay within a game of New York and can creep up on Atlanta during ATL's bye week, New England is now 12 points back of playoff position with three weeks to go.
NOLA has played very well of late with only the one-point loss to Rugby ATL breaking up what would have been a five-game winning streak. The upcoming LA game on the road is crucial for the Gold's playoff chances. If the team can stay in contention the next two weeks it would setup a massive Week 18 showdown against New York with a playoff spot on the line.
#3 Things Have a Similar Feel Out West
Austin kept its playoff hopes alive with a 33-14 victory over San Diego; Utah did its part to keep the distance by knocking off Houston 24-5. Both teams now enter their respective bye weeks and will pick up in Week 17.
Austin is playing catch-up, behind by five points with two games to go. However, it has the slightly easier path. Both teams have to play top-seeded LA, but Utah has a game against the Beasts in the East Atlanta, while Austin hosts fifth-place DC in the last match of the season.
This Conference also has a down to the wire feel to it.
#4 New York's Loose Forwards Are Good. Really, Really Good.
Andy Ellis and Ben Foden make might be the names entered in the marquee, but let's give a shoutout to the men who handle dirty work and recently took a star turn in the box score.
Blind side flanker Ben Bonasso showed a winger's speed by exploding through the line for an 80 meter try, using a nice dummy to get the final bit of separation needed to notch the seven-pointer. His flanker-mate in the #7 jersey Hanco Germishuys meanwhile used power and patience to score two at the back of New York's driving maul.
This team has plenty of depth in the position group as well, and will need it soon with Germishuys set to go on tour with USA Rugby. Evan Mintern played a strong game at #8, Kyle Sumsion is a hard-charging option at any of the back three positions and the team will hopefully get Kara Pryor back from a hamstring injury soon.
Remember, this was a team that got only 15 minutes out of its star midseason acquisition Juan Manuel Leguizamon. Credit to GM Stephen Lewis for building out this strong position group around the team's other stars.
#5 "Rematch Week" Results Split Across the League
This was rematch week across the league, as all matches featured the opportunity for redemption of validation of an earlier result. Perhaps NOLA's win, as detailed above, was the most important sweep of the weekend - was a must-win for their playoff chances. LA finished its sweep of the Seattle Seawolves Sunday night, 29-14, as did Utah over Houston with a 24-5 victory to stay 1-2 in the West.
On the vengeance side of things, New York's 31-24 victory was important for its playoff chase, and countered a blowout loss to Toronto back in April. Rugby ATL proved what it believed all along, that it let DC off the hook back in March by answering with a strong 32-12 victory. Austin meanwhile not only avenged a Week 2 loss, but also ended any hopes San Diego had of squeaking into the playoffs.
WRITTEN BY ALEXANDER DIEGEL FOR THE RUGBY NETWORK
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