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The Major League Rugby Championship, Seawolves win 26-23 in a Thriller


Photo Credit: Aaron Castro

It's a really tough thing.  Losing to the team you lost to in the playoffs the previous season.  But this time, it was in the Final. And oh: Whoa, Nellie! That was a Championship Final. If you look at the statistics behind beating a team the third time in a season, in a sport similar to Rugby (American Football), the statistics make it quite uncertain at the professional level.  In Basketball, if you've beaten a team twice, you've likely got a 72% chance of beating your opponent a third time.  There's some great data from the Gamblers out there on teams in the NFL.  When you aggregate those totals, since from 1991-2009, a team that was 2-0 went 11-5 in that third game.  So your chances diminish in a larger team sport.  I'd have to do a lot of number crunching to find where it really matters in Rugby because the league structures are not truly similar in Europe to that of the NFL so it's not similar.  (Round Robin Scheduling Home and Away).

Matt McCarthy wrote on Rugby Wrap Up in his Tale of Two Cities, on where you're supposed to go first.

When I set down to think about predictions last week, I came up with San Diego Legion (-2).  When you look at lines in the NFL, you always grant the home team (-3) points.  What's the reasoning behind that?  Home Field Advantage. So when you give the home team only two points, it's a push and you should probably put money on the away team to cover.

There's been really only one hostile crowd in Major League Rugby through two seasons.  That's been the Seattle Seawolves, a passionate base that falls in line with the culture of the Pacific North West.  Loud and Proud.  The San Diego Legion also have a passionate fan base that had stuck together following the demise of the San Diego Breakers.  In the final stretch they had over 4,000 fans at Torero against New Orleans and in their playoff match.  For the Major League Rugby Championship they packed the place with over 5,500 fans.  The match was broadcast nationally on CBS and was viewed by 510,000 people, a great start for a second year league.

Getting back to the predictions, I make predictions because that's part of the gig.  And I did pretty good at it this year too.  However, I had a discussion with several people about whom I really wanted to win.  I wanted someone to win of course.  But who, didn't matter.  Would it be great for the Men of the Legion to win this one?  Yes it would have been.  I know so many of them.

When you get into this space and tour with the National team, you get to know the Boys on a very personal level.  The Legion have Eight Men that have been named in the World Cup Training Squad: Nate Augspurger, Ryan Matyas, Psalm Wooching, Kapeli Pifeleti, Louis Stanfill, Siaosi Mahoni, Mikey Te'O, Dino Waldren, all will assemble for World Cup Camp at various times.  The Legion have a few other guys who could get that call if they can be fit in time or if there's an injury in the likes of Dylan Audsley, Nick Boyer, and Faka'Osi Pifeleti.   We were treated with the amazing leadership of Joe Pietersen and Paddy Ryan throughout this season.  In the end I care more about the loser of this game, because Rugby, like Football is an emotional game.  You go until you can't.  You can end up in a dark place.

However, I would be remiss in not informing you that every one those men named and those I didn't are great people.  With The Pacific Nation's Cup coming, and Eagles Camp just a week away, many of these men will need to go through their recovery system and be mentally ready to train before the Eagles face Canada on the 27th of July in Glendale, Colorado.

Now for the Champions.  Congratulations.  You achieved something only two other teams in a US based North American league have done in winning the first two Championships, you're in the company of DC United and the Green Bay Packers. Last year after the Semi-Final I received the opportunity to spend time with them following their defeat of San Diego in Glendale, I got to know many of the Canadian players whom I'd followed over the years.

It would be impossible for me to not have a personal connection with both teams.  And in fact with all of the teams that competed in Major League Rugby.  But for the Seawolves, my friends.  Congratulations. This is another great group of Men: Brock Staller, George Barton, Phil Mack, Samu Manoa, Peter Tiberio, Nakai Penny, Jeff Hassler, Shalom Suniula, Brad Tucker, Mat Turner, and many others.

What did the Seawolves do on Sunday?  To be brief.  The Seawolves neutralized the playmakers of San Diego, something that has not occurred in any match this season.  Once they neutralized those playmakers, they made it count whenever they had the ball. Scoring four tries to two.

In the end, I was relieved.  That it was just one of these two teams to hoist the Major League Rugby Shield.  They set the standard throughout the season.

~Aaron Castro