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MLR Week One Recap: Can Only Go Up From Here

Photo Credit: Josh Fredlund

Week One of Major League Rugby is in the books and we had some great matches and some not so great matches this week. We had three teams take the field for the first time in a regular season match and two of them didn't do so bad. Issues that propped up for teams last season were still evident in week one. Here are this weeks results.

Houston SaberCats 21-12 Colorado Raptors

The Houston SaberCats opened a Major League Rugby season in their own home stadium for the very first time and they were able to walk away with a victory. Sam Windsor was the Cats leading scorer on the day, however the impact player was Adriaan Booysen. The Namibian number 8 was all over the field. He was disrupting the Colorado play on defense and breaking through the Raptors line on offense.

The Raptors struggled again in the scrum at the beginning of the match before getting to at least a draw near the end of the match. Handling errors and discipline cost the Raptors multiple opportunities at points. Rene Ranger was brought in as a marquee signing and did make an impact when he could, but the Raptors struggled to get him the ball.

Both teams head to Vegas next weekend. The SaberCats will face Toronto on Sunday, while the Raptors will face the San Diego Legion.

New Orleans Gold 46-13 Old Glory DC

The NOLA Gold destroyed any hope Old Glory had of an upset in their very first match. Cam Dolan showed his prowess at the number 8 position as he finished with a hat trick of tries. Carl Meyer has already thrown his hand up for newcomer of the year. The 6'3" 231 pound center was only five for eight from the tee, but his ball distribution was a great addition for the Gold.

DC was down two front row starters in Tendai "The Beast" Mtawarira and Mikey Sosene-Feagai and it looked like it too in this match. Old Glory was overmatched in the set piece from whistle to whistle. Any signs of life came from the backs for DC. Dylan Taikato-Simpson, Jason Robertson, and Doug Fraser were the impact players for Old Glory on the day.

NOLA stays home as they welcome Rugby ATL in the first matchup between these two geographic rivals. Old Glory gets to pick their britches up, as they welcome the two time defending champs in Seattle to DC.

Rugby ATL 28-19 Utah Warriors

In Rugby ATL's first regular season match in Major League Rugby, they overcame a 13 point deficit to win their first match. Atlanta was down 16-3 before Matt Heaton bowled his way for over RATL's first MLR try. Atlanta was able to take advantage of a Utah yellow card in the 55th minute to score two tries to take the lead. Kurt Coleman added a penalty kick at the 80th minute to take the losing bonus point from Utah.

The few things we heard from Utah in the offseason didn't sound good for the fortunes of the Warriors this season. The first 50 minutes of this match showed a completely different story. Utah had dominate moments in the scrum and had a few runs that they just couldn't finish. Unfortunately, the Warriors ill-discipline cost them this match and a losing bonus point.

Rugby ATL heads on the road for the first time as they head to New Orleans to face the Gold. Utah heads to Vegas as the face another expansion side in New England.

New England Free Jacks 34-14 Rugby United New York

In the MLR debut of Mathieu Bastareaud, it was the Free Jacks who took the spotlight at the end of the day. New England was able to battle the windy conditions at Sam Boyd Stadium and win the first edition of the Cold War (MLR Edition). Lucky bounces helped New England throughout the day, especially the one that led to Brad Hemopo's try.

RUNY had a very disappointing performance here. A top team from last season basically didn't show up today or they didn't take their opponents very seriously. The lone bright spot on the day was number 8 Kyle Sumsion. Sumsion scored both of New York's tries on the day. RUNY is going to have to have better performances if they want to get back to the playoffs.

Both teams are staying in Vegas for their next matches. RUNY will face the Austin Gilgronis and the New England Free Jacks will face the Utah Warriors.

San Diego Legion 33-24 Seattle Seawolves

The San Diego Legion were able to enact their revenge against the Seawolves in the MLR Game of the Week on CBS Sports. Ma'a Nonu, the Legion's marquee offseason signing, didn't get his name on the score sheet. But he did have the biggest impact for the Legion. His hard running style set up multiple tries and his physicality on defense kept Seattle from really getting in a rhythm.

The Seawolves looked like they were getting off to a hot start before being quickly shut down by the Legion. Riekert Hattingh and Brock Staller got the Seawolves off to a quick start, but the Seawolves then couldn't find a rhythm until it was too late in the match. Ill Discipline cost them a losing bonus point as Vili Toluta’u was shown a yellow card with less than 10 minutes on the clock.

San Diego now heads to Vegas as they prepare to face the Colorado Raptors. Seattle heads east as they face their first expansion team in Old Glory DC.

Toronto Arrows 38-10 Austin Gilgronis

The Arrows probably have one of the most talented teams, top to bottom, in Major League Rugby. And it showed against Austin as five different Arrows crossed the try line. The Austin scrum looked to be getting decent by the end of last year, but Toronto completely dominated them in the set piece for the first portion of this match.

Austin's rebrand was laughed at. Their jersey's were given a weird look, with the numbers on both the front and back of they jersey and with the players name on the back of the jersey. Probably the only good thing that came from Austin was the pre-match light show. Austin struggled for the pretty much the whole match. Austin needs to hope the visa process speeds up soon.

Toronto now heads to Vegas as they will face the Houston SaberCats. Austin will join the Arrows in Vegas as they will face Rugby United New York.

Final Thoughts

This was a good first week for season three of Major League Rugby. We had some good matches and some blowout matches this week. MLR Vegas Weekend is this week and let's hope we can get a decent number of fans out for the games. MLR had a good week and we can only go up from here.

~Josh Fredlund