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MLR 2021 Week 2: And The Thunder Rolls!

Photo Credit: Colleen McCloskey

Well week one was exciting in the return of Major League Rugby. The Giltinis surprised everyone with how fit they looked as a team. Utah pulled off the upset. San Diego probably shouldn't have left California or they should've gotten better accommodations. But it's still nice to have rugby back in the United States.

Now we look forward to Week 2 of Major League Rugby. Are last week's performances real or were they just a façade? COVID issues only affected one game and it was only a one day delay. All the players have been serious about the precautions as they don't want to delay rugby any more than it already has been. We have some good matchups this week so lets get into them.

Rugby United New York @ NOLA Gold - Gold Mine (Metairie, LA) 

Saturday, March 27th (4pm ET/3pm CT) - CST, The Rugby Network

RUNY heads on the road again, this time down south to face NOLA. RUNY came back strong against the Legion in windy Las Vegas. New York's set piece ruled the day in the windy conditions. NOLA meanwhile came back to draw against an Old Glory side that showed more than expected. The Gold seemed to have underestimated Old Glory and just came back for two points at the end.

NOLA had DC under pressure from the set piece and will now come up against a team with a much better set piece. This is where the game will be decided. Both teams trusted their set pieces last week, but only RUNY came out on top. With the new scrum rule in place in MLR, it will be interesting to see how these two teams attack.

EoD Picks: Aaron (NOLA by 3), Craig (RUNY by 3), Liam (NOLA by 12)

Rugby ATL @ Old Glory DC - Segra Field (Leesburg, VA) 

Saturday, March 27th (5pm ET/4pm CT) - 11Alive, NBCSW, The Rugby Network

Old Glory was hard done last week giving up a late try for a draw and only walking away with two points. They took points when they were on offer and did enough for the win, but couldn't pull it out. Atlanta on the other hand did just enough to hold off the visiting/home pitch sharing Toronto Arrows. Rugby ATL's defense was a big part in picking up that win.

Both sides are going to be down some players due to injury. Harley Davidson got knocked out against Toronto and some DC players took some big shots from NOLA. This looks to be a match up of the backs. Both set pieces aren't great, but both teams have some excellent back line players. DC brings one of the top 9-10 combos in the league, but they need to find other sources of scoring outside of those two.

EoD Picks: Aaron (ATL by 3), Craig (ATL by 5), Liam (ATL by 3)

New England Free Jacks @ Houston Sabercats - Aveva Stadium (Houston, TX) 

Saturday, March 27th (8pm ET/7pm CT) - AT&T SportsNet, NESN, The Rugby Network

The Free Jacks maybe aren't the squad we thought they were. While Houston pulled the shock upset of the weekend. New England struggled at times against the Giltinis. They lost track of them multiple times, which led to easy tries for the new LA squad. Houston meanwhile gutted out a tough victory over the defending champs, with Sam Windsor's boot being the difference in the scoreline.

This week should be a close matchup. New England will be without scrum half John Poland as he received a red card last week and is facing a multi-week suspension. It's next man up for this blue collar squad. Sam Windsor has been the man in Houston since the league started and it hasn't been any different as we saw last week. Houston did pick up a couple of Fijian's during the offseason, in Veramu Dikidikilati and Paula Balekana, who both made big impacts last week and should continue to do so in this match.

EoD Picks: Aaron (Hou by 2), Craig (Hou by 8), Liam (Hou by 3)

Toronto Arrows @ Utah Warriors - Zions Bank Stadium (Herriman, UT) 

Saturday, March 27th (9pm ET/8pm CT) - Fox Sports 2

Raise your hand if you had last week's results for both teams and don't lie. Toronto lost to Atlanta on the road and Utah won on the road at Austin. Toronto got started quickly against Atlanta, but couldn't hold on and couldn't come back in the second half. Utah meanwhile shocked a lot of people. They brought the physicality to Austin to the tune of three yellow cards, but they were able to hold on for the two point win.

This is the game of the week as there is no CBS Sports broadcast this week. Toronto looks to be the stronger squad. They been together as a team consistently only plugging in pieces where necessary. Well, this week will be necessary as Gastón Cortes will be out due to receiving a red card that wasn't caught on the broadcast. Utah used some quick thinking to get ahead of Austin last week and will probably need to do so again here.

EoD Picks: Aaron (Tor by 2), Craig (Tor by 2), Liam (Tor by 6)

San Diego Legion @ Austin Gilgronis - Bold Stadium (Austin, TX) 

Sunday, March 28th (8pm ET/7pm CT) - Antenna TV, KXAN, The Rugby Network

Man, who would've thought this might be a toss up of a match up. Both squads lost in disappointing fashion last week. San Diego looked good early against RUNY but faded near the end and lost their opening match. Austin looked strong, at points, against Utah. But at other points, they looked like the old Wooden Spoon Gilgronis team we all know and love. 

The set piece and kicking game will be the factors this week. The set piece cost San Diego last week, but was a boon at times for Austin. The other key factor will be kicking. Former Legion coach Rob Hoadley appeared on the American Rugby Show podcast and said kicking cost the Legion their match against RUNY. Look for Austin to throw some downfield kicks at the Legion to try to force them to make mistakes. 

EoD Picks: Aaron (Aus by 1), Craig (SD by 7), Liam (SD by 6)

Seattle Seawolves @ LA Giltinis - LA Coliseum (Los Angeles, CA) 

Sunday, March 28th (8:30pm ET/7:30pm CT) - Fox Sports West, ROOT Sports, The Rugby Network

Opposites do attract. Although in this case, it's forced by the schedule. The Giltinis looked strong in their opener last week, scoring six tries on their way to a 15 point victory. Meanwhile, the Seawolves looked slow out of the gate against a Houston squad that wasn't expected to be good. They struggled at times to look like a cohesive unit.

Until someone steps up to challenge the Giltinis, expect more of the same we saw last week. They played some good looking rugby and the United States of Australia squad looks to be every bit as dangerous as advertised. Seattle meanwhile will need to pick up the pieces after a bad loss. The Seawolves got some good play out of their forwards, but need their backs to step up a little more.

EoD Picks: Aaron (LA by 14), Craig (SEA by 2), Liam (LA by 7)

Week two is here for Major League Rugby in 2021. The action looks to pick up a little more as teams start to get playing time in and the rust starts to shake off. We saw some good and bad things last week. The Rugby Network got off to an ok start. Some broadcasts had issues, but others looked fine. Let's hope everything runs smoothly to get some more attention for this league.

International fans can watch all matches on The Rugby Network (https://www.therugbynetwork.com/).

~Josh Fredlund