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MLR 2021 Week 9: Welcome to Prove It Week


Welcome to Prove It Week, ladies and gentlemen. The contenders will start to separate themselves from the pretenders this week. We also get the first ever rugby match to be held in SoFi stadium this week as the LA Giltinis host the Utah Warriors on Saturday night. The West is still in play, but the lower ranking teams need some help. And the East is anyone's game, only 9 points separate all 6 teams in the standings.

This week we have a full slate of action. LA looks to rebound after their first defeat. NOLA looks to keep a hold of their grasp at the top of the table. Toronto looks to get back on track before the bye week. The AGs look to make a statement against a strong RUNY side. Rugby ATL and the NE Free Jacks look to fight for positioning in the east. And we get a last place matinee match up on Sunday between Seattle and Old Glory DC.

NOLA Gold @ San Diego Legion - Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center (Chula Vista, CA) 

Saturday, May 15th (4pm ET/3pm CT) - Antenna TV, CST, The Rugby Network

NOLA is looking to win their third match in a row this week. This time they'll be on the road at San Diego. Another challenge for the Gold will be history standing in their way. These teams have meet four times previously, with San Diego coming away the victor in all 4 matches. NOLA is the better team on form and will need to keep it up if they want to win.

San Diego, meanwhile, just looks to finish strong. They've been without a bye week the during the first half of the season. They've also struggled with consistency and have looked out of sorts at times. Good news this week though is the return of Joe Pietersen at flyhalf. He'll partner with Ethan McVeigh who will be making his first start in MLR. If things can fall the Legion's way, they have a chance to pull the upset here.

EoD Picks: Aaron (NOLA by 10), Craig (NOLA by 10), Liam (NOLA by 13)

Toronto Arrows @ Houston SaberCats - AVEVA Stadium (Houston, TX) 

Saturday, May 15th (8pm ET/7pm CT) - AT&T SportsNet, TSN, The Rugby Network

Toronto was hard done last week against Rugby ATL. They had the lead late, but just couldn't hold on to it. The Arrows have finally gotten comfortable in their temporary environment and are looking to step their game up. They come into this match banged up and looking forward to their first bye week. They rotate some players out this week in a bid to keep fresh. If Toronto can put together a consistent performance, they can go into the bye week on a high.

Houston put together a strong performance last week against NOLA, but came up just short. They also have added a number of players to the injured list. They only have one healthy specialist hooker this week in academy call-up Patrick Donovan. The backs are even match based on recent performance, so this match will come down to the forwards. If the SaberCats can put together a full 80 minute performance, they could walk out the victors.

EoD Picks: Aaron (TOR by 10), Craig (TOR by 2), Liam (TOR by 6)

Rugby United New York @ Austin Gilgronis - Bold Stadium (Austin, TX) 

Saturday, May 15th (8pm ET/7pm CT) - KBVO, MSG, The Rugby Network

RUNY is looking to make it back to back cocktail victories. They shocked the league last week with an upset performance on the back of Dan Hollingshead against the LA Giltinis. The set piece has been a strength for RUNY this year and they'll face their biggest test this week against Austin. RUNY has a chance to cement a top position in the east with a victory, but it won't be easy.

Austin is the best defensive team in Major League Rugby by a 40 point margin. Both teams are in the bottom half of the league offensively. If Austin wants to win, they'll need to win the set piece. Both teams are strong in the lineouts. The addition of former All Black Isaac Ross has been a boost for the AGs. If Austin can reduce their penalty count and keep the ball in play, they can walk out the victors.

EoD Picks: Aaron (AUS by 4), Craig (AUS by 2), Liam (Draw)

New England Free Jacks @ Rugby ATL - Life University (Marietta, GA) 

Saturday, May 15th (8pm ET/7pm CT) - NESN, WATL, The Rugby Network

New England ended Austin's winning streak last week and look to end Rugby ATL's this week. Both teams are virtually even when it comes to points scored and points conceded. New England likes to sit back and wait for their opportunities, but they can't do that this week. Rugby ATL's rush defense has given teams problems and present a big test for this Free Jacks squad.

 Rugby ATL currently sit fourth in the eastern conference and New England sits directly ahead of them thanks to a larger point and try differential. This is the week for Rugby ATL to make a claim for a playoff position in the east. One area ATL will look to exploit is the scrum. New England have only won 81% of their scrums, while ATL have won 92.5%. Rugby ATL's work rate and rush defense are their trademarks that could have them walking out on top.

EoD Picks: Aaron (ATL by 3), Craig (ATL by 6), Liam (NE by 4)

Utah Warriors @ LA Giltinis - SoFi Stadium (Inglewood, CA) 

Sunday, March 28th (8pm ET/7pm CT) - FS2, The Rugby Network (international only)

Whoa, boy! The Warriors are coming off a last second win over Old Glory DC at home. Now they take on the league leaders in the LA Giltinis. This week, because of a scheduling conflict, the Warriors will face the Giltinis in SoFi Stadium, the home the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Charges. Paul Mullen is starting this week and could be a key factor in the game given the struggles of the LA scrum last week.

The Giltinis are looking to rebound after being held to their lowest output of the season in a loss to New York last week. LA hadn't scored below 42 points in a game before last week. They'll be angry and out to prove they are the best. Unfortunately, Utah is standing in their way. The Warriors defense has been suspect the last three weeks and it could be just what LA needs to get back to their winning ways.

EoD Picks: Aaron (LA by 12), Craig (LA by 9), Liam (Utah by 1)

Seattle Seawolves @ Old Glory DC - Segra Field (Lessburg, VA) 

Sunday, May 16th (12pm ET/11am CT) - CBSSN, The Rugby Network (international only)

A matchup of the last place teams in the west and east. Both teams however are in their spots in the standings due to completely different circumstances. Seattle has just looked lost to begin the season. They had no cohesion as a team before last week. The timely addition of AJ Alatimu last week provided the spark the Seawolves needed to beat San Diego. If the team can start putting together cohesive performances we could see Seattle make a run to end the season.

Outside of their losses to LA and Toronto, DC has been in every game this season. They are strong squad that just needs to put together a full performance consistently. They tend to take long periods of game play off and it's cost them victories. Seattle will be a challenge, but Old Glory has the pieces to match up with them. DC needs a full 80 minutes from everyone if they want to keep pace with the rest of the east.

EoD Picks: Aaron (DC by 16), Craig (DC by 21), Liam (DC by 8)

A full slate of action for Week 9. We get big stadium action and little stadium action. But the rugby action will still be great. Watch everything you can to support this league. It may not be the best looking action, but it's highly entertaining. LA and Utah will play under the big lights of SoFi Stadium on Fox Sports 2. Tune in and show Fox Sports that we want more rugby on TV.

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

~Josh Fredlund