Latest Episode:

Monday Morning Fly Half: Sun Rising in the East

This week, Major League Rugby had two East vs West matches. In both, the East came away winners, despite both eastern teams entering the week with fewer table points. And that includes a second straight loss for Austin, erstwhile league top seed, to an eastern opponent.

Given the results to date, I think it's time to ask ourselves a simple question. Is the East just better? And upon examination, the answer seems to be a clear yes through Week 7.


The win/loss results certainly favor the East. At surface level, the East is 9-5 against the West, which amounts to a 64% win percentage.

It didn't start off that way. In fact, after Week 2, the West was 3-1 against the East. And it wasn't close. The West pummeled their EST-based rivals the tune of 116-46 in those first two weeks. But, of course, looking back, we can identify some trends which cast doubt on the meaning of these early results. 

We know, for example, that the lack of preseason causes some volatile and unpredictable opening scores that don't necessarily translate into mid-season form. Furthermore, it may have just been some tough match-ups for the East. The three losses came by way of Toronto twice and Old Glory DC once, eastern teams which currently sit on the bottom half of the East table. The one eastern win came from New York, the only team in the top half of today's eastern standings, winning in Houston.

Since then, it's been all East. The eastern powers have gone on a 8-2 run, during which they outscored their western foes 389-70. Notably, Austin, who had been defeating other western teams with some ease, and who still sit atop the West table, dropped two in a row to Atlanta and New England respectively.  


As you may have gathered from the above, the East is not only winning, but winning big. On the whole, in head-to-head match ups, the East is almost doubling up, outscoring the West 406-215. 

And it's not just a matter of the top East teams running up scores against the bottom of the West. Austin have only surrendered 110 points through seven games this year. Of those 110, 66 come in three contests against the East and 44 come from the four games against the West. That works out to 60% of their points surrendered to the East despite only 40% of their matches being against them. The East is doing well against the best of the West. 

Still, there is some hope for the West in the scoring numbers. Though the East is winning frequently, and in the aggregate winning by a big point differential, there have been few blow outs. Both East and West have only two big margin (14+ point) wins in cross-conference match ups. The big margin victories for the West came when LA beat Toronto 31-16 and when Austin carved up Old Glory 57-12, both in Week 2. For the East, New York thumped Dallas 41-5 in Week 4 and Atlanta overwhelmed Austin 29-14 in Week 6.

So if you're a supporter of the West, you can take some comfort that most matches have at least been reasonably close. Though you may want to avoid thinking about the fact that your first place team was one of the teams blown out.

Home Field

Perhaps there are other explanations we can consider. The U.S. is a big country with multiple climates, and so early season schedules can sometimes be lopsided with home or away matches, depending on your local weather. Has the East benefitted from a more advantageous schedule?

Short answer - no. The West has actually held the home field advantage, being the home side for 10 of the 14 matches, or 71% of the time. 

A better answer - it may not matter. Through 14 matches, there is no statistical advantage to being home. The home team is 7-7 on the whole. The total scoring is also very close to even, with the home sides tallying 324 points and the away side owning 297 points. 

The best answer - it helps the West, but not enough. Of the West's five wins, four came at home. In their home matches they have a 4-6 record, or a 40% winning percentage. In away matches, they are 1-3, winning only 25% of the time. And that solitary away win came in Week 2, which may have been subject to some early season volatility. Toronto were the losers in that one, going down 31-16 against LA. But considering Toronto just beat Utah in Utah, and Utah beat LA in LA last week (28-19), we might rightly question how much we can take away from that Week 2 result.


Right now, I think it's difficult to argue the East isn't pulling away from the West. The West's leader, Austin, is coming off two back-to-back defeats against the East - one by a big margin and the other at home. The East have a dominant record and point differential, and they've done it so far with the disadvantage of playing mostly on the road.

The real question is, can the West progress as the season continues to regain a level of parity with the East? There has never been an MLR champion from the East. But if trends continue as they are currently playing out, this should be the year we crown our first.