Colton’s Corner: Super Sunday
Colton’s Corner will be a weekly feature on five topics from around MLR.
SaberCats’ Fourth Quarter
“That probably comes down to a bit of adrenaline and I guess energy and excitement of the last game. We really bonded as a squad. In the last three games, we’ve used 24, maybe 25 players. It’s been the same 25 guys suiting up each week. To have those combinations and relationships really cemented, I guess it helped us start.” – Sam Windsor on overcoming fatigue during their four-game stretch.
The Houston SaberCats had a big week. After defeating Austin Elite Rugby last Saturday, the SaberCats knocked off the Glendale Raptors at home on Wednesday and then traveled to Utah to beat the Warriors on Saturday. That’s a lot of rugby in a small amount of time. They continued their upward trajectory with wins in all three matches to finish their season on a four-match winning streak. If the way that the SaberCats finished the season is any indication of the direction that this club is headed, there is no reason to believe they won’t be able to compete in the newly established Western Conference in 2020.
While Utah continues to show flashes of potential, their lack of consistency bit them again against Houston on Saturday evening. Despite their record, they are trending in the right direction and I am excited to see what they can do in 2020.
Arrows – RUNY
In a weekend filled with great matches, this one was incredibly exciting. With no guarantee of an appearance in the playoffs with a loss, both teams left everything they had on the pitch. One thing that has remained consistent with Major League Rugby in 2019 is that every result has been unpredictable. No one saw a Week 18 draw between the Seattle Seawolves and the Utah Warriors coming just like no one predicted that this match would end with the difference being a Sam Malcolm drop goal, but that’s exactly what happened. The 22-20 victory that the Arrows picked up made RUNY sweat out the remainder of Sunday. Thanks to the San Diego Legion taking care of the NOLA Gold, RUNY snuck into the fourth and final playoff spot despite their loss to the Arrows. Both teams have extremely interesting matchups in the semi-final round. We’ll get to see both newcomers battle for a chance to hoist the Championship Shield.
Legion – NOLA
“We’ve just been training literally every day by the game. We’re not looking too far ahead and just working on what we need to work on and watching film on our opponents and trying to exploit that. Our confidence builds every single day. Even in the 18th and 19th weeks, our confidence is still building. We’re not all the way there yet. We’re not happy with our performances. We all buy in and say, ‘Hey, let’s get it together and let’s have a good showing this weekend.’” – San Diego Legion fullback Mike Te’o on the team’s mentality week in and week out.
It’s been a Jekyll and Hyde season for the NOLA Gold. After looking like one of the hottest teams for a majority of the season, their hard work was undone by an unfortunate four-game stretch over the last month of the season. They lost their last four matches by a combined 28 points. While they proved to be able to simply outscore people earlier in the season, they weren’t able to get away with that down the stretch and that resulted in them narrowly missing out on a playoff spot. That will be a tough pill for the Gold to swallow, but they’ve shown how good of a side they can be and will be back strong in 2020.
I thought the Legion looked scary good in this match. Having already locked up a spot in the MLR Championship Series, I was interested to see how the Legion would play against a desperate Gold squad. San Diego combined a lethal attack with a suffocating defensive performance to keep eliminate the Gold from playoff contention. That killer instinct that the Legion showed on Sunday afternoon in front of a packed home crowd is the exact reason why they could be the team that hoists the Championship Shield come June 16.
Seawolves – AER
Facing a win to get in scenario, Sunday evening’s match against the Austin Elite looked like it was going to be an easy one for the Seawolves. That’s not exactly how it turned out, though. Austin hung tough with the Seawolves for the first 20 minutes of the match and rattled off three tries in the final 15 minutes of the match but was undone by 35 minutes in between. If the Seawolves didn’t keep their foot mashed on the accelerator, those last few minutes might’ve gotten a little more interesting. Seattle took care of business, though, and locked up the second seed in the MLR Championship Series in the process. As a result, they will get to host the second semi-final match of the weekend against the Toronto Arrows on Sunday night. I can’t wait to see what a playoff atmosphere at Starfire Stadium looks like.
Could you ask for a better final day of the MLR regular season?
The playoffs officially start this weekend, but last Sunday was a playoff game for four teams.
Last week I wrote about how awesome it was that every game in Week 19 was significant. Houston knocked off Glendale and Utah to finish the season on a high note. Then on Sunday, every match carried playoff implications. That’s something that the matchmakers could only dream of.
Everyone, from the first place Legion to the last place Elite, came to play last weekend and it made for four great matches. The results of those matches also set up some interesting semi-final matches as well.
The MLR Championship Series will kick off with Rugby United New York at Torero Stadium to take on the San Diego Legion on Sunday afternoon. Oddly enough, the only two matches that the Legion lost at home were to none other than the Toronto Arrows and Rugby United New York.
The second match of the weekend, the Arrows at Starfire Stadium to take on the Seattle Seawolves, also comes with an interesting twist as Toronto was one the four teams to knock off Seattle this season. The Arrows only dropped their first meeting at Starfire by five points, but are coming into this match with a seven-game win streak under their belt.
Last week’s Super Sunday might’ve paved the way for a Super Sunday sequel. I know rugby fans all over North America are hoping so.
What did you think about this week’s action? What did I miss? I would love to hear from any and all MLR fans as the season moves along. Feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with any MLR related topic that might be on your mind. I’ll address any emails in the next week’s Colton’s Corner.
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