Colton’s Corner: Week One Feature
By: Colton Strickler, MLR Correspondent
Colton’s Corner will be a weekly feature on five topics from around MLR.
NOLA Defeats Toronto 36-31
You’d be hard-pressed to find a team with tougher luck in Major League Rugby’s inaugural season than the NOLA Gold. When I spoke with several members of the Gold organization back in November, it was apparent that they were extremely excited about the new batch of talent that they brought in ahead of season two. Everyone that tuned in to watch the Gold defeat the Toronto Arrows 36-31 in the first match of Major League Rugby’s 2019 season saw the reason for that excitement as it took all of one minute for newcomer Scott Gale to punch in the first try of the season. A look at the match stats paints a picture of NOLA’s offseason as three of their six tries were scored by key additions. That production has to be exactly what Osborne and Company dreamed of when the signings took place. I would be doing this match a disservice if I didn’t mention the valiant effort that the Arrows put up in their first regular season Major League Rugby match. After heading into the locker room at halftime down 24-7, the Arrows managed to close the gap to five points on three separate occasions.
Houston Defeats Austin 21-20
Houston SaberCats’ fly-half Sam Windsor wasted no time picking up right where he left off as the league’s leading scorer in 2018. Windsor accounted for all of Houston’s points by going a perfect 7-for-7 on penalty goals, including one inside the 80th minute that put the match on ice and propelled the SaberCats over the Elite in the home opener for the second consecutive year. There were several examples of kicking mishaps losing games for several different teams in MLR’s inaugural season, so seeing Windsor so automatic off the tee has to provide the SaberCats with some comfort. While Justin Fitzpatrick surely would’ve liked to trade some of those penalty goals in for tries, it’s surely nice to know that they’ll always have a chance as long as Windsor continues to kick the ball like that.
New York Defeats San Diego 25-23
Rugby United New York earned a huge victory over the San Diego Legion on Sunday afternoon. After taking a 15-7 lead into the half, New York found themselves trailing by a try late in the match and needed to find a way to put together a scoring sequence or risk leaving their cross-country trip with nothing to show for it. New York forced San Diego into a penalty try that ultimately was the deciding factor in the match. While it’s only the first match, New York should feel good about beating a team that went to playoffs last year on the road.
Seattle Defeats Glendale 20-18 in MLR Championship Rematch
“Starting with a win certainly helps our confidence. Everyone in the squad knows our potential and we are eager to get there. Being able to scrape out victories like the one tonight shows why we are a championship team.” – Brock Staller
Great rivalries happen naturally and there is no clearer example of that than the Glendale Raptors and Seattle Seawolves. It feels like you are watching a heavyweight boxing match every time Glendale and Seattle square off. Each side has a way of making each other pay for every little mistake that their opponent makes, and that always makes for an entertaining match. Sunday evening’s championship rematch was no different. Seattle’s Brock Staller capitalized on a Glendale penalty by nailing a kick in the 74th minute to propel the Seawolves to a 20-18 win over the Raptors. Glendale might’ve taken the loss, but they are certainly not a team to take lightly moving forward. With each team holding two wins over the other, it’s not too early to look forward to the May 15 rematch at Infinity Park, right?
An Opening Week Epiphany
As I sat down to watch the opening slate of matches of MLR’s second season this weekend, I found myself feeling a sentiment that most American rugby fans felt during the inaugural season. I couldn’t help but acknowledge how cool it was to be able to sit down and watch American professional rugby on platforms that I use every day.
Professional rugby in America hasn’t had the smoothest road, and I think that’s why the appreciation of firing up ESPN+ on my Xbox One, flipping over to CBS Sports Network and jumping on Facebook Watch to consume MLR games didn’t hit me until 2019. I think everyone can appreciate the fact that finding a way to watch matches is getting easier instead of more difficult, and that ultimately is a good reflection on the direction of this young league. When you add in the fact that you are sitting down to watch competitive rugby, everybody wins.
The great game of rugby has allowed me to travel to places I otherwise wouldn’t have gone and has helped me meet some amazing people along the way. With as much as this sport has done for me personally, I can only hope that the accessibility to quality rugby matches encourages someone to try something new and experience what rugby is really about. I hope that people are encouraged enough to attend a training session with their local club team or join their favorite team’s fan page and make some new friends so that they can experience the culture of rugby for themselves. Rugby is for everyone, and it’s nice to see it broadcast on platforms that allow everyone an opportunity to enjoy it.
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 email@example.com 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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