Colton’s Corner: Week 4 With Dallen Stanford
Colton’s Corner will be a weekly feature on five topics from around MLR.
RUNY Defeats NOLA Gold 27-24
Rugby United New York was able to hand NOLA Gold their first loss of the season by not allowing NOLA to pull away from them like they had done in the first three weeks of the season. A large part of the reason why they couldn’t pull away from RUNY was because they left seven points off the board in the form of missed kicks. The match ultimately came down to RUNY being able to cash in on their kicks while NOLA couldn’t. Even with the loss, the first-place Gold have nothing to worry about through the first quarter of the season.
San Diego Legion Defeats Utah Warriors 21-10
The San Diego Legion look great through the first month of the 2019 season. Having only lost their season opener to RUNY, they have rattled off three-straight wins and find themselves in second place in the table. What makes their wins look even better is the fact that they’ve done it on the backs of their defense. Since falling to 23-23 to RUNY, they have only given up a combined 36 points in three weeks of play. Saturday’s win over Utah was no different. They locked in every time Utah threatened and were ultimately able to come out on top while simultaneously preventing the Warriors from gaining a bonus point in the process.
Glendale Defeats Austin Elite Rugby 24-13
“I think we brought the energy. We were very flat in the last game against New Orleans and we had communication issues and we fixed them tonight. There was a much better energy between the players on the field. We were a bit more physical as well.” – Glendale Raptors’ captain Luke White
It took the Raptors three weeks to do it, but they finally got the monkey off their back and picked up their first win of the season over Austin Elite Rugby. Austin, unfortunately, is still looking for their first win of the season after losing four tough matches. Austin might keep coming up on the wrong end of these matches, but they certainly aren’t quitters. If you watched Sunday’s match you saw that Austin plays hard regardless of the score. Even with the match seemingly out of reach, Austin forced knock-ons on two occasions where it would’ve been easy to concede tries. They even found a way to punch in a try in the final minutes of the match. Now they just need to find a way to string some things together, and they need to do it in a hurry while there is still time to salvage their season.
“We just have to be a lot more clinical. When we get a chance, we really need to execute on those opportunities. Our discipline as well. We are simply giving away too many penalties, and that’s costing us nine to 12 points a game. That’s taking the game away from ourselves. It’s hard when we are always on the back foot.” – Austin Elite Captain Ben Mitchell
Seattle Seawolves Defeat Toronto Arrows 35-30
The last match of the weekend sure was an exciting one. If there is one thing I’ve learned about the Seawolves over the course of the last two seasons, it’s that they are never out of it. Sunday’s match was the perfect example of that, as the Seawolves didn’t take their first lead until the 72nd minute. After heading into the half tied at 17, Toronto quickly scored 13 unanswered points to all but bury the Seawolves. Seattle then rattled off 18 points of their own, while even missing a handful of kicks, to close out the match and hand Toronto their second loss of the season. After watching Seattle stumble in the last two weeks, they are right back in the thick of things through the first quarter of the season. The reigning champs showed everyone that they certainly weren’t going to go down without a fight.
Q & A with Dallen Stanford
I had the honor of exchanging emails with Dallen Stanford last week. As someone who has seen the gigantic steps that rugby has made in the United States over the last few years, I felt that there as no better person to talk to than Stanford about MLR’s second season. He shared some his thoughts on the league, some players that have caught his eye, and some of his favorite calls over the years with me below.
1) In your opinion what is the biggest difference between year one and year two?
The coverage this season in terms of ability to watch all the matches via television, online platforms and through social media has been brilliant!
With the expansion of two teams there are new regions publicizing the league, including a new country in Canada. Press coverage has been excellent, and more quality organizations have partnered either with the league or individual teams to build off the success of year one. The teams have also done tremendous work inside their communities to engage new audiences, and to showcase the wonderful values of the game.
2) What have you thought about this year’s competition overall?
Firstly, I really like that everyone plays each other both home and away. Year one was a challenge with some teams facing each other once or twice, which was certainly a logistical issue. The 16-match regular season also means that teams losing early fixtures could easily comeback for the playoffs in a late surge, which makes the season more exciting and keeps the teams and fans engaged.
Overall the competition has been excellent, and interestingly the results fairly tight thus far. We will see the standard of play increase as the season progresses. San Diego is a good example where they struggled tremendously in their opener, then defeated last year’s champions in torrid conditions, showcasing a skillful performance in driving rain, which wasn’t accomplished seven days prior in sunny conditions.
3) Which team has been the biggest surprise to you so far?
Rugby United New York surprised me with an expansive game during their very first fixture in professional rugby, dominating the set piece and looking like a side that had a full season under their belts, and not one that could barely train outside due to weather conditions.
NOLA of course have a brilliant balance of powerful, hard working forwards and skillful backs with plenty of vision. They have stunned their opposition (and me) after three weeks. Massive congratulations to their staff, players and ownership group for a remarkable turn-around from 2018! Round 4’s clash between NOLA and RUNY was epic, and one can easily see these two teams being finalists.
4) There are plenty of talented players in the league, but is there anyone specifically that have caught your eye this year? What makes them stand out?
Paddy Ryan up front for San Diego has definitely changed the Legion’s fortune at scrum time, and is a work horse in the loose and on defense. Hanco Germishuys (Glendale Raptors) is one of my favorite loose forwards to watch, and he delivered in match one with some bruising runs and tackles before joining the USA Eagles squad.
In the backs I have enjoyed watching illusive players such as Taylor Howden (NOLA), JP Eloff (NOLA), Joe Pietersen (San Diego) and Cathal Marsh (Rugby United New York). Their ability to beat defenders, setup tries, and field vision with the boot makes them standout to me.
5) How would you convince someone who might be new to rugby to give the MLR a chance? Why should they be a fan?
When talking to potential fans I normally highlight the differences which make rugby truly unique or help explain the excitement of the game. For the past seven years I have interacted with parents and youngsters through Play Rugby USA, using flag rugby as a vehicle for social change in Los Angeles. The ethos and values of rugby combined with the game itself, really impress those who take part or who learn about it, making it easy to recommend watching on television or online. One of the keys to increasing a non-rugby orientated fan base is to have matches available through a variety of platforms (which MLR and the teams have done superbly), plus educating viewers where possible. It’s a fantastic feeling to be able to direct new fans to our own domestic professional league!
6) What do you think the key is to keeping MLR around for good?
When you look at other professional rugby leagues, it is surprising to learn that most franchises don’t turn a profit from year to year. Premiership Rugby in the UK has been around for 20 seasons, and the more sustainable teams have created deep roots within their communities. The US is a sports mad nation, and while we believe that rugby is one of the best games ever invented, it’s getting support from non-rugby fans as well as corporate entities that will allow MLR to grow from strength to strength.
7) You’ve been involved in the American rugby scene for quite some time, so you know better than anyone how much the game has grown. How do you think MLR accelerated that growth in the short amount of time it’s been around?
In 2003 I watched the USA defeat Japan 69-27 during the Super Powers Cup in San Francisco. In that same year Japan kicked off their first-ever professional 15s competition, The Top League featuring 12 teams. This drastically raised the level of their domestic play, with the national team rising in World Rugby rankings from 20th (2006) to 9th (2016).
The most famous moment in Japanese rugby came during Rugby World Cup 2015 where Japan defeated South Africa 34-32 in one of the greatest upsets in World Rugby. During the seven previous RWC’s Japan won a total of one match, but in 2015 they were victorious on 3 occasions. In that same pool, the Springboks went on to defeat our USA Eagles 64-0.
To be competitive with the top ten rugby nations in the world, it is essential to have your own professional league. Major League Rugby is finally that solution, and while it will take several years to reap the rewards through the international game, there are so many positives domestically: young rugby players now have the opportunity to play professionally inside America, with a stepping stone from college to professional; more of the Eagles national team can play together and against each other, which also helps national selectors; there is plenty of community involvement and publicity for the game itself; growth of the game in the eight US cities; and I like the camaraderie that is being built up between the US & Canada players.
8) I think it’s safe to say that you are the most electric rugby broadcaster in the United States. Do you have a favorite call that you’ve made over the years? Maybe it’s a nickname or a one-liner that you are particularly proud of.
Thanks for the kind words! It’s been such an honor calling games over the past 8 years, highlights include the HSBC Sevens World Series, USA’s win over Scotland in 15s, Springboks in Washington, D.C. and the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens.
“Luke Hume, he’s got more steps than the Great Wall of China!” is one of my favorites.
Nicknames that I am proud of, who are now playing in Major League Rugby: The Mongoose (Nick Feakes), The Terminator (Hanco Germishuys) and The Vampire (Holden Yungert).
Dallen Stanford is a World Rugby commentator, having played for the USA 7s Eagles from 2007-2009. He will be in the booth this season for the Americas Rugby Championship, World Rugby u20 Championship, the HSBC Sevens World Series in Las Vegas, Vancouver, Singapore and of course Major League Rugby. Follow him @TheRugbyCorner on Instagram & Twitter.
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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