Looking to the 2023 MLR Championship Series
Written by Joe Harvey
As the race for the Major League Rugby Shield continues to heat up, here is a look at the MLR Championship Series presented by Fastenal.
There are just two more weeks of the regular season, and four teams have already confirmed their place in the postseason.
First up will be the Eliminator Round, in which the second and third-place teams in the Eastern and Western Conference will go toe-to-toe for a place in the Conference Finals, where the number one ranked team from each division will be waiting.
The Chicago Hounds’ SeatGeek Stadium will host this year’s Championship Final on Saturday, July 8, the culmination of the MLR season, where the remaining two teams battle it out for the Shield Live on FOX at 3 PM ET. Matches will be broadcast live on FS1 and FS2 across the Championship Series, a rugby event you won’t want to miss.
ELIMINATOR ROUND (#2 VS #3)
SATURDAY, JUNE 24 | ELIMINATOR, 6 PM ET ON FS2
SUNDAY, JUNE 25 | ELIMINATOR, 6 PM ET ON FS2
Much like last year, Scott Mathie‘s New England has qualified automatically for the Conference Finals, which will be hosted at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Hoping to join them is Old Glory DC, the only team that confirmed their place in the Eliminator at the time of writing.
It will be the first time that DC has made it past the regular season, their 15-28 victory over the NOLA Gold enough to steer the side to knockout rugby.
After a comprehensive rebuild last summer, Old Glory has thrived under the guidance of their head coach, Josh Syms.
Just a point adrift of DC are MLR’s incumbent champions, the New York Ironworkers, who raised the Shield in New Jersey last season. The team still harbors hopes of repeating last year’s victory.
This weekend New York faces Rugby ATL, and a victory would be enough for the team to seal a place in the Championship Series, as their opponents are the final side in contention in the Eastern Conference.
Stephen Brett’s Rugby ATL finds themselves 10 points behind New York. The chances of them reaching the Eliminator Round are slim but attainable.
Beating New York would be a significant step toward “winner-takes-all rugby” and make their next game against DC the deciding factor. Meanwhile, New York would have to better the Utah Warriors.
In the Western Conference, the Utah Warriors are the only remaining team with an outside shot at the playoffs as things stand.
They are fourth in a division where the San Diego Legion and Seattle Seawolves have secured their places, and the Houston SaberCats are currently at number three.
With 44 points, Utah is just four points behind Houston and has an encounter with the Chicago Hounds to come before that meeting with New York to finish the regular season.
Heyneke Meyer’s SaberCats have something of a gauntlet to run, hosting Old Glory DC this Friday night before playing New England in Week 18.
That fight for third is not the only battle happening in the Western Conference. There is also the matter of deciding which team will host the Conference Final.
Somewhat appropriately, it may be decided in the final game of the regular season when San Diego hosts Seattle at Snapdragon Stadium.
San Diego will navigate a clash with the Toronto Arrows while the Seawolves face the top team in the Eastern Conference, the New England Free Jacks.
The Legion and the Seawolves have been in fine form this year, with San Diego recording an 11-game winning streak, beating the League record set by New England a season ago.
Six points separate the two teams in this monstrously competitive Western Conference, with their final places to be decided in the coming fortnight.
SATURDAY JULY 1 | CONFERENCE FINAL, 6 PM ET on FS2
SUNDAY JULY 2 | CONFERENCE FINAL, 6 PM ET on FS2
Played at the home venue of the number one ranked side of the Eastern and Western Conferences, the Conference Finals is the penultimate stage before the Championship Finals.
After a week’s break, the home teams will come into these games fresh-faced and take on the Eliminator winners.
Only the New England Free Jacks have claimed a spot in this stage of proceedings, their 12-2 record helping them to a second home Conference Final game in a row.
Last year, Scott Mathie’s side was bettered by New York, and will certainly have the motivation to avoid making the same mistake again, regardless of their opposition.
With reigning league MVP, Beaudein Waaka, back in their ranks, the team has only continued to get stronger as the year has passed, making them favorites in this game already.
SATURDAY JULY 8 | SEATGEEK STADIUM, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, 3 PM ET on FOX
All these months of hard graft on the field will come down to this day in early July. Being held at SeatGeek Stadium, the home of MLR’s newest team, the Chicago Hounds, it will be a day to remember.
While the rugby will be central to the day, there will be a festival atmosphere to proceedings thanks to the “Dawg Town Block Party,” which will put the fan experience first.
DJ Diesel (NBA legend, Shaquille O’Neal) and Dropkick Murphys (who come from Quincy, Massachusetts) are signed on the be the music acts on the day, while there will also be a host of Windy City-themes vendors, musicians, food, and drinks.
Additionally, a youth rugby tournament, high-performance combine, social sevens tournament, and rugby 101 sessions will take place.
Table points are determined by the standard rugby union point system:
4 points for winning a match
2 points for drawing a match
0 points for losing a match
1 losing bonus point for losing by 7 points or fewer
1 try bonus point for scoring 4 tries or more
In the event of two or more teams being equal on competition points for any position either during or at the end of the season, such position will be decided upon using the following steps until the tie is broken:
(a) Most wins from all matches;
(b) Highest aggregate points difference from all matches;
(c) Most tries from all matches;
(d) The highest aggregate difference of total tries for versus tries scored against from all matches;
(e) Superior head to head record;
(f) Coin toss.
(*) Clinched Playoff Berth
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Written by Joe Harvey | Photos Provided by Rick Rose Ricky Rose
Written by Joe Harvey Picked second overall in the 2023 Major League
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