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Major League Rugby Week 3 Recap: Jackals Run Riot, Free Jacks Recover Well

Major League Rugby Week 3 Recap: Jackals Run Riot, Free Jacks Recover Well

Between a renewed Cali Cup, a clash between Eastern Conference leaders and a 68-point haul by Dallas, it was another enthralling MLR round this weekend.

Mar 20, 2024 by Briar Napier
Major League Rugby Week 3 Recap: Jackals Run Riot, Free Jacks Recover Well

There still is plenty of rugby left to be played in the 2024 Major League Rugby season, but through three weeks, there’s a good idea of who the contenders and pretenders of this season may be.

There’s some usual names near the top of the table — and some surprise ones, too.

In the Western Conference, a strong upper tier remained fierce in Week 3, whereas in the Eastern Conference, a battle for the top spot went the way of the reigning conference and league champions.

The early-season jitters are starting to get a bit by the wayside, and the rugby played each week is only getting better and better.

Here’s a look at what went down in Week 3 of the Major League Rugby season this past weekend:

Old Glory, Hounds Play To Pulsating Draw

Playing its debut match at its new home, the Maryland SoccerPlex, Old Glory DC entered the weekend riding high after ending its rival New England Free Jacks’ 13-match winning streak in Round 2 (and snapping a near two-year winning streak at home for New England, as well). 

The Chicago Hounds, meanwhile, had been playing solid rugby to open their second MLR season and were looking to bounce back following a loss to the Utah Warriors. 

What transpired when Old Glory and the Hounds met in Week 3 was both the first draw of the 2024 MLR season and a shakeup in the hierarchy of the Eastern Conference because of it.

Chicago and DC finished square at 22 after 40 minutes — a result likely taken in a more positive light by the Hounds, who already are well on their way to eclipsing their 2023 point total (20) — as four missed kicks in the match (three from DC, one from Chicago) plus a pair of offline drop goal attempts from Old Glory, saw the matchup for the taking, but neither side was able to capitalize and pull ahead late. 

Three tries were scored each way, with DC’s Axel Muller and Chicago’s Conall Boomer recording braces, but the points were shared, as Old Glory lost ground on the top two teams in the East (currently, New England and the NOLA Gold) in the first match following its big win over the Free Jacks, making a Week 4 showdown with the San Diego Legion at home that much more important. 

Jackals Go Wild, Score 68 On Anthem

Highly impressive thus far, as they easily hold the status of being the MLR’s most improved team from a season ago, the Dallas Jackals’ day in Charlotte for Week 3 — where they ripped apart first-year club Anthem Rugby Carolina by a 68-28 margin — was stellar and the biggest offensive explosion from a MLR club so far this year. 

Carolina’s young core, with the World Rugby- and USA Rugby-backed team’s main focus being development for the United States' national team, continued to struggle, as it went to 0-3 on the season, while allowing 24 tries in three games.

Dallas certainly didn’t mind, as it picked up a 10-try haul and an easy bonus point to put itself third in the Western Conference going into Week 4. The Jackals are behind two established powers - the Houston SaberCats and Seattle Seawolves. 

The Jackals were up 14-0 within 10 minutes, as Canada international Mitch Richardson and South African back Vaughen Isaacs crossed over for tries in that time frame, and that was just the start of the party for Dallas, which ran roughshod over the rookies. 

Clinching the extra point before halftime, Dallas led 31-7 going into the shed, and the Jackals didn’t let up in the final 40, where they rolled.

Argentinian Martin Elias captured man of the match after scoring a try, going 7 for 8 on kicks making 80% of his tackles. 

If the rest of the MLR wasn’t on notice before in terms of Dallas no longer being pushovers, they most certainly are on notice now.

New Jacks Bounce Back To Defeat NOLA

A potential (very early) preview of the Eastern Conference final, defending MLR champion New England got a shock to the system in Week 2 against Old Glory, and a then-unbeaten NOLA loomed ahead for Week 3 to not make its bounce-back match any easier. 

But if there were any major concerns that the Free Jacks suddenly would fall off a cliff after seeing their long winning streak go up in smoke, consider those concerns gone after New England took down the Gold by a 27-21 margin at Veterans Memorial Stadium. That being said, however, visiting NOLA didn’t make it easy. 

Down 14-0 in the first half after the Gold got tries from Taniela Filimone — with the Tongan continuing his strong year at center by going over in the 12th minute — and Jordan Jackson-Hope, a response before halftime from Wayne van der Bank made it a much more manageable 14-7 going into the break. 

However, that first-half try proved to be the spark for a game-changing surge for New England, being the start of a 27-point unanswered run that boosted the Free Jacks to victory.

Reigning MLR Player of the Year Jayson Potroz booted through four kicks, while Reece MacDonald and Ben LeSage scored tries, with a NOLA try from Jackson-Hope just a few minutes before full-time proving for nothing, as the champions found a way to get it done and get back in the win column.

Legion Win New-Look Cali Cup Over RFCLA

A rivalry rediscovered in some way — MLR original San Diego hasn’t had a nearby adversary in Los Angeles since the LA Giltinis were removed from the league in 2022 — last weekend’s clash between the Legion and Rugby FC Los Angeles (which moved from Atlanta in the offseason) was a big day for professional rugby in southern California.

The renewed Cali Cup had the tension and intensity that helped make it live up to the hype. 

The Legion survived a close encounter with RFCLA by a 19-18 scoreline Saturday night, with Lincoln McClutchie (5 for 5 on kicks) and Marcel Brache (31st-minute try) playing their roles as heroes for San Diego, which fell behind 8-0 in the first 20 minutes and 11-7 early in the second half, before four McClutchie second-half penalties gave the Legion some breathing room — just enough to survive, as RFCLA scored two minutes from full time through James Stokes. 

San Diego has gone through its first three weeks of the season with a little bit more danger than others, with all of its matches being decided by seven points or less, but 10 points through three games in the jumbled West is nothing to be ashamed about. And a big opportunity to make it three wins from four to begin the campaign looms when San Diego visits Old Glory this weekend.

Houston, Seattle Remain Unbeaten

With NOLA’s loss, the list of unbeaten in MLR this season shrunk by one from last weekend, as the SaberCats and Seawolves continued their rolls with wins over the Miami Sharks and Utah Warriors, respectively. 

Over in Houston, the expansion Sharks — who are looking for the first win in club history — kept pace with the SaberCats for some time, as Uruguayan fly-half Felipe Etcheverry booted through four penalties to make it a 15-12 deficit to the hosts at the half, but tries throughout the game from Andre Warner, Keni Nasoqeqe and Jeremy Misailegalu helped Houston see it through and pull out a 30-19 victory.

The win helped Houston remain at the top of the Western Conference standings with 13 points. 

Looming in second place in the table, just a point away, is Seattle, which had a strong 23-13 win over Utah in Herriman over the weekend. The joint-best scoring defense in the MLR (five tries allowed through three matches) continues to make life difficult for opponents. 

Jade Stighling scored a try for the second consecutive week, as Toni Pulu and former World Rugby Player of the Year nominee Joe Taufete’e followed his lead with tries of their own, allowing the Seawolves to keep the pressure on the SaberCats. A massive showdown between the two is ahead in Week 4. 

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