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Major League Rugby Week 5 Recap: Seattle Wins From 26 Down; Houston Now 5-0

Major League Rugby Week 5 Recap: Seattle Wins From 26 Down; Houston Now 5-0

It was jubilation for Seattle and devastation for Chicago, as the Seawolves scored 34 unanswered points for an unlikely win on the road against the Hounds.

Apr 3, 2024 by Briar Napier
Major League Rugby Week 5 Recap: Seattle Wins From 26 Down; Houston Now 5-0

Week 5 of the Major League Rugby schedule showed us how important it is, especially in rugby, to never stop battling.

Even with four teams out on bye weeks this past weekend, the action didn’t slow down across the competition. 

Seattle pulled off one of the most stunning comebacks in the league’s history, San Diego pulled off its own fight from behind late, Houston remained the league’s only unbeaten team and DC kept cool and won in a 10-try slugfest.

We're nearly a third of the way through the 2024 MLR regular season, and with so much left to be settled, Week 5 ensured that you don’t want to take your eyes off of the league right now in anticipation for what could come later.

Here’s a look at what went down in Week 5 of the Major League Rugby season, part of FloRugby’s coverage and analysis of North America’s top professional rugby competition:

Seattle’s Epic Comeback Stuns Chicago

Down 26-0 inside half an hour, the shellshocked Seattle Seawolves appeared bound for one of the worst defeats in their history, whereas the Chicago Hounds looked to be en route to one of the most remarkable, and dominant, performances in their history. 

Rugby matches are 80 minutes long, however, and with an inspired surge in which it showed how it’s never over until it’s over, Seattle pulled off one of the biggest comebacks in the history of the MLR with a wild 34-26 victory over Chicago. 

From the opening kick until the final 10 minutes, it was all Hounds at SeatGeek Stadium, with wing Noah Brown — a former Indiana University star selected in last summer’s MLR Collegiate Draft — most notably building up his candidacy for MLR Rookie of the Year with a brace inside 20 minutes as part of Chicago’s four-try haul, giving it a bonus point well before the intermission. 

The Hounds then began to ease up on the gas, and the Seawolves, sensing an opportunity, took advantage. 

Seattle made it a much more manageable 26-12 at the break, as the red-hot Jade Stighling and reliable Aussie fly-half Mack Mason got the visitors on the board with tries, then made it 26-24 by the 50th minute, after JP Smith and Sam Windsor crossed over. 

Seattle’s comeback (and Chicago’s collapse) was complete when Mason booted through a penalty in the 70th minute, with a try right before the final horn from Toni Pulu sealing the door shut on one of the best games of the MLR season, ending in plenty of jubilation for the Seawolves and plenty of devastation for the Hounds.

Houston Edges Dallas, Goes To 5-0

We warned Houston that its visit to Dallas for the Lone Star Shield in Week 5 could be a trap game if it wasn’t careful and, sure enough, the Jackals gave the league-leading SaberCats all they had for 80 minutes. 

However, as the MLR’s only unbeaten team proved once again, it’s likely going to take a Herculean effort to beat the SaberCats this season. 

In an intense opener to the week of matches last Friday night, Houston fly-half Davy Coetzer was the hero, as his penalty goal after added time put the SaberCats ahead 30-27, and his team heroically held off a hard-charging Dallas squad that decided to go for a historic first win over Houston at the death with a try, rather than a potential draw with a last-gasp kick. 

The Jackals were terrific, nearly pulling off a statement victory in what looks well on pace to be the third-year club’s best season, but the SaberCats (who will be on bye in Week 6) have shown the ability to pull off the right plays at the right moments all season.

Front-rower Pita Anae-Ah Sue was named man of the match with a try, joining teammates Emmanuel Albert (who had a brace) and Ronan Murphy in crossing over for Houston in its fifth straight win to start the 2024 MLR season.

Legion Rally Late To Survive Against Sharks

Until the final 20 minutes of their match against the San Diego Legion, the Miami Sharks looked as if dominant victories (as what happened when they blitzed Anthem Rugby Carolina by a 50-21 margin in Week 4) would be the new norm for the expansion side. 

But the Legion have been through this song and dance many times before — including just the week prior — of starting out slow, before coming back to win with a ferocious second-half finish. 

One week after being behind 11-7 at the half to Old Glory DC, before ripping out on a run out of the changing room, another Eastern Conference opponent in Miami had the defending Western Conference champion Legion on the ropes, as the Sharks led 21-5 at the 60-minute mark, thanks to a 16-point half from impressive Uruguayan fly-half Felipe Etcheverry and a try 10 minutes into the second half from Los Teros teammate Tomas Inciarte. 

Once San Diego woke up, however, Miami’s hopes and dreams of a big win over a MLR original were crushed. 

Ethan Grayson and Connor Tupai scored tries for the Legion as part of a five-minute surge that got them back into the match. A 73rd-minute penalty from Lincoln McClutchie got San Diego in front and kept it there, as it stole a 22-21 win on the road and kept itself four points back of West-leading Houston in the conference table. 

Meanwhile, for Miami, there’s a long season still left for the Sharks, but at 1-4, they could’ve used the extra points over a seasoned Legion side to keep pace in the Eastern Conference’s playoff race and give them a boost of confidence for the weeks ahead, making their collapse this past weekend particularly tough to swallow.

Old Glory Wins Shootout; Anthem Still Winless

Old Glory DC rolled the dice against Anthem Rugby Carolina, opting to start a lineup full of second-string options against the development-focused expansion side, and the strategy almost bit The Flags in the back. 

Still, even with the ever-improving Anthem leading at the half and inching closer to its first win, DC avoided disaster and won 46-32 in Charlotte in yet another high-scoring affair featuring Anthem. 

A nervy and rotated Old Glory didn't get comfortable in the match until more usual starters subbed into the game in the second half, with Facundo Gattas and John Rizzo each completing braces in the final 40 minutes. 

Still, Anthem only trailed by five points with under 20 minutes left, as a breakthrough could’ve seen them push into the lead, but the club’s ongoing defensive issues did it in once again. DC got a pair of late tries on the MLR’s leakiest defense (37 tries allowed in five matches). 

Comfortably the third-best team in the Eastern Conference behind the New England Free Jacks and NOLA Gold (who each were off on bye in Week 5) in that order, Old Glory is unbeaten (two wins, one draw) when it scores at least 22 points, and if early consistency issues can be solved, MLR’s representative from the nation’s capital can start to chip away at their deficit in the table to the East’s elite.

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