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Major League Rugby Week 6 Recap: Dallas' Kotze Makes MLR History In Defeat

Major League Rugby Week 6 Recap: Dallas' Kotze Makes MLR History In Defeat

New England tightened its grip on the top of the Eastern Conference table, while a Dallas Jackal had a game for the ages in a crushing loss to Seattle.

Apr 8, 2024 by Briar Napier
Major League Rugby Week 6 Recap: Dallas' Kotze Makes MLR History In Defeat

We saw the most tries scored by one player in a single match in Major League Rugby history. In a loss.

If that’s not an indication that the MLR is at the best level of play that it’s ever been, what is?

It was another breakneck weekend in the MLR, as the Eastern Conference saw some big results, the Western Conference got a new team in first place and the league as a whole continued to play at a quality across the board not seen in any other season of its existence.

It's time to get right back at it again this week in advance of Week 7, but for now, let’s debrief on all that happened this past weekend.

Here’s a look at all that went down in Major League Rugby, part of FloRugby’s coverage and analysis of North America’s top professional rugby league:

Standings Shakeup In The East

With the Eastern Conference shaking out early on in the year to potentially being a two-team race, the New England Free Jacks’ 25-3 victory over the Miami Sharks this past weekend was  a big result for coach Scott Mathie and his men for two reasons. 

First, it helped the defending MLR champion and current East leader build more distance away from their conference rivals, as the Free Jacks are top of the table on 19 points, despite playing one less match than everyone else in the East, with the exception of the NOLA Gold. 

And second, speaking of NOLA, the second-place Gold dropped their Week 6 matchup to the Chicago Hounds by a 38-21 margin, giving New England a four-point cushion ahead of the Gold, its nearest adversary in the standings. 

It was a great weekend all around for the Free Jacks — who got tries from Josh Larsen, Piers von Dadelszen and Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti — even with rainy and windy conditions in front of home support at Veterans Memorial Stadium. They were a 10th-minute penalty from the Sharks’ Felipe Etchemendy away from pitching a shutout and looked even more dangerous than before their bye Week 5. 

A marquee showdown with the Houston SaberCats for Week 7, in what could be a preview of this season’s league final, might be a truer test for how legitimate New England’s run for a repeat may be at this point.

Seattle Denies Record-Setting Dallas

There’s a new top team in the Western Conference — for now, at least, after Houston’s Week 6 bye leaves the SaberCats a game behind — as the Seattle Seawolves took down the Dallas Jackals 34-32 in a high-octane war at the Starfire Sports Complex.

Seattle’s fifth win from six matches to start the year didn’t come without some controversy and some records being broken by the opposition, however. 

A back-and-forth barnburner from start to finish, Dallas’ Dewald Kotze — a South Africa-born hooker who has represented Canada at youth level — had one of the greatest individual performances you’ll see anywhere in rugby, scoring all five of his club’s tries (including a big one in the 61st minute to help give the Jackals a 32-24 lead) to break the MLR single-game record for tries and put Dallas on the cusp of one of its strongest wins in club history.

A try and conversion from Seattle 10 minutes later cut the deficit to one point, however, and with the clock ticking down, a penalty call against Dallas prop Liam Murray that looked debatable at best, incorrect at worst, gave Seawolves fly-half Mack Mason the opportunity to win it with his boot. 

The Australian converted the spot kick to help Seattle skate by, but after two straight weeks in which it’s been denied extra points against Western Conference favorites by a late kick, Dallas must be kicking itself.

Frustrating Finish For Old Glory DC

In the same vein of clubs missing out on major opportunities for advancement in the standings, Old Glory DC would be the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference right now, if it had scored two more points across two separate games. 

Such are the margins by which rugby games can be decided, however, and after The Flags went through their second draw of the MLR season after finishing level with Rugby FC Los Angeles (22-22) in Week 6, they’ve got to be wondering what could’ve been, especially with arguably the best single win from any MLR team this year (at New England in Week 2) in their back pocket. 

DC scored all of its points in unanswered fashion, impressively coming back from 10-0 down inside just 15 minutes. Old Glory got tries from Willie Talataina-Mu, Cory Daniel and Ethan McVeigh across a 40-minute span, spreading from the first half into the second. 

But RFCLA — stuck to the bottom of the Western Conference and in dire need of points to get out of a rut — let loose with a 12-point barrage in a five-minute stretch, as Jason Damm and Niall Saunders both crossed over, resulting in another frustrating result for Old Glory at full time.

Old Glory continues to struggle to break into the upper tier of the East with NOLA and New England, sitting at third in the table on 14 points with a game in hand on both the Gold and Free Jacks.

Utah Rebounds To Keep Anthem Winless

Anthem Rugby Carolina games are starting to go through an all-too-familiar pattern of strong periods of play and staying competitive, before an eventual response from opposing teams leaves the only MLR side left without a win this season in the dust. 

That exact scenario is what happened again for the expansion, development-focused side backed by USA Rugby and World Rugby, as Anthem held on for just over 50 minutes at the Utah Warriors, before a 29-0 blitzing by the hosts in the final half-hour doomed Anthem to a 44-19 loss and a sixth consecutive defeat to begin life in the MLR. 

Utah, in a vulnerable position to be Anthem’s first victory after taking a bye in Week 5 after two successive defeats, was in trouble after 40 minutes, being behind 19-15 going into the training room, as Anthem’s underrated attack found paydirt through Junior Gafa, David Still and Shane Barry tries. 

A disjointed defense that’s on pace to be historically poor, however, has been Anthem’s Achilles’ heel all season, and once the Warriors finally were able to open the floodgates, there was little shot of stopping them. 

A five-try second half for Utah made the match much more lopsided on paper than it seemed underneath the surface, and Anthem’s hunt for a first win will continue into Week 7. Anthem travels to the Chicago Hounds, but a victory probably isn’t coming anytime soon, if the club’s dreadful rate of 7.5 tries allowed per match (45 tries allowed in total) doesn’t improve. 

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