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Major League Rugby Week 7 Preview: Potential Title Preview In Houston

Major League Rugby Week 7 Preview: Potential Title Preview In Houston

In this weekend’s edition of Major League Rugby, we could witness a preview of the MLR championship fnal almost four months early.

Apr 13, 2024 by Briar Napier
Major League Rugby Week 7 Preview: Potential Title Preview In Houston

In this weekend’s edition of Major League Rugby, we could witness a preview of the MLR championship final almost four months early.

The league’s only team without a loss and the leader of the Eastern Conference are squaring off in one of the most anticipated showdowns of the year to date, but the five-game schedule on tap for Week 7 has more than just one match worthy of occupying the spotlight.

We’re in the meat of the MLR season now, with every game and every moment mattering. 

The 10 teams duking it out on pitches across the United States this weekend will be trying to ensure that they don’t waste any chances to make their marks.

Here’s a look at what to watch for in Week 7 of the Major League Rugby season, part of FloRugby’s coverage and analysis of North America’s top professional rugby league:

New England-Houston Is The Best Taking On The Best

Make no bones about it, the New England Free Jacks’ visit to the Houston SaberCats on Saturday night is game of the year thus far in the MLR and a potential preview or the championship final, featuring the league’s only unbeaten team in the SaberCats out of the Western Conference and the Free Jacks, the current favorite to emerge as the Eastern Conference’s representative in the postseason. 

The Houston SaberCats, who were on a bye week last weekend and saw the Seattle Seawolves surpass them in the West table with a game in hand because of it, hold a 5-0 record in what looks to be the tougher of the two conferences in the MLR this season. 

The SaberCats were tested in back-to-back matches leading into the bye, only defeating Seattle and the Dallas Jackals by a combined five points on the road, but a fierce unit coached by former Bulls coach Pote Human has gotten through all foes unscathed with stars such as fly-half Davy Coetzer, lock and former MLR Forward of the Year Johan Momsen and offseason addition Tautalatasi Tasi at center, among others. 

Meanwhile, the Free Jacks are the defending MLR champions and the class of the East at the moment, holding a four-point lead on the rest of the table, despite the fact that the team has played one fewer game than every other club in the conference, besides the NOLA Gold. 

A one-point loss to Old Glory DC in Week 2 is the only thing separating New England from an undefeated record itself, rolling to a three-match winning streak entering Week 7 — the most recent match of which was a 25-3 dismantling of the Miami Sharks last weekend. 

Reece MacDonald (five tries) leads an attack that has the best scoring differential (+65 points) of any team in the MLR, and reigning league Player of the Year Jayson Potroz hasn’t missed a beat, as he ranks fifth in the MLR in points scored (50), despite only playing five games. 

New England-Houston is can’t-miss action, and the winner should have some major bragging rights ahead of a possible showdown for all of the marbles down the line.

How Can Dallas Get Over Hump?

If you’re neutral, you’ve got to feel for the Dallas Jackals a little bit, because if a few more moments went their way, they’d be in the thick of the conversation of favorites to take the Western Conference title. 

Dallas, to be clear, is not having a bad season by any means, and far from it. 

A formerly downtrodden club that went a combined 2-30 for just 23 points in the table over its first two MLR seasons, Dallas — off to a 2-4 start with 15 points in the West standings — is one of the most exciting sides in the competition and the top surprise package of the 2024 season, scoring a league-high 30 tries to go with a MLR-topping seven bonus points. 

The Jackals, however, also have been tremendously unlucky to not be on a two-match win streak, rather than a three-match losing run heading into Week 7. 

Holding late second-half leads in consecutive games against the top two teams in the West (Houston and Seattle), last-minute penalty kicks denied Dallas of extra points both times, with Week 6’s 34-32 loss to the Seawolves in particular putting a sour end on one of the finest individual performances in MLR history as hooker Dewald Kotze scored five tries against Seattle, the most by one player in a single game in the league’s existence. 

Ahead of its matchup Friday night against the Utah Warriors — who have been sputtering to start the year but are coming off of a victory over Anthem Rugby Carolina.

Dallas is listed as the betting underdog, but after so many near misses recently, don’t be shocked if the Jackals get their due, light up the scoreboard and take care of business en route to a high-flying victory in front of home support in Arlington. 

Gold-Legion Has Capacity For Chaos

Houston-New England is the obvious and deserved marquee matchup on the slate in Week 7, but Sunday afternoon’s tussle between the NOLA Gold and the San Diego Legion might just have the most fireworks in store. 

After losing on opening weekend to Seattle, San Diego has quietly established a four-match winning streak to enter the weekend in third place in the West with an opportunity to leapfrog Houston with a win and dropped points by the SaberCats. 

The one caveat about Legion games so far, however, is that they’re almost always up for the taking late, with four of the team’s five matches this season being decided by seven points or less going into its bye week last week.

Meanwhile, at NOLA, the Gold are in second place in the East but are in relatively good shape with a 3-2 record, 15 points in the standings and the fact that every team behind them in the table has a game in hand on them, giving the club plenty of leeway as the MLR original attempts to qualify for the postseason for the first time. 

NOLA can’t get too cozy, though, as it needs a bounceback win quickly following a collapse against the Chicago Hounds in Week 6 in which the Gold led 14-5 at the half, only to be outscored 33-7 in the final 40 minutes. As a result, they lost ground on New England. 

The Legion don’t allow many opposing breakthroughs, as they’ve given up a West-low 19.6 points per game so far this year, so if the NOLA setup begins to fall flat as it did late against Chicago, the Gold could be in for a world of trouble against the reigning Western Conference champion and MLR finalist. 

But on the other end, if San Diego plays with fire too long — that is, allowing enough opponents to stay within striking distance in the latter stages of matches — the Legion could get burned sooner or later. 

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