USA Rugby

Major League Rugby Week 11 Recap: Upsets Galore In Calamitous Weekend

Major League Rugby Week 11 Recap: Upsets Galore In Calamitous Weekend

In arguably the wildest weekend of the MLR year to date, four of the five matches were decided by three points or less — including three by one.

May 13, 2024 by Briar Napier
Major League Rugby Week 11 Recap: Upsets Galore In Calamitous Weekend

After the Houston SaberCats’ win over Anthem Rugby Carolina to open play in Week 11 of the 2024 Major League Rugby season last Friday night, take a guess at the combined margin of victory for the other four matches that followed it this past weekend.

Six points.

If that doesn’t scream that the MLR is as competitive and closely contested as it’s ever been, we’re running out of ways to explain it to you.

In terms of outlooks being uprooted and playoff races being thrown into uproar, no weekend of play in the MLR this season has gotten even close to as chaotic as this past weekend. The upsets were all over the place. Comebacks, late victories and more were present as part of the action.

Simply put, it was an amazing couple of days of rugby in America. Keep enjoying it until the final whistle blows on the 2024 campaign.

Here’s a look at all that went down in Week 11 of the Major League Rugby season, part of FloRugby’s coverage and analysis of North America’s top professional rugby league all season long:

NOLA Stuns The Seawolves

Take a bow, NOLA Gold, for you just pulled off arguably the biggest shock of the 2024 MLR season to date. 

In an absolute classic at The Gold Mine just outside New Orleans, the Gold — helped by braces from Jonah Mau’u and Callum Botchar — defeated a major Western Conference and MLR title contender in the Seattle Seawolves by a narrow 32-31 margin Saturday afternoon, a result that ended Seattle’s five-match winning streak and gave the West-leading Houston SaberCats breathing room in a tight race atop the conference table. 

Entering the week as probably the most in-form side in the league, Seattle appeared through 40 minutes as if it was bound for its sixth win in a row, carrying a 24-10 lead into the dressing room after getting tries from Divan Rossouw, Huw Taylor and JP Smith. 

But, in the searing Bayou heat, which climbed into the upper 80s during the match, the Gold made themselves at home and stayed in the fight — and then some — despite the deficit.

Mau’u got his second try of the match in the 56th minute, which was the spark behind the Gold’s 22 unanswered points in an under 20-minute stretch, punctuated by Botchar’s second try in the 72nd minute that gave NOLA a late lead. 

Rossouw got his second try for Seattle a few minutes from time, but even a conversion with it wasn’t enough, as NOLA’s comeback officially was complete with the full-time whistle. 

In addition to the shakeup at the top of the West, the win by the Gold also puts them right back in the Eastern Conference title picture, as they are four points behind the leading New England Free Jacks and two behind the No. 2 Chicago Hounds, with Chicago holding a game in hand over both. 

Such is life in Major League Rugby, where outlooks can change on a weekly basis.

DC Denies Chicago East Lead

To add to the quickly evolving chaos in the Eastern Conference, Week 11 could’ve been a landmark weekend for Chicago in its brief existence as a second-year club. 

With New England off this weekend on a bye, the Hounds (who were pushing for a fifth straight win) could’ve taken at least temporary control of the top spot in the conference with a victory over Old Glory DC, which sputtered badly for much of the month of April and fell down the East pecking order because of it. 

But the Flags, who beat the Free Jacks earlier in the year, reminded us that we shouldn’t be counting them out as contenders just yet with a statement 22-21 win on the road at Chicago on Saturday evening. 

Uruguayan Rugby World Cup veteran Facundo Gattas scored Old Glory’s only try of the match within the first 10 minutes, but that score from the prop was all that the visitors needed from open play as the surefire boots of Gradyn Bowd (11 points off of the tee) and Jason Robertson (six points) did the rest, giving DC enough breathing room to outlast a last-minute Hounds try from Mark O’Keeffe. 

With Miami also winning in Week 11 (more on that in a bit), DC beating Chicago was massive for the former to keep distance over the Sharks in the increasingly-tight East, with The Flags sitting fourth in the table with 24 points - seven points adrift of Miami for the conference’s final playoff slot. 

With two wins in a row to kick off May, maybe the April showers Old Glory went through will be worth it in the end.

Miami, RFCLA Boost Playoff Hopes

The Miami Sharks and Rugby FC Los Angeles are in danger of falling out of playoff contention, and with less than half of the regular season left to play, both need to make major moves over the coming weeks in order to keep their postseason hopes alive. 

In Week 11, both picked up much-needed wins and did what they could to try and stay afloat. 

Expansion club Miami, after losing by three points the week prior to Old Glory in a crucial match with potential later implications for the East’s final playoff spot, bounced back to defeat the Utah Warriors — themselves in a playoff fight over in the West — in a 20-19 nailbiter in South Florida, though Old Glory’s win at Chicago meant little ground over The Flags was gained. 

Still, the Sharks will take any win that they can get to keep pace, but they’ll probably be trying to pull it off with not as much late drama next time as the hosts nearly blew a 20-0 second-half lead before barely holding on. 

Over in Arlington, Texas, RFCLA (last place in the West on 17 points, 11 points from fourth) pulled off what probably would’ve been the stunner of the weekend had NOLA not upset Seattle by defeating the Dallas Jackals 29-26, getting revenge for the Texan club’s win over it in southern California way back in Week 1 in March. 

It was the former Rugby ATL’s first victory since March 24, with USA Eagle Jason Damm’s hat trick potentially setting him up for a future spot in the MLR’s best XV of the week and a walk-off match-winning penalty from Jordan Chait in added time, ensuring RFCLA got the winner’s points at full-time.

Houston Comes Out Unscathed

Who was the biggest winner from all of this past weekend’s disorder? All in all, it probably was Houston, which saw its status as the Western Conference leader strengthened thanks to both its cut-and-dry win over winless Anthem Rugby Carolina and NOLA’s aforementioned victory over Seattle, which put the Seawolves four points back of the SaberCats after Week 11’s chaos ended. 

Now the only one-loss team remaining in the MLR, Houston — even while going on the road to North Carolina — was heavily favored against Anthem going into this weekend. They didn’t disappoint in Charlotte on Friday, romping to a 33-3 lead with the try bonus point already in tow by halftime en route to a 38-15 victory, with Houston letting its foot off of the gas during the final 40 minutes in the club’s fourth straight win. 

Wing Jeremy Misailegalu scored in both halves, being one of five SaberCats in total to cross over the try line, and the club is now one win away from matching its previous record of 10 match wins in a single season, which was set last year. 

With likely the most depth of any team in the league and a home playoff match (currently 14 points above the third-placed San Diego Legion in the West table) becoming increasingly probable, Houston likely isn’t done in terms of setting a new standard of excellence at the club anytime soon. 

Chicago, which visits Houston in Week 12, will be the next in line to try and upend the ‘Cats, but it increasingly seems as if when the demands are heightened for Houston, its level of play only gets better and better.  

How To Watch Rugby Matches In the United States On FloRugby

The Investec Champions Cup will stream all its matches on FloRugby and the FloSports app in the United States. FloRugby and FloSports also are the U.S. home to:

FloRugby also is home to match archives and match replays. 

Join The Rugby Conversation On FloRugby Social