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Major League Rugby Week 12 Preview: Gold Can Grow From Epic Seattle Shock

Major League Rugby Week 12 Preview: Gold Can Grow From Epic Seattle Shock

NOLA took a big step forward toward making the postseason for the first time in club history last week. Elsewhere, big visitors are coming to Charlotte.

May 19, 2024 by Briar Napier
Major League Rugby Week 12 Preview: Gold Can Grow From Epic Seattle Shock

We saw a lot of chaos in Week 11 of the Major League Rugby season.

Is more chaos on the horizon in Week12? We wouldn’t discount it.

The final four games last weekend were decided by a combined six points, none of which ended in draws. That’s the type of parity MLR has been wanting in its league for quite some time, and with the weeks of the 2024 regular season ticking down, it’s sure to create plenty of late-season drama before the playoffs.

For those who picked up big upsets in Week 11, however, how they follow their major victories may be just as important. It’s because that in the MLR’s current era, it doesn’t seem to have much room or patience for flashes in the pan.

Here’s a look at all you need to know ahead of Week 12 of the Major League Rugby season, part of FloRugby’s coverage and analysis of North America’s top professional league all season long:

How Does NOLA Follow Huge Upset?

In a weekend that was full of shocks, the NOLA Gold likely had the biggest upset of them all in Week 11, as they had an epic comeback win over the Seattle Seawolves, snapping the two-time MLR champions' five-match winning streak and making them lose crucial ground to the Houston SaberCats in the Western Conference regular-season title race. 

It goes without saying that it was a massive win for the Gold, who are four points back of the first-place New England Free Jacks in the Eastern Conference, as they are getting closer to tasting their first playoff appearance since being founded as an expansion side in 2018. 

New England and the East’s second-place team, the Chicago Hounds, have tough matchups on the road in Week 12 against the San Diego Legion and Houston, respectively, leaving the door open for NOLA to gain more ground on the conference’s top teams, while extending its winning streak to three in the process at home against the Utah Warriors on Saturday night. 

But while it is an exciting time in Gold’s rugby history right now, what’s most important for the squad heading into this weekend will be to keep level-headed and avoid a hangover after such an important victory — especially considering that the Warriors have a lot to play for, too. 

Utah is fighting for its postseason life in the West, as it is three points adrift of the fourth-place Dallas Jackals in the table; a two-match losing run by a combined six points to Houston and the Miami Sharks hasn’t exactly helped its playoff push, either. 

Therefore, NOLA coach Cory Brown and his crew must not get complacent, or they too could risk slipping down the East’s pecking order as Old Glory DC lurks just two points behind them in fourth place in the standings. 

Watch which team fires out of the gates in this matchup; both sides utilized late-game surges to get back into their matches last week, but only NOLA got out with a win, as a 17-0 halftime deficit was too much for the Warriors to overcome against the Sharks. Some points from a team right at the start this time around, however, might just help save NOLA or Utah’s seasons.

Hounds Lurking, But Houston Awaits

Chicago let a huge opportunity slip through its fingers last weekend, and the Hounds may come back to rue it come playoff time. 

With New England off on a bye after losing to Chicago in Week 10 — making it two defeats from three for the defending MLR champion — the Hounds (who were then riding a four-match winning streak) had the chance to overtake the solo lead of the Eastern Conference with a game in hand if they managed to defeat Old Glory. 

Well, it’s safe to say things didn’t quite go according to plan for the Hounds. 

The Flags won in a 22-21 thriller, making it another misstep under pressure for Chicago in similar vein to when it had a 26-0 lead to Seattle in late March, before collapsing and losing the game. 

The Hounds still are in striking distance at two points back of the Free Jacks for the East’s top spot, but considering its opponent Saturday night — the 9-1 MLR title favorite SaberCats, and in Houston, no less — Chicago really could’ve used as many points as possible against DC to assist them in keeping their regular-season Eastern Conference title hopes afloat, even with New England’s tricky matchup at San Diego going on Sunday afternoon. 

Don’t get us wrong: Chicago has proven more than enough times that it is one of the MLR’s most dangerous teams when all cylinders are firing, being the highest-scoring team in the East (301 points) this season. Plus, Ireland-born four-time All-MLR selection Dylan Fawsitt is tied for second in the league with seven tries, adding onto the all-time league try mark that he already owns. 

But the Hounds, in order to be a championship team, need to also prove they have a ruthless, cutting edge other title teams have had. So far in Chicago, it’s yet to be seen.

Can Anthem Finally Get First Win?

It has been a big week for rugby in Charlotte, even if Anthem Rugby Carolina’s record in their debut MLR season hasn’t been the greatest. 

For starters, the team will have some high-profile visitors for its match this weekend. 

A MLR spokesperson announced Thursday that World Rugby CEO Alan Gilpin, USA Rugby CEO Bill Goren and MLR CEO Nic Benson would be at Anthem’s match against Rugby FC Los Angeles on Saturday night at American Legion Memorial Coliseum, with all listed as being participants in a pre-match ceremony “to celebrate the progress of Anthem RC and its efforts to develop American talent in advance of the 2031 Rugby World Cup coming to the U.S.,” per the league’s release. 

For those that aren’t aware, Anthem, an expansion side for the 2024 MLR season, is a joint venture between World Rugby, USA Rugby and the MLR focused on developing promising American talent for the United States' men’s national team. That youth and inexperience is a major reason why Anthem has been torched in essentially every game played in its existence, being winless in its first 10 MLR matches. 

But, if there’s ever been a time for the team to get over the hump and get that historic win, this weekend might be it.

RFCLA comes to North Carolina on Saturday hoping to make it two wins in a row after an upset win over Dallas last weekend, but the former Rugby ATL’s form has largely been poor throughout the season as they sit last in the West with just two victories on the season. They’ve been yet to face Anthem this year, and while they have lost every game they have played in to date, they can put up some points — like when they put 28 on Dallas and 32 on Old Glory.

Considering that RFCLA has trouble scoring with just 194 points in nine games (21.6 points per game), keep an eye on the score in this one and if Anthem can string together two halves of play. If they can, the big names Charlotte will have in its city Saturday may be in for a landmark moment in Anthem Rugby Carolina’s short history.

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