The Major League Rugby playoffs are here and American rugby fans couldn’t be any more excited. It comes down to four teams as two will be returning from last year’s playoffs and two newcomers, who are the two newest teams in the league. This is already set up to be an exciting MLR Championship Series and expect a lot of drama. Let’s take a look at the teams and the matchups.
San Diego Legion vs Rugby United New York
San Diego Legion
San Diego made it to the playoffs last year before falling to the eventual champion Seattle Seawolves, but there was some promising talent on the club. However, they lost a lot during the offseason even if they brought in some and it seemed like the Legion would take a step back. That would not be the case as they were the best team in the league in almost every aspect and finished on top of the table. The club allowed the fewest points in the league and scored the third most, to say they are the most complete team is a bit of an understatement as they have an outstanding defense and stout attack. With such players as Joe Pietersen, Dylan Audlsey, Ryan Matyas, Psalm Wooching, David Tameilau, and Paddy Ryan on the roster, expect them to do a lot of damage on offense and will defend well.
Rugby United New York
Coming into the season some pundits thought of them as a serious threat to the MLR championship crown with the slew of moves they made during the offseason as they were an expansion team, but despite their inconsistencies, their scrappy play helped them nab the four seed by the skin of their teeth and a chance to win the MLR Championship. However, they are defensively sound as RUNY had the second best defense in the league allowing only the second fewest points in the league. With such talents as Dylan Fawsitt, Matt Hughston, Cathal Marsh, Ben Foden, John Quill, Kyle Sumsion, and Mark O’Keeffe. It should be interesting to see how they hold up against San Diego.
The two teams split the season series, but San Diego won the most recent matchup on April 14. RUNY tends to play better on the road, but these two teams have the best defenses in the league so anything can happen.
James Rowe: San Diego. While RUNY will put up a fight, the inconsistencies are what concern me and San Diego will pounce on those mistakes.
Seattle Seawolves vs Toronto Arrows
The Seawolves are back to defend their title and they finished with the two seed in the playoffs. They pride themselves with a stout defensive effort dubbed the “Seawall” however the “Seawall” has not been as effective this year. That being said, the Seawolves scored the most points in the league this year, which may have helped counteract a struggling defense. Having made additions this offseason such as Ben Cima, Stephan Coetzee, Roland Suniula, and JP Smith to join a team that already boasts Brock Staller, Mathew Turner, Olive Kilifi, Vili Toluta’u, and Peter Tiberio, plus adding Samu Manoa during the season, this team looks primed to repeat.
The Arrows are the other new expansion side for 2019 and some even saw them as favorites to win the championship. The team started off sluggish as they were 4-5, but then they rattled off seven straight victories and grabbed the three seed in the playoffs. The Arrows might be the team that’s in the best form coming into the playoffs as they are red hot, but they also boast a powerful attack and a solid defensive corp, which ranks as third best in the league. They have a wealth of talent like Rob Brouwer, Mike Sheppard, Gaston Mieres, Leandro Leivas, Sam Malcolm, Shawn Windsor, Avery Oitomen, and Andrew Quattrin. They will be a handful for Seattle.
The two squads split the season series with Toronto winning the last matchup 29-7 in Week 14. When Seattle won the first matchup, Toronto was without a lot of their players who were called up to Canada’s national team for the Americas Rugby Championship, which might have been the reason why the Arrows lost that match. Seattle is also getting Toluta’u back from injury in hopes of stabilizing their defense, however, the Seawolves defense is capable getting back to what they did in 2018.
James: Toronto. I think this will be a fun one to watch as I expect Seattle’s defense to be at it’s best, but it will be awesome to see what that defense does against such a lethal Toronto attack. That being said, the Arrows are in the best form they possibly can be and because of that, and all of the momentum, they will win this.