The New England Free Jacks edged the Utah warriors 22-21 in their first-ever home match at Union Point Stadium on Saturday, April 3. The match was broadcast nationally on CBS Sports Network, and internationally on The Rugby Network, and will be available on replay within 24 hours.
The Free Jacks are temporarily in first-place in the Eastern Conference with a 2-1 record and 9 points in the standings. NOLA Gold, who has a bye week is in second with 8 points. Should the current Toronto Arrows lead hold up over Old Glory, there would be four teams having either 6 or 5 points in the standings with only Rugby ATL in action later tonight against San Diego that could impact the standings.
The Utah Warriors with their losing bonus point, take possession of first place in the Western Conference with 11 points, with the LA Giltinis, who have a bye week with 10 in second.
During the first 20 minutes, the Free Jacks line speed thwarted the Warriors’ attack. Cumulative penalties by New England could prove to be a factor later in the match.
The Utah Warriors utilized kicking for territory to place the Fee Jacks under pressure. They also placed the Free Jacks scrum under pressure.
Neither side was able to score in what is shaping up as a defensive battle.
The Free Jacks Dougie Fife picked up a loose ball, and the Warriors were penalized by a side entry at the breakdown. Jurie Van Vuuren was sent to the bin in the 25th minute. Beaudein Waaka then slotted the penalty goal for a 3-0 lead.
Following a New England penalty, the Warriors went through multiple phases with the Free Jacks defending well. A counterattack from a Free Jacks kick saw Josh Whippy chip ahead and catch the kick, before taking an offload from Bailey Wilson for a try. Hagen Schulte slotted the conversion for a Utah 7-3 lead.
After the ensuing restart, New England used a penalty to attack from a lineout 5 meters from in-goal. Joe Johnston then became the first Free jack to score a try at home with Beaudein Waaka’s kick wide left, 8-7.
Utah’s side entry at the breakdown had Waaka adding a penalty goal in the final minute before the break to push the lead to 11-7.
Utah spent two minutes into extra time attacking the Free Jacks defense and then defended a kick following a New England poach before kicking into touch to re-group at the half.
— Major League Rugby (@usmlr) April 3, 2021
After a penalty advantage, the Free jacks attacked from a lineout about 9-meters from in-goal. The maul advanced to within a meter before popping a pass out to Dougie Fife for a try with Waaka slotting the extras to lead 16-7.
The Warriors placed New England under pressure with the ball fielded within a meter of in-goal. The ball was cleared short, provided Utah with an attacking lineout near the Free Jacks 22-meter line. A penalty gave the Warriors a 5-meter lineout, but an overthrown by Malolo turned the ball over to New England.
A New England attack from a mid-field lineout and the Free Jacks going through phases before a Utah penalty had Waaka slotting a penalty goal, 19-7.
New England used an attacking scrum from midfield to go through phases before a penalty inside the Warriors’ 22-meter had Waaka adding another penalty goal in the 57th minute to lead 22-7.
The Warriors attacked right back moving the ball within ten meters of in-goal. Utah elected a 5-meter scrum following a Free Jacks infraction, but the ball was poached after Mike Te’o went into contact without support. This allowed New England to escape a potential score.
Utah tried to exploit an attacking lineout inside New England’s 22-meter, however, a knock on thwarted their attack. A second attack had Harrison Boyle intercepting a pass, but he was ruled offside and the Warriors had an attacking 5-meter lineout. Ronan McCusker came in from the side and pulled the maul down. This resulted in a yellow card and a penalty try to cut the lead to 22-14. The commentators indicated that the culprit was incorrect, but the play stands.
Mika Kruse showed what an exciting talent he is with a long break and Hurst gave the ball away with an ill-advised grub. Following a clearance kick, the Warriors counterattacked inside the Free Jacks 22-meters, but a knock-on turned the ball over for a Free Jacks scrum with 5 minutes remaining in the match.
The Warriors attacked the wide left channel with Joe Mano taking an offload deep inside Free Jacks’ territory but was not able to control the ball on the tackle, resulting in a turnover. This seemed to be the story of the day.
Utah seemed to have a potent attack in the closing minutes, with Mike Te’o grounding the ball in the 82nd minute. Hagen Schulte slotted the conversion for a final of 22-21 to New England. The closing score by the Warriors, gave the team a losing bonus point, with the Free Jacks picking up 4 points to move temporarily into first place in the Eastern Conference with 9 points.
Another Eastern Conference match between Old Glory and Toronto is in progress and Rugby ATL faces San Diego later tonight. Both NOLA Gold and Rugby United New York will have a game in hand as they have a bye week.
New England’s Joe Johnston was named the Man of the Match.
— Major League Rugby (@usmlr) April 3, 2021
Squads with Player Article Links & Match Preview
New England Free Jacks: 1 Sef Fa’gase 2 Pieter Jansen 3 Erich de Jager 4 Josh Larsen (c) 5 Jackson Thiebes 6 Joe Johnston 7 Justin Johnson 8 Wian Conradie 9 John Poland 10 Harrison Boyle 11Mitch Wilson 12 Aleki Morris Lome 13 Poasa Waqanibau 14 Dougie Fife 15 Beaudein Waaka (VC) 16 Vili Toluta’u 17 Kensuke Hatakeyama 18 Quentin Newcomer 19 Ronan McCusker 20 Conor Kindregan 21 Ollie Engelhart 22 Evan Geist 23 Danny Collins
Utah Warriors: 1 Franco Van Den Berg 2 Sama Malolo 3 Angus Maclellan 4 Aston Fortuin 5 Matt Jensen 6 Lance Williams 7 Bailey Wilson (c) 8 Jurie Van Vuuren 9 Fraser Hurst 10 Hagen Schulte 11 Josh Whippy 12 Calvin Whiting 13 Tyler Fisher 14 Mike Te’o (VC) 15 Cliven Loubser 16 Veremalua Vugakoto 17 Alex Tucci 18 Olive Kilifi 19 James Mocke 20 Thomas Tu’avao 21 Dan Christensen 22 Mika Kruse 23 Joe Mano