The New England Free Jacks hosts Austin Gilgronis on Saturday, May 8, in their second home MLR match at Union Point Stadium at 4 pm ET. The match may be viewed on NESN, KBVO, and The Rugby Network.
New England is in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 16 points based on point differential with Toronto and Rugby ATL also with 16. RUNY and NOLA Gold are 3 points ahead, while Old Glory has 13 points.
Austin Gilgronis is in second place in the Western Conference with 21 with the Utah Warriors close behind with 19. LA Giltinis tops the Conference standings with 30 points.
New England Head Coach Ryan Martin has made two changes in the starters with Pieter Jansen returning at hooker with Vili Toluta’u back in the reserves. Peceli Rinakama gains his first start with Poasa Waqanibau out of the matchday roster.
Reserve changes include Spencer Krueger, who could make his MLR debut at tighthead prop, for Japanese international Kensuke Hatakeyama. Danny Collins also joins the roster at cover in the back three.
Austin Gilgronis Head Coach Sam Harris has made four changes in the starters with Jake Turnbull swapping with Jamie mackintosh at loosehead prop. Sebastian de Chaves returns at lock after an injury and will be part of 6’8″ twin towers with former All Black, Isaac Ross.
Back changes include Samoan international Pele Cowley at scrumhalf with Chile international Marcelo Torrealba out of the matchday roster. Zinzan Elan-Puttick, who scored two tries as a reserve in the last match, enters at wing.
There are also two changes in the reserves with Paddy Ryan providing cover at tighthead prop and Nick Johnson at wing.
Austin enters the match conceding the fewest points in the league, 89. The Free Jacks have scored 23 more points than the Gilgronis and will need to find a way of piercing the AGs defense with tactical kicking and quick ball out to the backs. Austin also has controlled the scrums winning 89.89% to 82.35% for the Free Jacks.
The Free Jacks have an advantage in winning the breakdown and make fewer handling errors than the Gilgronis. New England must cut down on penalties, and take the points when opportunities exist early in the match.
Individually, Dougie Fife is second in the MLR in tries scored with 6 and is 5th in total points scored with 51. Mack Mason is among the scoring leaders for Austin in conversions, penalty goals, and total points. Beaudein Waaka is also a highly capable kicker for New England.
New England had a cross-country trip in beating San Diego 33-17 last week, while Austin enters the match having had two weeks to prepare.
With Austin and Utah neck and neck for second place in the West, a win is critical, especially with playing Eastern Conference leader Rugby United New York the following week, and then a mid-week match on short rest against the LA Giltinis.
New England also needs a win with the next two matches against Rugby ATL and RUNY.
Austin is looking for its 5th consecutive win after 2 narrow losses to open the 2021 season. New England wants to keep pace in the East and maintain an undefeated record at home. Who will prevail, attend, or view, to see.
Update: Sef Fa’agase was a late scratch for New England with Quentin Newcomer moving to loosehead prop and Kyle Ciquera entering the roster at #18.
Squads with Player Article Links
New England Free Jacks: 1 Quentin Newcomer 2 Pieter Jansen 3 Erich de Jager 4 Josh Larsen (c) 5 Jackson Thiebes 6 Justin Johnson 7 Joe Johnston 8 Wian Conradie 9 John Poland 10 Harrison Boyle 11 Harry Barlow 12 Aleki Morris Lome 13 Dougie Fife 14 Peceli Rinakama 15 Beaudein Waaka (VC) 16 Vili Toluta’u 17 Spencer Krueger 18 Kyle Ciquera19 Matt Wirken 20 Tera Mtembu 21 Sean Yacoubian 22 Evan Geist 23 Danny Collins
Austin Gilgronis: 1 Jamie Mackintosh 2 Robbie Coetzee 3 Mason Pedersen 4 Sebastian de Chaves 5 Isaac Ross 6 Dom Bailey 7 Maclean Jones 8 Michael de Waal 9 Pele Cowley 10 Mack Mason 11 Conner Mooneyham 12 Ned Hodson 13 Bryce Campbell (C) 14 Zinzan Elan-Puttick 15 Will Magie 16 Hugh Roch 17 Jake Turnbull 18 Paddy Ryan 19 Cam Dodson 20 Dom Akina 21 Sidney Shoop 22 Kurt Morath 23 Nick Johnson