The New England Free Jacks hosts Rugby United New York at Union Point Stadium in Weymouth, MA at 4 pm on Saturday, July 3. The match will be broadcast on NESN and MSG and streamed on The Rugby Network.
Last week the Free Jacks lost 17-9 to NOLA Gold, while Rugby United New York beat the Toronto Arrows 31-24.
MLR Eastern Conference Playoff Picture & Schedule
Only three weeks are remaining in the Major League Rugby regular season and Rugby ATL, Rugby United New York, NOLA Gold, and the New England Free Jacks are the only Eastern Conference teams in contention for the playoffs.
Craig Gridelli, in the Ear Full of Dirt, Monday Morning Flyhalf, also published in The Rugby Network, discussed the Eastern Conference playoff picture. “For New England, who sit in fourth, the playoffs are nearly beyond reach. A single win from New York or two from NOLA would mathematically eliminate them. Likewise, a single loss with less than two bonus points would also end it. If New England runs the table, beating New York, Atlanta, and Toronto, they have a chance. But that’s a big if.”
“NOLA can’t be counted out. At 8-4-1 (+17), they are a further four table points behind New York. And like New York, they have a game in hand on leader ATL. But with one of their remaining three fixtures being a trip to LA, NOLA’s window is quickly closing.”
Rugby ATL still has a match at Utah against the Warriors who are closing in on a playoff Western Conference semifinal against LA. The Warriors face the tough task of finishing the regular season with matches against Rugby ATL and LA, while Austin Gilgronis travel to play LA and Old Glory. For Utah, it is a must-win at home against ATL, a win coupled with an Austin loss would guarantee the playoffs.
New York’s focus this week is on New England. The Free Jacks have had an excellent home record, however, RUNY, despite missing five players for internationals, will be favored by the rugby pundits to win. New York needs to take care of business with a winning bonus point. A bonus would be that NOLA Gold, which also has several players at internationals, loses on the road to LA.
That would mean that Rugby United New York could clinch a playoff spot on July 10 with a win over the Houston SaberCats. NOLA Gold travels to Seattle next week before traveling to New York on July 17. On July 10 New York will also be rooting for the Utah Warriors to defeat Rugby ATL, which could vault New York into first place. That would mean that who hosts the Eastern Conference Playoff Final (MLR semifinals) would be determined the final week of the regular season with Rugby United New York hosting NOLA Gold on July 17 and Rugby ATL traveling to New England for Major League Rugby’s concluding regular season match on July 18.
International Tests & Major League Rugby
The next two weeks will see both the USA and Canada involved in international tests. The USA faces England on July 4 and Ireland on July 10, while Canada faces Wales on July 3 and England on July 10.
The Free Jacks have one player involved in the international tests. The team’s captain Josh Larson, left a week ago to join Canada.
Rugby United New York will have five players involved internationals with locks Nate Brakeley and Nick Civetta, as well as back-row Hanco Germishuys playing for the USA, Quinn Ngawati for Canada, and Wilton Rebolo for Brazil.
USA Men’s National Team Head Coach Gary Gold named Nick Civetta as a starter against England with Nate Brakeley and Hanco Germishuys as reserves.
Rugby Canada Head Coach Kinsley Jones has named Quinn Ngawati to make his debut for Canada as inside center against Wales on July 3.
Following the match last week, Wilton left to return to Brazil for the team’s remaining internationals. Brazil beat Paraguay 29-0 last Saturday and will play in a triangular SAR 2023 RWC final with Chile, and Uruguay as Chile vs Colombia’s July 11 was suspended with Chile advancing based on COVID-19 detection. Click on Chile vs Colombia link for more on the South and North American qualifier process.
Wilton had a few words about his time in New York!
Rugby WrapUp Pundit Week 16 Predictions – Second half of show
New England Free Jacks
Earlier this week, “The New England Free Jacks of Major League Rugby (MLR), Heritage Sports Ventures (HSV), and the City of Quincy jointly announced that Veterans Memorial Stadium (VMS) in Quincy will be the new home of the New England Free Jacks. The multi-year partnership with HSV will see the Free Jacks play their first MLR match in Quincy on July 18 with the first full season of action set for 2022.”
The Free Jacks lost at home for the first time last Saturday against NOLA Gold after five consecutive home wins against the Utah Warriors, Austin Gilgronis, Toronto Arrows, Old Glory DC, and the Seattle Seawolves. All home matches have been close ones with New England being a formidable opponent.
Head Coach Ryan Martin has made one change in his starters and one in the reserves since last week’s loss to NOLA Gold. Poasa Waqanibau returns to the outside center and provides a physical presence in the backs. He replaces Aleki Morris-Lome, who was suspended for the rest of the season for his tackle on Tim Guillimin. This necessitated positional changes, with Harrison Boyle moving from fullback to the inside center with Dougie Fife switching from outside center to fullback.
The lone reserve change has Fijian Warriors fullback Josateki Degei likely making his debut at some point in the match.
The Free Jacks have excellent line speed in defense and New York could use their offloading prowess to exploit gaps along with tactical kicks behind the approaching defenders. New England has been able to exploit turnovers that have been won and with the possibility of rain on Saturday, handling errors could be a factor.
The Free Jacks have two remaining regular-season matches after this week’s match against Rugby United New York. They travel to Life University to face the Toronto Arrows on July 11 and face Rugby ATL at home on July 18 at their new home at Veteran’s Memorial Stadium in Quincy, MA at 7:30 pm in the concluding regular-season match for Major League Rugby.
Rugby United New York
New York had two players in the Geico XV Week 15 team, both USA internationals, who will be involved in internationals in the next two weeks.
For Nate Brakeley, it was his fifth time on the list at lock. “A true operator in the aerial game, Brakeley came down with five lineouts and a lineout steal against Toronto. Around the park, he put his work rate on display making 11 tackles and having 28 ruck arrivals in the breakdown. On attack, he made six carries for 29 meters, two tackle-breaks, and an offload.”
Hanco Germishuys was the MLR player of the Week and made the Geico xV list as an openside flanker. “Germishuys had a huge work rate game putting in hard carries, contributing at the breakdown and in defense. On attack, he scored two tries from 12 carries for 58 meters, a line break, and an offload. On defense, he made 12 tackles and had 16 ruck arrivals in the breakdown.”
Both players, along with Nick Civetta, Quinn Ngawati, and Wilton Rebolo will be missed. Fortunately for New York, the team will have Dylan Fawsitt, Kara Pryor, and Dan Hollinshead returning to the roster after injuries.
Ben Bonasso also was featured in the MLR Try of the Week. See Toronto vs New York highlights below!
Head Coach Marty Veale has prepared the team well all season and the players have stepped up whenever adversity has struck, maintaining high-performance standards. The team’s strength has been its defense, playing quickly from the breakdown and offloading to exploit gaps in their opponent’s defense, and utilizing set pieces to score. Handling errors and penalties conceded have at times created opportunities for their opponents to score or stopped their attacks.
RUNY has five changes in the starters from last week’s win over the Toronto Arrows, which were due to the loss of players involved in international tests. Captain Dylan Fawsitt returns at hooker after missing last week’s match due to an unexpected headshot to the ribs early in the Utah Warriors match two weeks ago. He replaces Wilton Rebolo, who left for international duty with Brazil. Charlie Hewitt moves to lock and pairs with Evan Mintern, who moves from No.8. Both Nate Brakeley and Nick Civetta are in London for the July 4th match against England against the U.S.
Kara Pryor returns to No. 8 after missing the last two weeks due to a hamstring pull. His strength is in the attack and that will be important considering the expected weather conditions of the match.
There is one change in the backs with Chris Mattina returning to right-wing as Quinn Ngawati earns his first cap for Canada against Wales on July 3.
There are also three changes in the reserves. Dan Hollinshead has missed considerable time due to a shoulder injury that was sustained a number of weeks ago. At the time, he was the leading point scorer in the league with 87 points, which is in fourth place just behind New England’s Beaudein Waaka with 88. He also trails Waaka in penalty goals with 15 (third place), with Waaka in second with 16. In the meantime, Harry Bennett has stepped up and has been playing some of the best rugby of his career.
Former Houston SaberCats and Free Jacks hooker, Diego Maquieira joins the team along with Colorado XO and former Glendale Merlins lock, Max Dacey.
New York will look to utilize quick ball from offloads, the breakdown, and from loose balls which are likely to occur from handling errors or lost balls on tackles. The team needs to keep the ball in hand, pound the ball with their forwards, and use the high ball to keep the pressure on the Free Jacks. The team will also try to take advantage of penalties by kicking for territory and mauling in an attempt to score tries. Penalty goal attempts are more likely to occur later in the match if there is an opportunity to make it more than a two-score lead, or if the Free Jack’s defense warrants this tactic.
Rugby United New York knows the stakes are high and that they need to win against the Free Jacks this Saturday. They conclude their season at home at Bolson Stadium on the St John’s University campus, on July 10 against the Houston SaberCats and on July 17 against NOLA Gold. Both games kick-off at 2 pm.
Squads with Player Article Links
New England Free Jacks: 1Sef Fa’agase 2 Pieter Jansen 3 Erich de Jager 4 Jackson Thiebes 5 Conor Kindregan 6 Tera Mtembu 7 Joe Johnston (C) 8 Wian Conradie 9 John Poland 10 Beaudein Waaka (VC) 11 Harry Barlow 12 Harrison Boyle 13 Poasa Waqanibau14 Mitch Wilson 15 Dougie Fife 16 Stephan Coetzee 17 Quentin Newcomer 18 Kyle Ciquera 19 Vili Toluta’u 20 Justin Johnson 21 Tom Brusati 22 Josateki Degei 23 Tuidraki Samusamuvodre
Rugby United New York: 1 Sak Taulafo 2 Dylan Fawsitt (C) 3 Samu Tawake 4 Evan Mintern 5 Charlie Hewitt 6 Kyle Sumsion 7 Ben Bonasso 8 Kara Pryor 9 Conor McManus 10 Harry Bennett 11 Apenisa Cakaubalavu 12 Will Leonard 13 Fa’asiu Fuatai 14 Chris Mattina 15 Ben Foden 16 Diego Maquieira 17 Anthony Parry 18 Kirk Hamilton 19 Max Dacey 20 Rob Irimescu 21Connor Buckley 22 Dan Hollinshead 23 Troy Lockyear