Monday, June 17, 2019

2019 Major League Rugby Championship

‘Wolves back-to-back in San Diego

Seattle SeaWolves claimed the 2019 Major League Rugby Championship over San Diego Legion at time in the match with a massive forwards effort from lineout that would have done the Gods on Olympus proud. Perfect weather, a packed house and two XVs whose average differential in matches played in MLR’s two years has been less than a try made for scintillating stuff in Southern California on Sunday.

Flyhalf Joe Pietersen opened the San Diego account with a pair of sticksplitters in the early goings and it was 6-nil for the Californians before a brace of scores, the first by number 2, Stephan Coetzee at ’21 followed by a touch down by cagey halfback, JP Smith, who snatched a short lineout on the fast trot, staved off a faux tackle, and scooted into goal to touch down for numbers man, Brock Staller’s plus-two, and it was 14-6 for the reigning 2018 champs as referee Scott Green signaled the halftime break, and it was lads to lockers for hydration and instruction with SeaWolves in front by two scores.

San Diego retook the advantage on a grounding by number two, Nick Boyer at ’52 and  a 65th minute touch down by flanker Jordan Manihera - each converted by Pietersen - and it was 20-14 for homeboys as the last 15 minutes of the epic battle hove into view.

A 72nd-minute grounding by the Seattle 8man, Riekert Hattingh, and an rare missed conversion by the Seattle accountant Staller, and 20-19 the significant figures for Legion as time marched on, tension tightened and action ratcheted up.

Near time, with San Diego crabbing across the pitch in the vicinity of the ‘Wolves 22, ball spun from breakdown found Pietersen looping back into the pocket to drop a three-point goal truly from alignment on the left post, and San Diego had extended its lead to 23-19 with less than two minutes to go in the match. Seattle would need a try.

A turnover by Seattle provided possession and ball swung to the outside backs had a pair of Legion defenders take down the SeaWolves three-quarters shoulder high and with the penalty award came the decisive maneuver: Staller for touch scant meters from goal and travelers with the lineout throw. Well-taken that snatch and in textbook fashion the Seattle forwards mauled, in unison, to the Promised Land for the pack drop-down try in extra time that, along with the Staller conversion, made a final scoreline of 26-23 for the XV from the Great American Northwest.

* Only thing missing from CBS’ well-turned event was the concise, intelligent commentary of Steve Lewis, who, if you’ve listened to his chat on the Rugby New York games, you would know is the penultimate expressive voice of rugby in the North American airwaves - ed.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Super Rugby WRap: Round 18

Super Rugby Round 18 WRap
6.14-6.15, By the Numbers

-home wins @ Brumbies, Bulls, Highlanders, Hurricanes, Jaguares
 -road wins by Chiefs, Sharks

Crusaders are the number one seed followed most deservedly by Jaguares, then Brumbies and Hurricanes at number four. They’ll host Bulls, Sharks, Chiefs and Highlanders inverse-respective, next weekend in the Super Rugby quarterfinals, because...

6             first ‘40 trys worked the magic for Highlanders and South Islanders earned a berth in extra time with 49-12 victory over Waratahs at the Forsyth Barr; ‘Landers joy was ‘Tahs sorrow as the loss would finish the Australians season;

            second stanza groundings did the trick for Chiefs in Melbourne as Los Jefes ripped Rebels at AAMI, 59-8, securing a quarterfinal spot for the Kiwis and ending Rebels 2019 campaign; 17 for travelers 10, Jack Debreczeni, on half dozen conversions and 1 try, and a hat-trick of groundings by flyer, Shaun Stevenson, in the rout;

10           for Jaguares 10, Domingo Miotti, on the conversion of 5/7ths  home groundings as the 2019 South African Conference Champions closed out their best run ever by topping traveling SunWolves at José Amalfitani in Buenos Aires, 52-10; 2 trys for the flying Sebastien Cancelliere in the victory over the doomed Japanese Super Side that featured only 3 Japanese-born players on its starting XV;

19           the halftime advantage, 24-5, on 3 groundings converted by Blues 10, Otero Black - who struck a penalty truly as well - that could not be held by visitors at the Westpac and Hurricanes returned 24 of their own against 0 in the second stanza on a trio of scores by: 5, Isaia Walker-Leawere; relief 14, Fletcher Smith; 13, Pete Umaga-Jensen, for his brace; and the conversion of all 3 by ‘Canes 10, Jackson Garden-Bachop - who added a penalty in the 29-24 win;

            yellow card assessments, during which 19 points were tallied by a vengeful Brumbies XV, and the Mob put the wrap on their season with a 40-27 scolding of Reds at the GIO:

            lead changes at ’28, ’77, and the last 3 minutes into injury time made for a joyful visit down the coast for Sharks as they bumped Stormers from the playoffs frame in a 12-9 armwrestle  at Newlands;

18           for the presumptive Springbok 10, Handre Pollard, on 5 conversions, 1  penalty, and 1 try as Bulls throttled Lions at Loftus Versfeld, 48-27; Los Toros 7, Hanro Liebenberg, grounded a brace of trys within 12 minutes of the opening drop and the Big Cats will remain on the High Veld while their brethren Bulls go off to the Land of the Long White Cloud to test the weather;

Crusaders on the bye

Thursday, June 13, 2019

2019 Super Rugby - Last Rites

Super Rugby Round 18 Preview: 6.14-6.15

There will be Last Rites administered at four of seven Super Stadiums across a belt in the Southern Hemisphere stretching better than 7,000 miles from Argentina to Australia. The home playoff berths have already been sorted: the three Conference leaders plus Hurricanes, but travelers have yet to be determined and this final weekend provides a menu offering salacious fare as the XVs strive to seat in one of the eight slots in the playoffs frame when the music stops.

South Afrcian Conference could wind up with all sides extending their seasons.

Red font indicates HotShots

Friday, 6.14:
               Highlanders (31) v (30) Waratahs at Forsyth Barr, Dunedin - 1:35am MST: do or die for homeboys and even then, should they win with max points, they are not assured extra time; ‘Tahs are more than likely gone after this fixture, but yet are not mathematically eliminated; 50, no wind, outside chance of rain;

               Rebels (34) v (31) Chiefs at the AAMI Park, Melbourne - 3:45am MST: visitors must win large and so too, homeboys; mid 50s, bit o’ wind - it will have rained earlier, so slicken the pitch and slippen the piggy;

               Jaguares (46) v (12) SunWolves at Estadio Jose Amalfitani, Buenos Aires - 4:10pm MST: Go you Sleek, Jungle Cats! raucous weather with rainy, slippy piggy and temps in the mid-50s;

Saturday, 6.15:
               Hurricanes (49) v (29) Blues at the Westpac, Wellington- 1:35am MST: homeys are in regardless; re: weather see above, but add a big Southwind;

               Brumbies (43) v (28) Reds at GIO Stadium, Canberra - 3:45am MST: Giddyup you Mob! low 50s and perfect;

               Stormers (34) v (33) Sharks at Newlands, Capetown - 7am MST: this will be a blinder... win-and-in more than likely; mid-50s, no rain, no wind = ideal conditions;

               Bulls (36) v (35) Lions at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria - 9am MST: see above, but loser could yet wrangle a berth, depending on other outcomes; mid-50s, no rain, no wind = perfection on the High Veld;
Crusaders (58) on the bye

Monday, June 10, 2019

MLR Semifinals: By the Numbers

Major League Rugby: Semifinals - By the Numbers

2             the measure of separation at day's end and the second time in their last 2 matches that New York United dropped a 2-point decision; this time on a missed conversion... both XVs counted 3 trys and 1 penalty goal, but 1 missed conversion by NY yielded the result and San Diego Legion will host the 2019 MLR title fixture;

23           nil for the homeside before Toronto Arrows located the try zone and travelers went on to defeat at the hands and feet of Seattle in Tukwila, 30-17...  13 for SeaWolves accountant, Brock Staller, on 2-and-3 tallied from his tee in the determinant.

2019 MLR championship: San Diego Legion v Seattle SeaWolves at Torero Stadium, San Diego, CA - 2pm MST

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Super Rugby Round 17 WRap

Super Rugby Round 17 WRap
6.7-6.8: By the Numbers
 home wins @ Crusaders, Jaguares, Reds, Stormers
 road wins by Brumbies, Hurricanes  
drawn scores: Highlanders v Bulls

Round 18 yet to go and all conference champions have been determined and the fourth, and final, home quarter-fixture host is known as it may have been for some time to some.
With all else having a match to go, NZC Crusaders, whose league competitive campaign is complete, have sorted home matches throughout the playoffs, or until they lose, by their estimable victory on the RugbyDay. Hurricanes nailed the open home quarterfinal with their win on the High Veld; Auckland is definitely out of the extra time clock’s frame.

AUC champ is smoking Brumbies as that Mob have well-sorted the competition in the southeast and are the hottest club in the Southern Hemisphere.

The other club all fuego-fuego is Jaguares, who schooled the once vaunted Sharks at home to take the South African Conference title.

2             trys for Highlanders 15, Josh McKay, 2 trys, too, for 11, Waisake Naholo, but only 2 conversions by 10, Josh Ioane, and home team were ahead 24-14 heading toward the hour mark, but a true sticksplitter by 10, Handre Pollard -100% on 4-from-4 from the floor- and a grounding by Bulls replacement 2, Jaco Visaje, made for drawn scores in Dunedin with 24-24 the numbers; 2, too, the number of drawn results for Los Toros in their last brace of results;

6             points to the good at halftime for Blues became -1 by the end of ‘80 and Reds and Blues played their second to last matches of the 2019 campaign with Reds on top, 29-28;

10           try Crusaders reduced Rebels at the AMI, 66-0, and in the process put their guests extra time chances in unseemly peril; homeboys double handful of groundings came from hat-tricks by 14, Sevu Reece, his wing partner, 11 Brayden Ennor, and braces by 15, David Havili, and 12, Ryan Crotty;

25           the halftime deficit that Waratahs were unable to recoup and Brumbies rode 28-3, midpoint advantage to a 35-24 result; 10 for travelers 10, Chris Leali’ifano, on the conversion of all 5 Mob dots; Aussie Giants are more than likely out of the additional action frame due the loss;

1             brace of dots by relief number 2, Dan Coles,  in the second stanza (his last at ’76 for the bonus point), and another pair by powerhouse 14, Ben Lam, paced Hurricanes over Lions at Ellis Park, 37-17;
8             the halftime advantage made an even baker’s dozen after ’80 and Stormers did the requisite on SunWolves at Newlands, 31-18; double for home team’s relief 8man, Will Massyn; two, too, for ‘Wolves 15, Semi Masirewa;

5             trys for the Jaguares back-three backs: a single for 21 years old 11, Santiago Carreras, and braces for 14, Sebastián Cancilliere and 15, Emiliano Boffelli, and the South Americans have clinched the South African Conference topspot with a fixture yet in their cards by 34-7 victory over Sharks at José Amalfitani in Buenos Aires;
Chiefs on the bye

Friday, June 7, 2019

Major League Rugby - Semifinals: Sunday

MLR Playoffs: West versus East
2019 Major League Rugby race has run and it’s come down to this: a brace of clubs from the Pacific Coast against them on the way far side of the Mississippi for the right to contest this season’s championship trophy. The knockouts, or as they are, the semifinals, will take place on the Sunday in the port cities at the extremities of the contiguous American Western Seaboard. San Diego Legion host New York United in the first fixture at 3pm MST in Torero Stadium, and Seattle SeaWolves will take on Toronto Arrows in the fixture to follow at 7pm MST at Starfire Sports Arena.

SDL v NYU: 3pm MST, Sunday
New York are the only XV to have lost their last match, dropping a 20-22 decision to Toronto on the trot in the True North. Overall, United have lost four road games, their initial unhappiness coming at the hands of their Southern Californian hosts in the middle of April by 10 points.
San Diego, boasting the best record in the league, have lost only thrice all year though two of those defeats have come at home against semifinalists, NYU (in January to open their season) and then Toronto first weekend in May. 
Of significance: number 10 for United in the January match, Chris Mattina, has been supplanted by Ireland native, Cathal Marsh. The current NYU standoff will orchestrate the travelers maneuvers against one of the very best string-pullers operating today, Joe Pietersen of the Legion; the Cheetahs and Stormers product has quietly become the calculating mastermind of the dominant side in the league.
United have two powerful points-producers in former Glendale Raptors packmates, Dylan Fawsitt and John Quill, but must function at top end from numbers 1-through-23  should they wish for a happy ending to this day’s efforts. 
San Diego, for their measure, have one of the top closers in the game today in USA Eagles Mike Te’o who will exploit the smallest of creases to explosive effect.
Gonna be a doozy in SoCal!

SS v TA: 7pm MST, Sunday
Brock Staller is not only the Seattle numbers man, he’s best in the league at it by nearly 50 cumulative points. The SeaWolves wing will absolutely crucify an opponent with his accuracy from the tee should errors be committed within 50+ meters of goal. One might call the Surrey (Canada) flyer automatic, but he’s better than that.
Rising former Manawatu standout, Sam Malcolm, provides distribution and a bit of devilment to his Toronto backline; cool as you like, the deft and capable flyhalf sealed Toronto’s flashy finish and ensured Arrows extra time with a dropped goal near death in the match last weekend.
Today’s travelers have not tasted defeat in nearly two months and that fare will not sit well in the tummy today; Seattle's last loss came at the hands of the Toronto XV. The cold dish of revenge for Seattle or more heat from the currently molten Canadian Express that is the Toronto Arrows? Delicious, this cuisine, in any case.
Battle lines drawn in the Great Northwest!


Thursday, June 6, 2019

Super Rugby Round 17 - Preview

Super Rugby Round 17: Preview 6.7-6.8

With either one or two matches remaining on their 2019 RWC-shortened schedules, there’s 5 or 10 table points to be had, depending. 40 table points or better should get a XV extra time, though there is likely to be a high-30s quarterfinalist or two.

Friday, 6.7:
               Highlanders (29) v (34) Bulls at Forsyth Barr, Dunedin - 1:35am MST: home team may obtain the playoffs frame with joy, while visitors could fall straight out of that picture should they not get any points today; therefore, this is a Match-of-Weekend; low 50s and it will have rained earlier plus a large westwind;

               Reds (24) v (28) Blues at Suncorp, Brisbane - 3:35am MST: this pair may be out of the playoffs picture, but will provide excellent sport nonetheless; hi-60s, chance of rain and a bit of wind;
Saturday, 6.8:
               Crusaders (53) v (34) Rebels at the AMI, Christchurch- 1:35am MST: home team needs only a point to finish the league in first and take first in conference and competition; their guests, however, while not in freefall, need to win today should they want to play the knockouts from the field rather than watch from the pub; hi-40s, no rain, big breeze from the southwest;

               Waratahs (30) v (39) Brumbies at Western Sydney Stadium - 3:35am MST: home side must finish their campaign with wins, the more points garnered in each of their final brace of matches, the better; Mob are at the head of the Aussie bracket just now and could obtain headspot therein with the bonus-point win today; that’s why this is Match-of-Weekend; hi-50s, no rain, minimal wind;

               Lions (35) v (44) Hurricanes at Ellis Park, Johannesburg - 7am MST: ‘Canes nailed their SA hosts last week on the Indian Ocean and secured extra time by that win; topspot in their conference is not out of reach, but the Kiwi club must close out their campaign with bonus-point victories and trust Crusaders have failed on the South Island earlier today, highly unlikely, though not out of the realm of possibility; sunny, mid-50s, no rain nor wind = mighty fine conditions;

               Stormers (30) v (12) SunWolves at Newlands, Capetown - 7am MST: gotta, gotta, gotta win and largely should the Westerners wish to obtain extra time; visitors playing for contract, queen and country; clear skies, hi-50s, no rain, no wind;

               Jaguares (41) v (33) Sharks at Estadio Jose Amalfitani, Buenos Aires - 1:40pm MST: if anyone thought that at this point in the season, these two clubs would be situated as they are at the table just now, then that individual would have to be of the South American-South African supporter variety; big win by homeboys and they’ve taken the conference with a fixture in hand; Travelers gotta have it... Match-of-Weekend, also; clear, hi-50s, no rain and a bit of wind from the northwest;

Chiefs on the bye


Monday, June 3, 2019

Major League Rugby - the 2019 Race is Run

MLRNA WRap: 6.2 - By the Numbers
home wins @ Houston, San Diego, Seattle, Toronto
no road wins  

It’s San Diego, Seattle, Toronto, Houston in the order of finish and those are the clubs who’ve earned extra time in their seasons by virtue of their respective performances over the course of campaigns that have seen actions in the Coolness of the True North on down to the Gulf of Mexico, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific and on to the Roof of the World in the Rockies. New York United only XV to have lost on the weekend and yet they’d enough table points accumulated to finish just in front of NOLA Gold, whose season spiraled in a downward plummet over the course of the last month-plus.

By the Numbers, On the Weekend

4             the measure of separation at the end of the day as Houston completed a strong finish to their season, albeit out of the playoffs frame, with 31-27 victory over Utah Warriors;

            the difference after ’80 as Toronto reserved their spot in extra time by 22-20 joy in the True North over New York;

22           too, for first-placed finishers on the table, San Diego, on 22-10 victory over NOLA Gold, sealing topspot and dropping Gold out of playoff contention in the process with the 12-point win;

12           too, the gap in tallies as Seattle stormed into a home playoff fixture with 38-26 joy over Austin Elite at Starfire Sports Arena;
Glendale on the bye

2019 Final Table

The League Competition is run... NOW for Knockouts!!!



Sunday, June 2, 2019

Super Rugby WRap: Round 16

Super Rugby Round 16 WRap: 5.31-6.1, By the Numbers
 home wins @ Chiefs, Lions
 road wins by Brumbies, Hurricanes, Jaguares, Waratahs
drawn scores: Blues v Bulls

Crusaders will close their season, in all likelihood, at home. There is a slim chance another NZC club may overtake the season-long leaders, but that’s a narrow gap closing fast, and with a couple table points obtained in the Cantabrians last home fixture this upcomer, the club from the South Island will have ensured home turf throughout the playoffs.

In OZ, two clubs are in the playoffs frame just now... one will make it in any case, but one must do well against the best team in the league on the trot and then versus a strong Kiwi club should they want to see additional play at season’s end.  

SA in the current standings would show half the current playoffs field were the season to end now, and could see all five franchises in the picture, though right now it’s a South American XV what orders for the conference table just this minute.

The        second try grounded by Jaguares flyer, Santiago Carreras, just before time earned the bonus point for scalding hot Jaguares and the Jungle Cats topped the Reds in Brisbane, 34-23, as Jags maintained their grip on first place in South Africa;

12           for 21 years old Bulls 10, Manie Libbok,  on a triple of: 2 conversions, the last for the result, 1 penalty and 1, 75th minute try, the aforementioned completion of which made for drawn scores with Blues at Eden Park, 22-22;

10           for traveling ‘Tahs 10, Bernie Foley, on 2-and-2 struck from his shoe and Waratahs are right back into the mix after 22-15 victory over Rebels in Melbourne; 10, too, for home 10, Quade Cooper on a triple of 1-1-and-1;

15          on a second stanza hat trick by Brumbies replacement hooker, Connal McInerney, sealed the deal in Tokyo and the Mob went on to record 42-19 victory in the Northern Hemisphere over SunWolves; 6-from-6 perfection on try-completions by traveling 10, Chris Leali’ifano;

10           also for Chiefs 10, Jack Debreczini, on 5-from-6 conversions as Los Jefes routed Crusaders at FMG, 42-27; visitors were up by one at midpoint, 20-19, and extended their lead to 27-19 with a 43rd-minute grounding by flyer, Braydon Ennor, and its conversion by 10, Richie Mo’unga, but a touch down by Ennor’s oppo, Shaun Stephenson, in the 67th minute made for a home team advantage that Chiefs closed out with a late dot by first five eighths, Tumua Manu, for the win that popped Chiefs sniffing extra time for now, but...

            trys for Lions 8man, Kwagga Smith, paced the Big Cats massive win over Stormers on the High Veld, 41-22, as the home team vaulted from 8th to 5th on the chart, well into the overtime octet;

20           points for Hurricanes Barrett Brothers: 15 for 10, Beau, on 3-and-3 from the tee, in addition to a grounding by Jordie at 15, made enough for triumph at the Shark Tank in Durban and the second best performing side in the league closed out their African junket with a well-earned victory, 30-17;
Highlanders on the bye


Thursday, May 30, 2019

Super Rugby Round 16 Preview

Super Rugby Round 16
Preview 5.31-6.1

With either two or three matches remaining on their 2019 RWC-shortened schedules, there’re 15 or 10 table points to be had, depending. The conference leaders go to playoffs and the next five clubs with the greatest totals go along as well. Mid- to high-40s should see extra time with the three conference champs and the fourth-placed club overall each hosting a knockout.

Crusaders will most likely host throughout the playoffs as the only club that can catch them is Hurricanes and while that’s possible, it is unlikely. The remaining three clubs in the NZC are out of the running for the extended season just now, but they are all within one happy result from that elite octet.

Four of five SA Conference clubs in extra time slots just now with Jaguares, the South American-South African side, ruling the roost and Stormers just out of the playoffs frame.

Brumbies and Rebels are within the extra time window just now, and ‘Tahs are needing a result this weekend to get back in while Reds can’t be counted out either; only club that’s been mathematically eliminatedis SunWolves and they’re soon to be out of the competition entirely.

Friday, 5.31:
               Blues (26) v (32) Bulls at Eden Park, Auckland - 1:45am MST: homeboys are out of the playoff picture just now and Bulls are just innit; a triumph by the hosts on the day could very well mean a positional reversal; it will have rained and may be raining, so slicken and slippen if one is not careful... high 50s and a significant westwind;

               Rebels (33) v (26) Waratahs at AAMI Park, Melbourne - 3:34am MST: visitors can’t be muckin’ about should they wish to see extra time on the pitch; hosts looked sharp in pounding ‘Wolves, but then... - desperate the ‘Tahs and confident the Men of Melbourne; should be a dilly! low 50s, with slim chance of rain, though a bit of a southwind;

                SunWolves (12) v (34) Brumbies at Prince Chichibu, Tokyo - 11:15pm MST: AUC leaders should not look past this one as their Rebels pals’ll pass ‘em by for the head of the conference chart; 70-ish, maybe moist with a southwind;

Saturday, 6.1:
               Chiefs (27) v (53) Crusaders at ANZ National Stadium, Suva - 1:35am MST: whatever the outcome of this one, the island nation of Fiji, winners of the gold medal in 7s code at the Rio Olympics, will be victorious, though Chiefs need it badly; expect Crusaders to show some youth in the roster; no rain, little breeze and high 70s with humidity;

               Reds (24) v (36) Jaguares at Suncorp, Brisbane - 3:45am MST: a win for travelers would all but seal an extra time slot for those sleek, swift and savvy Jungle Cats, while hosts can write their playoff hopes a nice, long goodbye letter should they fail to deliver this day; low 60s, no rain, little breeze;

               Sharks (33) v (40) Hurricanes at Kings Park, Durban - 7am MST: homeside must win while travelers could ensure extra time with victory; big time M-o-W; high 60s, no rain, mild breeze;

                Lions (29) v (30)  Stormers at Ellis Park, Johannesburg - 9:15am MST: who wins, gains the extra time frame; it gets big like this in SA, but those are Test fixtures.. M-o-W, M-o-W, M-o-W; partial clouds, high 50s, no rain, nah wind = about as good as it gets;
Highlanders on the bye