New England Free Jacks

Free Jacks take down undefeated SaberCats in thrilling 47-35 win

New England remains atop the Eastern Conference after a hard-fought victory in Houston.


On an 82-degree night in Houston, the New England Free Jacks knocked off the last undefeated Major League Rugby (MLR) team, the Houston SaberCats, 47-35. The sellout crowd was treated to a phenomenal rugby match that saw the Free Jacks fend off a late-match SaberCats rally. 

The SaberCats scored first at the five-minute mark when Vice Captain Christian Dyer scored off a set piece to make it 5-0. Davy Coetzer’s conversion attempt double-doinked off the goal post and was no good. This began a trend as Coetzer would not have a good night kicking, missing all five of his conversion attempts.  

Two minutes later, Malakai Hala-Ngatai scored a try for the Free Jacks. Jayson Potroz's conversion made it 7-5. At the 12-minute mark, Potroz sent a beautiful kick chase forward that Wian Conradie converted into a try. Potroz made his second conversion of the night to make it 14-5.  

Nearly 10 minutes later, Houston made a penalty kick to pull within 14-8, but in response Potroz chased down his own kick after a line out to score a try. His conversion made the score 21-8. 

While the Free Jacks seemed to be in control of the match, Wayne van der Bank received a yellow card at the 24-minute mark, and Houston took advantage of his absence. At the 26-minute and 34-minute marks, Jeremy Misailegalu and Coetzer scored SaberCats tries. Coetzer missed both conversions setting the score at 21-18.  

Just before halftime, the Free Jacks looked to regain control of the match when van der Bank scored his first of three tries after a five-meter line out. Potroz’s conversion was good, making the score Free Jacks 28, SaberCats 18. It was the Free Jacks' fourth try of the game, giving them a bonus point, their first since Round 1 of the season.  

The second half began with the wind in the Free Jacks' face. At the 48-minute mark, Reece MacDonald chased down a well-placed kick chase from Paula Balekana to score a try. The conversion was no good, making the score 33-18. The early portion of the second half was dominated by the Free Jacks as van der Bank added a second try, Potroz the conversion, to make it 40-18.  

Over the final 20 minutes, Houston responded with three tries scored by Coetzer (missed conversion) and Line Latu (missed conversion) Tiann Erasmus (AJ Alatimu conversion) to pull within five points at 40-35. 

With three minutes to play, the Free Jacks put the game away. Van der Bank scored his third try of the game and Potroz made the conversion to make the final score 47-35. The Free Jacks scored seven tries on the day's match, easily their best offensive output of the season.

With the hat trick, van der Bank was named player of the match.  “The boys are starting to click, when we hit our stride, we are a difficult team to beat. We know every team is going to come for us so we have to be up for it every week,” said van der Bank.  

The Free Jacks used their entire bench in the match, making it a true team victory. The Free Jacks are now 5-1 and they remain in first place in the Eastern Conference.  The Free Jack's return home next week for a match against the Seattle Seawolves at 2:00 p.m. The match will air on NBC Sports Boston.   

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