New England Free Jacks

Free Jacks fall in New Orleans; win next week locks in No. 1 seed

The top seed in the East will be on the line in next week's regular-season finale.


Week 17 of Major League Rugby (MLR) saw the first-place New England Free Jacks face off against second-place NOLA Gold on Saturday at the Gold Mine in New Orleans. With a playoff spot clinched, the Free Jacks rested many starters for the postseason. NOLA Gold came out on top 27-17. The match was played in brutal heat, with temperatures feeling like a hundred degrees.

In the third minute of the game, the Free Jacks got on the board early with three points from Reece MacDonald after a penalty kick. Despite the early points and consistent ball possession, NOLA Gold controlled much of the first half.

Two minutes later, NOLA was on the verge of scoring after a well-executed kick and chase, but Jed Melvin, a Free Jacks mid-season addition, held up the attack. After a five-meter scrum to NOLA, Cam Dolan scored a try. NOLA made the conversion for their first lead of the match, 7-3. 

Three minutes later, NOLA’s Jonah Mau’u scored a breakaway try between the posts earning his team an automatic seven points to up the home side's lead to 14-3.

Twenty minutes into the match, Taniela Filimone scored a try for NOLA after a maul forced the Free Jacks into a difficult position. NOLA missed the conversion, making the score 19-3. 

The Free Jacks had 50 percent possession in the first half and fought hard in the heat, but the score remained 19-3 until halftime. It was the seventh straight match the Free Jacks have trailed at halftime.

New England came out of the locker room with a bang, pushing a maul over the line for a try from Foster DeWitt and a conversion from MacDonald. The true team effort made the score just a nine-point difference 19-10. 

Ten minutes later, NOLA collected a misplayed kick and Jordan Jackson-Hope dove into the try zone, scoring for the Gold. NOLA missed the conversion, setting the score at 24-10. 

At the 60-minute mark, New England earned a line out at the five-meter mark. The Free Jacks were on the attack and Sean Ralph dove over the line for a New England try. MacDonald made the conversion tightening the match to a one-score game at 24-17. 

Nearing the end of the game at the 74-minute mark, NOLA’s Rodney Iona made an impressive penalty kick from 54 meters out to put the game away for the Gold. It also denied the Free Jacks a bonus point loss. The final score: NOLA 27, Free Jacks 17. 

While the Free Jacks have clinched a home quarterfinal playoff game, the No. 1 seed in the East will be on the line next week. A win would give New England (10-5-0, 50 pts) home matches in the Eastern Conference bracket.

New England is set to play last-place Anthem RC on Saturday at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Quincy for their final regular season match. The first kick is at 5:00 p.m. and the match will air on NBC Sports Boston.

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