The impact of former All Blacks star Ma’a Nonu is becoming more and more clear with each passing week in Major League Rugby as the 37-year-old steered the San Diego Legion to their fourth successive win in as many matches on Saturday (local time).
The 103-test veteran was in fine form at Shrine on Airline in New Orleans, scoring two of the Legion’s three tries to put a plucky NOLA Gold outfit to bed 25-21.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for San Diego, though, as the second of Nonu’s tries came as part of a second half comeback where the Legion scored 13 unanswered points to overturn a 21-12 half-time deficit.
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Nonu’s exploits in Louisiana were a continuation of the first three weeks of the competition, where his immense experience and vast array of skills have played a key role in San Diego’s undefeated ascent to the summit of the Western Conference standings.
— San Diego Legion (@SDLegion) February 29, 2020
With 12 points between them and the second-placed Utah Warriors, it appears that Nonu and the Legion have firmly established themselves as early title contenders, although the Toronto Arrows might have something to say about that.
The Canadian-based club are the only other side in the competition yet to taste defeat after they dispatched Rugby ATL 28-18 at Life University in Atlanta on Sunday.
Both sides swapped the lead and kept intact with one another throughout the eagerly-fought contest as Toronto’s win was only really solidified in the last play of the match when experienced Uruguayan wing Gaston Mieres crashed over from close range.
Took a big bonus-point bite out of the Peach State.
— Toronto Arrows RFC (@TorontoArrows) March 1, 2020
The victory leaves the Arrows atop the Eastern Conference standings with 18 points to their name, but things are much tighter in that half of the country compared to the west.
Mathieu Bastareaud’s Rugby United New York are breathing down Toronto’s neck as they trail by just four points following their 31-23 win over the Houston SaberCats at Aveva Stadium.
The veteran French midfielder packed down at No. 8 for the third week running in Texas, making way for this week’s midfield pairing of USA Eagles second-five Chris Mattina and Irish centre Will Leonard.
Mattina bagged one of New York’s four tries in the outing, and joined Bastareaud and ex-England fullback Ben Foden in withstanding a late surge from Houston which saw them come back from a 21-3 half-time scoreline to make it a one-point game with less than 10 minutes remaining.
Legendary stuff from @mikey_bistro and @marcus_walsh9 here ???
— Rugby United New York (@rugbyunitedny) March 2, 2020
Below New York in third place is Old Glory DC, who were without World Cup-winning Springboks prop Tendai Mtawarira in their 29-19 win over Austin Gilgronis at Toyota Field.
Instead, the Washington DC-based side had to rely on tries to Samoan sevens star and Auckland halfback Danny Tusitala, Canadian international Doug Fraser and Northland speedster Renata Roberts-Tenana to get them over the line in San Antonio.
Ex-All Blacks wing Frank Halai backed up his try on debut last week with another five-pointer to keep Austin in the match with just six minutes to play, but it proved to be too little too late as Old Glory DC now trail New York by a point on the standings.
Elsewhere, a double to former All Blacks utility back Rene Ranger lifted Colorado to their first win of the campaign against Utah, with the Raptors coming away with a 22-14 victory at Infinity Park in Denver.
Back-to-back reigning champions Seattle also got their first win of the year in front of their home crowd as the Seawolves pulled off a 44-29 win over the New England Free Jacks at Starfire Stadium.
MLR Western Conference
1 – San Diego Legion (4-0) – 19pts
2 – Utah Warriors (1-1-2) – 7pts
3 – Seattle Seawolves (1-3) – 6pts
4 – Houston SaberCats (1-3) – 5pts
5 – Colorado Raptors (1-3) – 5pts
6 – Austin Gilgronis (0-1-3) – 3pts
MLR Eastern Conference
1 – Toronto Arrows (4-0) – 18pts
2 – Rugby United New York (3-1) – 14pts
3 – Old Glory DC (3-1) – 13pts
4 – NOLA Gold (2-2) – 11pts
5 – Rugby ATL (2-2) – 10pts
6 – New England Free Jacks (1-3) – 8pts
Round Five Fixtures
Colorado Raptors vs Toronto Arrows at Infinity Park, Denver. KO: 8pm Friday
NOLA Gold vs New England Free Jacks at Shrine on Airline, New Orleans. KO: 4pm Saturday
Houston SaberCats vs Austin Gilgronis at Aveva Stadium, Houston. KO: 8pm Saturday
Seattle Seawolves vs Utah Warriors at Starfire Stadium, Seattle. KO: 9pm Saturday
Old Glory DC vs Rugby ATL at Cardinal Stadium, Washington DC. KO: 6pm Sunday
San Diego Legion vs Rugby United New York at Torero Stadium, San Diego. KO: 7pm Sunday
All kick-off times scheduled for ET
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