Ma'a Nonu's San Diego Legion downed by Free Jacks in MLR final
The New England Free Jacks secured their first MLR Championship title by defeating Ma’a Nonu’s San Diego Legion in a thrilling match in front of more than 10,000 fans in the SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, Illinois.
New England overcame a halftime deficit of 13-17 and took a one-point lead with just two minutes remaining thanks to Le Roux Malan’s second try of the game. The Free Jacks, who entered the match on an 11-game winning streak as the top seeds in their conference, faced a San Diego team that had won a league-record 14 consecutive matches.
Both teams scored three tries each in the final, but it was Jayson Potroz’s accurate kicking that proved decisive for the Free Jacks. The New Zealand fly-half showcased his skills alongside other international players, including the legendary Nonu, who made a costly mistake when he fumbled a pass leading to the Free Jacks’ first try via an opportune intercept.
The Legion responded with a try from Christian Poidevin after a clever lineout move and a snipe from Richard Judd. The momentum swung back and forth, with New England taking the lead in the second half through a spectacular try from Fijian wing Paula Balekana. However, Nate Augspurger’s second try gave San Diego a 24-20 advantage.
In a dramatic finish, Le Roux Malan broke free from 41-year-old Nonu’s grasp and scored the winning try for the Free Jacks just minutes before the final whistle. With an announced attendance of 10,153, the highest for an MLR championship game, the league certainly showcased its growing popularity and potential.
Fans were treated to performances by DJ Diesel – legendary basketball star Shaquille O’Neal – and ‘I’m Shipping Up to Boston’ band Dropkick Murphys.
You can watch the match highlights and full match replay on The Rugby Network HERE.
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