The highly anticipated inaugural season of North America’s newest professional rugby league is underway.

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Major League Rugby kicked off with back to back fixtures on Saturday afternoon (EST), with the New Orleans Gold and Glendale Raptors claiming the first victories of the competition. Both games were streamed live on Major League Rugby’s official Facebook page.

The New Orleans Gold and the Houston Sabercats officially got the competition started with their clash in Houston.

Former Fijian Olympic sevens captain Osea Kolinisau picked up the first try of the competition, barrelling over from a quick tap close to the line to put the Sabercats on the board.

Fellow Fijian Josua Vici followed up Kolinisau’s effort as he set off on a 60-metre try scoring scamper, beating several defenders on his way to giving the Sabercats a 12-3 lead.

The Sabercats hit back before halftime, with No. 8 Sebastian Kalm crashing over after a quick tap from a scrum penalty on the Sabercats five-metre line. JP Eloff added the extras to close the gap to just two points heading into the sheds.

Sabercats loosehead prop Jake Turnbull received the competition’s first card after he was shown yellow for repeated infringements at scrum time.

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The Gold struck twice after halftime and slotted a penalty to take a commanding 25-12 lead entering the final quarter, but the Sabercats refused to lay down.

Turnbull, who was yellow carded earlier in the match, scored for the Sabercats to pull the scoreline back to 25-19 with 13 minutes to play.

The Gold all but sealed the match in the 74th minute, as JP Eloff scored and converted a try to give his side an insurmountable 32-19 lead.

The Sabercats scored shortly after the kickoff to bring the score to 32-26 with two minutes remaining and make things interesting, but they were unable to conjure a miracle and steal a famous home victory.

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Another Eloff penalty before the final hooter settled the final scoreline in a thrilling opening match.

The second fixture was a little more one-sided, with the Glendale Raptors putting in a huge effort at home.

It took less than two minutes for the Austin Elite to receive a yellow card, as lock Ben Mitchell was sent off for a no-arms off the ball tackle.

Cards would be a recurring theme over the afternoon.

Despite being a man down, the Elite were able to hold off the Raptors and score the first try of the match, with winger Reece Czarnecki dotting down after a break from captain Andrew Suniula.

Glendale responded with three tries and 24 unanswered points before the break to give themselves a 24-7 lead.

After their strong finish to the first half, it was all Glendale to start the second 40.

Fullback Maximo de Achaval kept the Raptors’ momentum going, opening the second half scoring by splitting a pair of Austin defenders to cross the chalk.

The Raptors kept their foot on the throat of the Elite as they put up their fifth unanswered try to push the scoreline out to 38-7.

Discipline let both sides down as Elite winger Sani Taylor was shown yellow and try-scoring Raptors lock Ben Landry received a red card for a tip tackle on USA Eagle Hanco Germishuys.

The Elite scored three tries in reply against their undermanned opponents, including a stunning sideline dart from Germishuys.

The Raptors finished the game with just 12 men after flanker Connor Cook was handed a red for a tip tackle and prop Kelepi Fifita took an early shower after repeat infringements close to the try line.

With a final scoreline of 41-26, the Raptors look like strong contenders to claim the inaugural Major League Rugby title if they can get a handle on their discipline.

The first weekend of competition will be rounded off tomorrow when the Seattle Sunwolves host the San Diego Legion in front of a sold-out crowd.

All games in the competition’s ten-week regular season will be broadcast live on Facebook, with one game each week broadcast on CBS Sports.

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