Tuesday, January 22, 2019

MLR: Players, Twitter and the Final Four

The final part in our search for a Major League Rugby team brings it down to two things. Players and Social Media.

Social media can have a huge impact in the successful engagement with a team. So, points for this will be decided on the number of Twitter followers. 9 points for the most down to a single point for the team with the least.

Whilst it's easy to support a team with the best players, it's good to have at least a base knowledge of the players at the club. This round will see teams given points for recognisable and exciting players.

For the Houston Sabercats, Jason Harris-Wright has done the rounds in Britain and Ireland. The hooker came through Leinster's academy and played for Bristol in two separate spells either side of a decent spell at Connacht. The league's top scorer Sam Windsor had a short spell at Ulster and Diego Magno is a full on Marvel villain name. Osea Kolinisau is potentially the most exciting player in the team with bags of experience, a Sevens Olympic gold medal with Fiji and his face on a bank note... yes seriously!

Few big name players for Glendale, but they have built a good team ethos. Zach Fenoglio is important to the system and Hanco Germishuys is a superb signing from Austin to beef up an already good pack. Harley Davidson not only has a superb name, but is one hell of a try scorer on the wing.

The loss of Paul Lasike to Quins means a slip down the rankings for The Warriors. A lot of excitement around the Whippy brothers at Utah though, who have made the switch from college football very successfully. Tonata Lauti was lethal last season finishing top try scorer while Fetu'u Vainikolo is Tonga's top try scorer and has had spells at the Highlander, Connacht, Exeter and Oyannax.

RUNY's biggest name is name is without doubt Ben Foden. Prop Paddy Ryan has had spells at Viadana, London Welsh, Newcastle and Bath whilst Mike Petrie had short spells at Sale and Dragons and has appeared at three World Cups. Among the owners is former WWE/WWF star John Layfield.

In Texas, Austin Elite have cross code star Andrew Suniula. Spells at Taranaki, Cornish Pirates and Wasps flanked a brief flirtation with league at Manly Sea Eagles. Andres Vilaseca and Rodrigo Silva are highly experienced on the international stage with Uruguay. Canadian international Josh Larsen has ITM Cup experience. Meanwhile, Peni Tagive is a 6' 4" winger who can run 60 metres in under 7 seconds. With a career mostly in NRL for the Tigers, Dragons and Roosters, Tagive switched to college football before making the switch to union with Canberra Vikings. Qualifies for America under residency. Forwards coach Pedrie Wannenburg will be recognisable to many fans. 20 caps for the Springboks, over 100 appearances for the Bulls and successful spells at Ulster, Castres and Oyonnax as a player.

Champions Seattle Seahawks have hooker Stephen Coetzee with Currie Cup, Super Rugby and Pro 14 experience. Phil Mack is something of a Canadian rugby legend and had a short term deal with the Ospreys previously. Prop Djustice Sears-Duru will be recognisable to Glasgow Warriors and Ealing Trailfinder fans. Fijian capped lock Api Naikatini has played in Japan, France and in both Super Rugby and the Mitre 10 in New Zealand and is nicknamed Mr. T because of his distinctive hair. Mathew Turner was once a regular for England 7s and was nominated for World 7s player of the year in 2012. Centre Joey Iosefa has had spells in the Patriots NFL practice squads before switching to rugby. Flanker Vili Toluta'u was voted MVP in the final.

North of the border Toronto Arrows have Jamie MacKenzie at scrum half, who is younger brother of former player Phil. They have the fantastically named John Moonlight at flanker who has represented Canada at Sevens and XVs, playing in Commonwealth games and the 2015 World Cup. Sam Malcolm has played for Manawatu and at age grade for the Hurricanes and Baby Blacks. Uruguayan wingers Leandro Leivas and Gaston Mieres have decent try records on the international stage. Coach Aaron Carpenter is Canada's most capped player and has played for numerous English clubs league and Championship clubs.

In Louisiana, NOLA Gold Canadian international Hubert Buydens will be very well known to fans of impressive rugby beards. Also in the boiler house is Samoan international Kane Thompson who has played in Super Rugby for the Chiefs and Highlanders, Mitre Cup rugby, Dax in France, Canon Eagles in Japan and for the Newcastle Falcons. Packing down behind them is former Cardiff Blues and Northampton back row Cam Dolan. Australian scrum half Scott Gale has played for Queensland Reds with fellow country man Con Foley has an illustrious sevens careers. Tristan Blewitt has played in the ITM, Super Rugby and Pro 14. A former old boy and currently involved with the club is John Goodman... Yes! THAT John Goodman.

San Diego Legion have a fair few players that will be known to rugby fans around the world. Dean Muir has played for Stormers and Western Province. Ryan Matyas' unusual journey to the MLR includes a spell with Tondu. Australian prop Paddy Ryan has over 100 appearances for the Waratahs and Australia caps. Joe Pietersen has a career path that includes Western Province, Stormers, Cheetahs, Sharks, Bayonne and Biarritz and fellow South African JP du Plessis has played elite level rugby in South Africa, Australia and France. American flyer Takudzwa Ngwenya has been released, but Olympic gold medalist Jasa Veremalua has signed.

Final Standings
So, that leaves us with our final four teams.

  • Rugby United New York
  • Toronto Arrows
  • Houston SaberCats
  • NOLA Gold

Get voting for your favourites.

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