11 Jun 2019 MLR Championship Preview
by: Colton Strickler
Sunday afternoon’s Major League Rugby Championship will feature two sides in the Seattle Seawolves and the San Diego Legion that are extremely familiar with one another. The Championship match at Torero Stadium will also feature two teams that are extremely evenly matched. Between the familiarity and the similarity between the two sides, Sunday’s match has all the makings to be another instant classic.
Dating back to last season, the top-ranked Legion and the second place Seawolves come into Sunday’s match having played each other four times. The all-time series is tied at 2-2, with the Seawolves taking the two matches they played last season and the Legion taking the two matches from this season.
It’s fitting that these two teams will compete for the right to hoist the MLR Championship Shield to close out the 2019 season because they also played each other in their first-ever regular season match. That match, which took place at Starfire Stadium on April 22, 2018, ended in a 39-23 Seawolves victory due largely in part to a dominant Seattle scrum that forced the Legion into conceding three penalty tries. The second meeting of 2018 was the June 30 semi-final that took place at Infinity Park between the second seed Seawolves and third seed Legion. Like the first match, this one resulted in an eerily similar result and ultimately saw the Seawolves win 38-24 before going on to defeat the top-ranked Glendale Raptors 23-19 in the inaugural MLR Championship that took place, oddly enough, at Torero Stadium.
While the Seawolves took care of business in 2018, the Legion have turned the tables in 2019. Their first meeting of their second season took place in Week 2 at Torero Stadium and, just like their first-ever match, saw the Legion win 17-13 with a first-half penalty try being the difference. The Legion held the Seawolves to just three points through 34 minutes of play in this match and ultimately kept Seattle out of the in-goal for 66 minutes.
The second meeting of 2019 took place in Week 10 and again saw the Legion win, this time 28-22 to become just the second team to beat the Seawolves at Starfire Stadium. Despite punching in four tries to San Diego’s three, the Seawolves were undone by struggles in the kicking department. San Diego again used a hot start to jump out to a 14-0 lead and hung on for the win.
A quick look at the team stats page on usmlr.com shows just how evenly matched these teams have been over the course of the season. Coming into Sunday’s championship match, the 528 points that the Seawolves have scored in 2019 are the most in the MLR while the Legion’s 481 points are the third-most. Seattle has punched in 65 tries this season while the Legion have punched in 63. While the Seawolves have the slight edge in offensive production, the Legion possess the edge in defense. San Diego boasts the top defense in the MLR, conceding only 318 points through 17 matches while the 422 points that the Seawolves have conceded rank fifth in the league. The biggest difference between the two teams, and it could very likely be the difference in the match, is in penalties conceded. The Legion have conceded a league-high 182 penalties in 2019 while the 134 penalties that the Seawolves have conceded are the least among any team in the MLR. If there’s anything certain, it’s that we’ll see fireworks when these two heavyweights collide on Sunday.
The MLR Championship will kick off at 1 PM PT on Sunday, June 16 in Torero Stadium and will be broadcast on CBS.