Free Jacks Fall To CHicago At Home 20-26

By: Elsa Edgar 

On another chilly Sunday afternoon in Quincy, the top two teams in the Eastern Conference of Major League Rugby (MLR) squared off for the second time this season. In Round Four, the New England Free Jacks defeated the Chicago Hounds, 22-17, but the Hounds evened the score in Round 10. 

As the road squad, the Hounds came in hot and were winners of four straight matches, scoring 50 points in their last two games. The home Free Jacks were dealing with multiple injuries to key players and ultimately the injuries were too much to overcome, falling 26-20.

The match was physical right from kick-off. The Hounds got on the board first, eight minutes into the match with a try from Conall Boomer (conversion failed) making the score 5-0 Hounds. 

The Free Jacks answered with a try five minutes later off a maul and set down from Seta Baker tying the score at 5-5 (conversion failed). 

Chicago went back on top on a penalty kick by Adriaan Carelse for an 8-5 lead. 

About halfway through the first 40 minutes, the Free Jacks’ Wayne van der Bank picked up the ball and had an electric run, with the crowd going wild. The Free Jacks were granted a penalty and Jayson Potroz made the kick tying it at 8-8. 

Chicago’s Dylan Fawsitt scored the last try of the first half at the 35-minute mark (failed conversion), making the score 13-8 visitors heading into halftime.

Right after the break, the Hounds came out strong scoring a try by Maclean Jones. Carelse made the conversion, increasing their lead over the Free Jacks 20-8. 

Three minutes later, the Free Jacks‘ Danyon Morgan-Puterangi collected a high ball, quickly offloading to Paula Balekana who dived over the try line for a Free Jacks score (failed conversion) to close within 20-13. About ten minutes later, Chicago added a penalty kick to make the score 23-13. 

In a knock to another key player, Potroz was injured and taken out of the game. Chicago made a penalty kick right after the injury, upping the score 26-13. 

Sixty-three minutes into the match, Balekana scored a diving try and Morgan-Puterangi made the conversion to jumpstart a Free Jacks comeback effort and pull the home side within six points. With a minute left to play, the Free Jacks were awarded a penalty deep inside Hounds territory. With a chance to score off the restart, the Free Jacks fell short, unable to complete the comeback and overcome the Hounds’ 26-20 lead. 

After the game, captain Josh Larsen talked about the opportunities to win.

“Today was really on us, we had opportunities. We pulled away there in the end but we didn’t finish them. The first twenty minutes of rugby is very crucial. We were trying to catch up the whole time. Every team is going to come in and try to test us,” said Larsen. 

The Free Jacks (6-3-0, 30 pts) remain in first place in the East going into a bye week. Their next match is Sunday, May 19 at the San Diego Region at 4 PM ET (NBC Sports Boston).

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