Wian Conradie looks to pass the ball out of a maul

FINAL SCORE: Free Jacks 23, Atlanta 13

QUINCY, MA – Just when it seemed as if the New England Free Jacks might have left their scoring touch in Toronto after an 80-point outburst last week, Eastern Conference leaders tore off 23 unanswered points after being blanked for most of the first half of a 23-13 victory against Rugby ATL on Saturday at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Wing Paula Balekana’s try in the 69th minute capped the 23-0 burst with the final 10 points coming on a man advantage following a Rugby ATL yellow card. Balekana’s try to make it 21-13 finished a powerful scoring push after back row Wian Conradie took the ball to within a meter of the try line. Fly half Jason Potroz delivered the kick for the final 10-point margin.

The Free Jacks improved to 7-2 on the season and remained unbeaten at 5-0 in the Eastern Conference. Atlanta fell to 4-5.

New England was coming off a record-breaking performance with 12 tries in the 80-5 rout of Toronto last weekend but was held off the scoreboard for the first 38 minutes on Saturday before Le Roux Malan took a feed from scrumhalf John Poland off a lineout to cut the Rugby ATL lead to 13-5 with the shorthanded try late in the first half.

Spencer Jones walks in for 5

The Free Jacks seemed to seize momentum for good in the match early in the second half on a dazzling score when Slade McDowell forced a turnover deep in Rugby ATL territory and Potroz snapped off a crossfield kick that back Mitchell Wilson caught inside two meters of the try line and dished back to center Spencer Jones for the try to cut the gap to 13-10 in the 53rd minute.

Potroz nailed a straightaway kick for a 13-13 game in the 59th minute and then gave the Free Jacks the lead for good with a long boot off the Rugby ATL yellow card in the 64th minute.

It was all Rugby ATL early as 75 percent of the first half was played in New England territory and the visitors built a 13-0 lead on an Alex Maughan try in the 9th minute, a Kurt Coleman kick in the 25th minute and a Rewita Biddle try off a feed from Matthew Heaton in the 33rd minute.

The Free Jacks had to overcome 30 minutes of man-down play following a yellow card and subsequent second yellow card penalty for a red card on Jesse Parete.

New England next hosts the New York Ironworkers in Quincy on April 30 at 3 p.m. in a rematch of last year’s playoff clash won by New York.

Woodgy hanging out with the best fans around!

Player of the Game: In his third game back this season from a broken thumb, Le Roux Malan got the Free Jacks going late in the first half with a tide-turning try that put New England on the board and spurred a 23-0 run over the final 42 minutes of the match.

Play of the Game: A highlight sequence in the 13th minute of the second half when Potroz took a gamble with a crossfield kick to the far sideline near the Rugby ATL tryline that Mitchell Wilson snatched out of the air and immediately dished back to Spencer Jones for the score.

What it Means: The Free Jacks improved to 7-2 and opened up a huge lead in the Eastern Conference on second-place New York (4-4) and third-place Rugby ATL (4-5) as of Saturday afternoon.

Up Next: The New England Free Jacks host the New York Ironworkers next Sunday afternoon (April 30) in a 3 p.m. clash at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

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