FREE JACKS RETURN HOME FROM HISTORIC WIN OVER TORONTO
Le Roux Malan looking to step past defenders, scoring 2 tries this weekend
FINAL SCORE: Free Jacks 80, Toronto 5
The Eastern Conference-leading New England Free Jacks rolled to a historic road victory over the Toronto Arrows on Saturday, defeating their hosts 80-5 at York Lions Stadium to improve to 6-2 on the season. Last-place Toronto fell to 1-7.
The 80 points were the most ever scored in a Major League Rugby game since the league’s inception in 2018, breaking the previous record of 69 set by the Utah Warriors in March 2022 (69-22 over Dallas). The 75-point margin of victory also was the largest ever in an MLR match.
The Free Jacks scored eight first-half tries — including two penalty tries — and held a commanding 54-0 lead after 40 minutes. Before Saturday, New England had scored 50 points in any full match just once in its four-year history (57-5 over New Orleans last May).
Hooker Andrew Quattrin, an Ontario native who played for Toronto last season, opened the scoring with a try off a driving Free Jacks maul just four minutes in. Quattrin added a second try later in the first half, also off an authoritative five-meter maul, and helped New England win one of its penalty tries when the Free Jacks’ forward pack drove Toronto’s across its own try line.
Inside center Le Roux Malan also scored two tries for New England, both in the second half. He nearly had another in the opening 12 minutes, but the referee ruled he lost the ball forward as he reached it over the try line. Malan, a mainstay in the Free Jacks’ starting lineup last season, made his 2023 debut in last week’s win over Chicago after missing the first six games with an injury.
Conor Keys rises up for a successful lineout
Flanker and acting captain Mitch Jacobson, scrumhalf John Poland, wings Taniela Filimone and Paula Balekana, flanker Joe Johnston and replacement flanker Cam Davidowicz also notched single tries for the Free Jacks. Flyhalf Jayson Potroz went 8-for-10 on conversion kicks and set up Johnston’s second-half try with a 20-meter line break.
Potroz, who’s proven a more-than-capable replacement for 2022 MLR MVP Beaudin Waaka, entered Saturday ranked fourth in the league in points scored. He now sits at 70 on the season. Balekana came in as MLR’s fourth-leading try scorer with five (now six), two behind co-leaders Nate Augspurger of San Diego and Joe Mano of Utah.
Poland, who keyed the Free Jacks’ relentless attack, had a would-be second try minutes after half time negated by a forward pass. The veteran No. 9 later was relieved by Holden Yungert as New England made full use of its eight available substitutes.
The Free Jacks capitalized on two first-half Toronto yellow cards, scoring two tries during their first 10-minute man advantage (following an illegal hit in the air by Arrows fullback Peter Nelson) and two more in their second (called on wing Dawson Fatoric after he intentionally swatted the ball out of the back of his own try zone). Fatoric’s infraction, forced by a textbook kick-and-chase by Balekana, also resulted in a penalty try for New England.
Toronto’s lone first-half try was waved off after a video review revealed an illegal shoulder charge by Arrows No. 8 Shay Kerry. The home side finally got on the board with a try by inside center Noel Reid in the 50th minute.
Even up 75 points, the Free Jacks showed their resolve by finishing with a goal-line stand in the closing minutes, stuffing several Toronto carries beneath their own posts before an Arrows knock-on ended the match
New England easily secured a four-try bonus point and will remain at least five points ahead of all other Eastern Conference clubs entering Round 10. Second-place New York entered the weekend five points back.
Player of the match
It was a happy homecoming for Quattrin. The Canadian international’s two tries and effective scrummaging helped power a dominant performance by New England’s forward pack.
Moment of the match
There were plenty to choose from in a performance like this, but try No. 2 from Malan, which came in the 68th minute, gave the Free Jacks the MLR record for points scored in a single match. Potroz fed a pass off a ruck to the hard-charging Namibian, who dummied one Toronto defender before rumbling over the line for five points.
Play of the match
Again, difficult to choose just one, but Poland’s 24th-minute try was pure class. Spencer Jones, making his second consecutive start at fullback, lofted a kick over the Arrows’ defensive line and regathered it himself off one bounce. Jones offloaded to Malan, who, after briefly stumbling, swung a second offload to Filimone. The Fijian winger, seeing Toronto’s No. 15 commit to the outside man, flipped a pass back inside to a trailing Poland, who took it the final 20 meters to paydirt.
The Free Jacks will return home to Veterans Memorial Stadium in Quincy next Saturday to face Rugby ATL. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. ET.