By: Rachel Maccarrone

With two weeks to play in The Major League Rugby (MLR) season, the New England Free Jacks headed to New Orleans on Saturday to face second-place NOLA Gold. With the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs within reach, the New England Free Jacks fell 27-17.

Just a minute into the game, Free Jacks Reese MacDonald made an early penalty kick, giving the Free Jacks an early lead at 3-0.

NOLA responded quickly at the 4-minute mark when Cam Dolan made a try and Rodney Iona made the conversion for a 7-3 lead. NOLA’s momentum continued as Jonah Mau’u broke away and scored between the posts for a second NOLA try, securing an automatic 7 points and extending their lead to 14-3. 

At the 20-minute mark, Taniela Filimone added a third NOLA a try. The conversion was missed, leaving the score at 19-3 in NOLA’s favor.

Despite the deficit, the Free Jacks came out for the second half focused and determined despite knowing a solid second half would help their playoff aspirations. 

At the 43-minute mark, MacDonald kicked to touch, and Foster Dewitt scored a try off a Free Jacks Maul. MacDonald’s conversion was good, narrowing the gap to 19-10.

At 52 minutes, NOLA collected their kick, and Jordan Jackson-Hope dived into the try zone, scoring for the Gold. The conversion was no good, upping the score 24-10 in favor of NOLA.

NOLA suffered a significant setback in the 54th minute when Tom Florence was sent off for a dangerous hit on Free Jack Danyon Morgan-Puterangi. The red card gave the Free Jacks a man advantage for 20 minutes. 

At the 57-minute mark, the Free Jacks capitalized when Sean Ralph dove over the line for a try (conversion successful), bringing the score to 24-17.

Nearing the end of the match, Iona attempted a 54-meter penalty kick, which was good, sealing the final score 27-17.

The defending MLR champions remain atop the Eastern Conference, but will need a win in their final match to lock up the top seed. Both teams have a 10-5-0 record, with New England at 50 points and NOLA at 48. Next Saturday, the Free Jacks return home at 5 p.m. ET against Anthem RC for a chance to ensure the number one seed. The match will air on NBC Sports Boston.

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