By: Elsa Edgar 

With two weeks left in the Major League Rugby (MLR) regular season, the New England Free Jacks (10-4-0, 50 points) are on the cusp of clinching the top seed in the Eastern Conference after beating the Utah Warriors 36-27, in a back and forth match.

In the end, the Free Jacks were able to pull ahead with one of their new additions, Jed Melvin, scoring a hat trick and stealing the show. Melvin was on the Free Jacks’ radar before the season but has been with the club just four weeks. 

“I’m pretty ecstatic just to get the team win, three on the trot now so pretty happy. Today was my first full game and I’m feeling confident out there,” said the newcomer Melvin.  

The match was off to a quick start with both teams scoring within the first three minutes. The Warriors were awarded a penalty from a mishandled ball off the kickoff.  Joel Hodgson made the kick for three early Warrior points. Within the next minute, Free Jacks Captain Jayson Potroz responded by making a penalty kick of his own to tie the score. 

Ten minutes into the match, Utah’s Michael Manson gives his team their second lead of the day by scoring a try after a long breakaway. Hodgson made the conversion making the score 10-3. The Free Jacks quickly answer with an impressive try from Melvin. Potroz made the conversion tying the score for the second time. 

At the 26-minute mark, the Warriors’ Caleb Makene scored a try and Hodgson made another successful conversion putting their team in the lead again 17-10. 

Four minutes later, Potroz broke through a tough Utah line, scored a try, and made the conversion to knot the score for the third time, 17-17. Just before halftime, Utah’s Frank Lochore received a yellow card for a late hit on Potroz. 

Coming out after halftime, the Free Jacks capitalized on the one-man advantage with a line out at five meters. Following a maul, Melvin pushed over the line earning his second try of the match. The conversion failed setting the score at 22-17, but giving the Free Jacks their first lead of the match.

Fifty minutes into the match, Utah was awarded a penalty, and Hodgson added three for his team. Utah was still trailing 22-20. 

Ten minutes later, Melvin’s career day continued when he broke over the line to score his third try of the match. Potroz converted, increasing New England’s lead to 29-20. Shortly after, a penalty was awarded to the visitors. After a kick to touch, Utah had a line out at New England’s 5-meter mark. Utah’s Nic Souchon scored a try off a maul. Hodgson made the conversion to tighten the score at 29-27.

At the 67-minute mark, the Free Jacks had a scrum at Utah’s 5-meter mark. After two dozen phases, Seta Baker dove over the line to score the final try of the match. Potroz made the conversion, setting the final score at 36-27. 

The grind-it-out win at Veterans Memorial Stadium netted the Free Jacks a full five points. Thomas Kindley, Free Jacks general manager shared post-match details on the acquisition of Melvin mid-season and his excitement at seeing the team in playoffs.  

“(Melvin) was a guy we were trying to get for months leading up to the season. He can play, so that is pretty cool,” said Kindley. “Having a home playoff is massively important to us. It’s another opportunity to activate an awesome fanbase in July which we haven’t really done before. We’re really excited about that.”

The Free Jacks are on the road next weekend playing NOLA Gold on Saturday at 6:00 PM ET airing on FS2.

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