It was an exciting weekend with two Major League Rugby sides in action, one international team, the final pool stage of the European Cup competitions, and the Pro D2 all firing. This coming weekend will be just as busy with the World Cup Qualifier in Vancouver, all the European club action, and yet another preseason engagement for the SaberCats at Constellation Field.
1 – Lucas Noguera Paz (Bath) Handed his first European start the Pumas export had a solid run-out against Benetton Treviso. Didn’t see much of the ball going forward but was outstanding in defense and his core roles at the set piece were all up to scratch.
2 – Eric Howard (NOLA Gold) You don’t often see front row forwards putting in a full 80 minutes but that’s what the Canadian did on the weekend for New Orleans. Always busy in the loose, he scored a try from the back of a driving maul and his set piece work was accurate.
3 – Dino Waldren (London Scottish) With the Teros scrum encountering surprising difficulties in Sugar Land it’s an Eagle in Wales who gets our stamp of approval this week. Playing against the Dragons Selects on a wet pitch in the rain is a recipe for 10-man rugby, which means plenty of action for the guys wearing small numbers. Waldren stood up to the conditions and lasted more than an hour as the Exiles picked up a solid win on the road.
4 – Ignacio Dotti (Uruguay) Why the scrum didn’t quite fire will be something discussed at practice, but the lineout was in great shape and the Teros engine room set the standard in the tight-loose. Dotti earned himself a try and was the main ball winner in the air until Manuel Leindekar came on, the latter also picking up a score.
5 – Diego Magno (Uruguay) A very good day indeed for Uruguayan locks who scored three of the four tries against Houston. Magno is likely to play second fiddle to Rodrigo Capo Ortega this weekend but what a player to bring off the bench. Savvy and committed, he makes up for his lack of height with an exceptional work rate. Matt Holsopple also impressed for the Capital Selects.
6 – Facundo Isa (Toulon) It was another good week for Justin Blanchet at Bedford, but Isa was in imperious form for Toulon. They were just pipped by the home side at Parc y Scarlets but the Argentine bulldozer smashed into the opposition with frightening frequency and determination. Hopefully the upcoming vote in March will see him restored to his rightful place in the Pumas pack.
7 – Kyle Sumsion (Houston SaberCats) We could have re-jigged the back row with Sumsion a blindside flank these days but it doesn’t really matter what jersey they’re wearing. The SaberCats captain led from the front against Los Teros with a hugely physical performance both in the tackle and the ruck. John Sullivan scored a couple tries for NOLA and even spent the first half at lock.
8 – Sebastián Kalm (NOLA Gold) Came off early in the second half but had already made his mark. The Chilean showed why he is so highly regarded heading into the inaugural MLR season, grabbing two tries and popping up all over the pitch. Thankfully the knock to the head that prompted his removal doesn’t look too serious.
9 – Santiago Arata (Uruguay) The Canadian defense will be well advised to keep an eye on the little whippet this weekend, whether starting or not. He picked up one try using his footwork and kept the SaberCats defense on their toes throughout. It will be interesting to see if he gets the call ahead of Agustín Ormaechea on Saturday.
10 – Will Hooley (Bedford Blues) A pair of Uruguayan flyhalves impressed this past weekend, Felipe Berchesi for Dax and German Albanell with Los Teros. They will team up this coming weekend with Berchesi returning for international duty. Our selection is a repeat of last week albeit in his preferred position. Hooley faced wretched conditions at Goldington Road and played them superbly, controlling territory with his boot as the Blues defeated Nottingham. Also totaled 12 points with five successful kicks at goal, more than one from sharp angles.
11 – Axel Müller (Oyonnax) Started at the unusual spot of fullback but we’ll draft him on the wing where he’s happiest. His team were outclassed in Galway but Muller still played well. Took the right options and made a few incisive runs, including one that took him in for a try. Blaine Scully also had a good game for Cardiff Blues.
12 – Conor Mills (Houston SaberCats) A couple thunderous hits in defense including one in the opening moments of the match sent a message to Los Teros that it would be no walk in the park at Constellation Field. Another very strong outing for a player quickly becoming a lynchpin in the SaberCats midfield.
13 – Marcelo Bosch (Saracens) Just another day at the office with one try scored and one created as Sarries booked their spot in another European Quarter Final with huge win over Northampton. It seems unlikely that Bosch would receive a recall to the Pumas if their rules are changed but given his strong form at the moment the thought has to be at least entertained.
14 – Federico Torres Giliberti (Enisei STM) How an Argentine winger came to be playing in Russia, of all places, is a question for another time. What we do know is that he had a fine game for a beaten team in the Challenge Cup. One try scored against Newcastle and also some strong defensive play both as a tackler and in kick coverage. Joey Sok also caught our attention with a two-try cameo for New Orleans.
15 – JP Eloff (NOLA Gold) A virtual coin toss decision over Houston’s Zach Pangelinan, who was excellent once again. It’s just impossible to ignore 23 points from Eloff, who looked class throughout and had a brilliant nine-from-ten off the kicking tee, and not many gimmes.
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