In the most anticipated match leading up to Round 4 of the 2022 MLR season, the Austin Gilgronis found themselves reigning supreme after defeating the Seattle Seawolves 25-18. The two-time MLR champions hosted the AGs in the rain soaked affair, but the AGs defense paid no mind to the weather as they dug in and produced another solid performance, suffocating the Seattle attack. The forward pack saw a significant change in the starting lineup with an entirely new starting front row for the season, consisting of Faka’osi Pifeleti, Mason Pedersen, and the vicious Hugh Roach at hooker. The AGs may have expected quite the fight from Seattle for the full 80 minutes, as coach Harris listed a few key players on the bench as impact reserves. Off the bench came the electric props Jake Turnbull and Namatahi Waa, flyhalf Will Magie, the wild-running Dominic Akina, and even the newly arrived Aussie, Lachlan McCaffrey, who has both Premiership and Super Rugby experience. Although Seattle threw some lethal attack at the AGs throughout the match, the Gilgroni defense held their ground. The first half was a low-scoring one as both teams hit the break with an 8-6 Seattle lead. During the second half, the AGs reserve players came on to the pitch and did exactly their job, make an impact on the match. With a few blistering runs by Akina and the Argentine Julian Dominguez on the wing, the AGs managed to pull out a strong victory over the Seawolves, 25-18.
Entering Round 5 still undefeated, the Gilgronis hosted their cross-country cousins, the Los Angeles Giltinis… both teams are owned by Adam Gilchrist. The AGs started the match with arguably their best lineup of the season, while still having some serious impact coming off the bench. They also coincidentally found themselves on the back foot early in the match, struggling to escape their own half of the field while committing costly penalties as the Giltinis racked up a few penalty kicks, taking the first half of the match 9-0. During halftime, the AGs were able to gather themselves as they came out with a head full of steam. Hooker Hugh Roach came out of the sheds throwing haymakers at the Giltini’s defense, running with ferocious intent. This seemed to set the tone for the AGs in the second half as Roach was able to trigger a darting try by scrum half Ryan Louwrens. Winger Conner Mooneyham was also able to grab a pair of tries during the second half. Once the AGs began playing rugby in the Giltinis half of the field, the points collected for the AGs, with a 22-0 run with a final score of 22-9. The Gilgronis defense not only put up a scoreless effort in the second half, they didn’t allow a try throughout the entire match.
The AGs entered Round 6 with the best record and point differential in the MLR, at 5-0 while outscoring their opponents by 115 points collectively. This round would prove to be the AGs greatest challenge of the season, as they visited Georgia to play Rugby ATL on a very windy day. Former ATL center, Mark O’Keeffe, who now leads both the AGs and the MLR in meters carried this season (615), would show himself to be a key player for arguably the 6th week in a row. O’Keeffe the AGs long awaited first try of the match just before the half, assisted by Hugh Roach who again found himself making some big plays. The AGs started the second half down 16-7, struggling to find their way out of their own territory. The Gilgronis were able to shorten the lead once more with a scrappy run by Louwrens, score 19-14. Rugby ATL however, showed nerves of steel as the AGs fought back throughout the second half, winning the match 29-14 and ending the undefeated run by the valiant Austin Gilgronis. The AGs showed their first sign of weakness all season, falling to the leaders of the Eastern Conference.
The AGs continue to battle the East in Round 7, as they host the New England Freejacks at Bold Stadium this Saturday. The Freejacks are currently in second place in the east, sitting just one point behind Rugby ATL who handed the AGs their first loss of the season last week. The AGs versus the Freejacks may prove to be the match of the week as both teams look to gain on their success this season. The Freejacks aim to surpass their Eastern Conference leaders Rugby ATL and the AGs will look to keep their position on top of the entire league. The goal will be for the AGs to bounce back and begin their new win-streak on the season. Team manager for the AGs, Austin Becker, says the team will be focusing on their physicality and defensive line speed, which were both lacking in Round 6 against Rugby ATL. We have seen great bouts of strength from this AGs team throughout the season, so fine tuning their physicality this week should make for an exciting Round 7 of the MLR season.