Seattle Seawolves claim first US Major League Rugby title

Alex Broun 8/07/2018
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Seattle Seawolves win first ever Major League Rugby title

The Seattle Seawolves claimed the inaugural Major League Rugby championship Saturday with a 23-19 triumph over the Glendale Raptors in San Diego, California.

The Seawolves, beaten twice by the Raptors in the regular season, finally found a way past the Colorado club, who were the top seeds in the playoffs after losing just once in the regular season of the fledgling league, which kicked off in April with seven franchises.

The league is the latest attempt at launching a top-flight rugby union league in the United States.

Seattle flyhalf Peter Smith opened the scoring with a penalty goal for a 3-0 lead, but Glendale replied with a maul that put hooker Zach Fenoglio over. Flyhalf Will Magie converted for a 7-3 lead for the Raptors.

A try from hooker Ray Barkwill gave the Seawolves a narrow 8-7 lead at the half.

But Glendale regained the initiative with two quick tries early in the second half, Magie’s conversion of Bryce Campbell’s try putting the Raptors up 19-8.

The Seawolves, bolstered in the playoffs by the return of USA and Canadian internationals including Olive Kilifi, Barkwill and Vili Toluta’u, responded minutes later as William Rasileka crashed over in the corner.

Two minutes later Seattle’s Riekert Hattingh powered over and Smith’s conversion made it 20-19 for the Seawolves.

A Smith penalty completed the scoring at Torero Stadium on the campus of the University of San Diego, where MLR’s San Diego Legion play their home games.

MLR, which could expand to as many as 10 teams next year, follows a failed 2016 attempt to establish a US league, with PRO rugby lasting only one season with five clubs.

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Springbok Ox Nche extends contract with Cheetahs in PRO14

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Ox Nche is staying at the Cheetahs

Despite interest from other rugby clubs, Ox Nche has decided to extend his contract with the Cheetahs.

The Bloemfontein fan favourite, who earned his Springbok cap against Wales in June this year has committed until 2019.

Nche was born in Thaba Nchu, he first earned provincial selection in 2011, when he was included in the Free State squad that participated at the Under-16 Grant Khomo Week in Queenstown. Nche attended HTS Louis Botha and soon became a promising prop. He played for SA Schools in 2012/13, SA U20 in 2015 and SA A in 2017.

In 2014 he joined the Cheetahs Academy and was a key player for the Free State U19 team in the Provincial Championship, starting all thirteen of their matches in the competition as his side finished second on the log.

At the age of 22, Nche already played 64 games for the Toyota Cheetahs (25 SuperRugby, 17 Currie Cup, 22 PRO14).

Nche brings excitement to a game and Free State Rugby are looking forward to seeing him in action in the upcoming matches.

Rory Thornton joins Cardiff on a year-long loan deal 

In other PRO14 news, Rory Thornton has agreed to join Cardiff Blues on a year-long loan deal from Ospreys.

The 23-year old second row, who signed a new deal with the Ospreys earlier this year, will link up with his new colleagues at Wales Capital Region next week to prepare for the coming season.

Thornton saw his game time limited last season, injury restricting him to just four appearances.

Following discussions between both regions and national team management, it was agreed that the former Wales Under-20s captain will make the temporary move up the M4 to allow him the best opportunity to get more game time under his belt and to assist his international ambitions going into a Rugby World Cup year.

Speaking about the move, Thornton said:

“I need to be playing rugby and Cardiff need a line out forward so this is a great outcome for everyone. It’s a good move for me in the circumstances and I’m looking forward to meeting the rest of the squad next week and preparing for an important season.

“I’m grateful to the Ospreys for supporting me like this and also to Cardiff Blues for giving me the opportunity.”

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Bristol to open 2018-19 Gallagher Premiership at home against Bath

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Bristol are back in the Gallagher Premiership

Bristol will mark their return to English Rugby union’s top flight by launching the new Gallagher Premiership season against west country rivals Bath.

The Ashton Gate clash on Friday, August 31 will be one of four games broadcast live by BT Sport across the competition’s opening three days.

Elsewhere that weekend, champions Saracens open against last season’s play-off qualifiers Newcastle at Kingston Park, while new Northampton Rugby director Chris Boyd’s Premiership baptism will be a Kingsholm meeting with Gloucester.

Exeter, beaten in the Twickenham final by Saracens six weeks ago, start against Leicester at Sandy Park, with Harlequins hosting Sale Sharks and Worcester entertaining Wasps.

Press Association Sport understands, meanwhile, that discussions continue over having a match in America during the forthcoming campaign, with Premiership Rugby expecting to make an announcement before the start of the season.

Past excursions to the United States saw Saracens play London Irish in New Jersey, while they faced Newcastle in Philadelphia last term.

Announcing the 2018-2019 fixtures at BT Tower in London, Premiership Rugby said that Saracens’ appointment with Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop on October 6 will be screened live by NBC on network American television, rather than NBC Sports, for the first time.

And there is no traditional season-opening London double header this time around, as Twickenham Stadium is closed for redevelopment work in September.

Other season highlights include a possible reunion with his former Wasps team-mates for new Gloucester signing Danny Cipriani on October 6, while the first Exeter versus Saracens rematch is the weekend before Christmas and Bath’s return fixture against Bristol on April 6 will be their current annual game at Twickenham.

The Premiership final takes place at Twickenham on Saturday, June 1.

For Bristol, relegated last year but now back in the Premiership at a first possible opportunity, the Bath encounter represents a mouthwatering occasion.

“To open the season against Bath and come up against (Bath Rugby director) Todd Blackadder – a man I know and respect a huge amount – is really exciting and a major boost for our supporters, too,” Bristol head coach Pat Lam said.

“We have no doubt they will fill Ashton Gate and create an incredible atmosphere.

“It’s great for us to be in Gallagher Premiership Rugby, and everybody is relishing the opportunity to test themselves in a fantastic competition.”

Saracens, who will be chasing a fourth title in five seasons, face an immediate test of those aspirations in the north-east against a Newcastle side revitalised by Rugby director Dean Richards.

Saracens Rugby director Mark McCall said: “We are all excited about the upcoming season, and the fixtures coming out certainly adds to the anticipation.

“Everyone understands the amount of work which needs to be put in over the coming months to ensure we are ready for the challenge ahead.”

Gallagher Premiership fixtures (first six rounds):

August 31 – Bristol v Bath, September 1 – Gloucester v Northampton, Harlequins v Sale Sharks, Worcester v Wasps, Exeter v Leicester; September 2 – Newcastle v Saracens.

September 7 – Northampton v Harlequins; September 8 – Wasps v Exeter, Leicester v Newcastle, Saracens v Bristol, Bath v Gloucester; September 9 – Sale Sharks v Worcester.

September 14 – Gloucester v Bristol; September 15 – Exeter v Sale Sharks, Harlequins v Bath, Northampton v Saracens, Worcester v Newcastle; September 16 – Wasps v Leicester.

September 21 – Newcastle v Exeter; September 22 – Bath v Northampton, Bristol v Harlequins, Leicester v Worcester, Sale Sharks v Wasps; September 23 – Saracens v Gloucester.

September 28 – Newcastle v Wasps; September 29 – Bristol v Northampton, Exeter v Worcester, Gloucester v Harlequins, Saracens v Bath; September 30 – Leicester v Sale Sharks.

October 5 – Bath v Exeter; October 6 – Northampton v Leicester, Sale Sharks v Newcastle, Wasps v Gloucester, Harlequins v Saracens; October 7 – Worcester v Bristol.

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