European rugby was back in mostly full force this past weekend and we were also given another treat – a Major League rugby match in Houston! Well, an exhibition anyway. We’ve also reached into the Italian Eccellenza again with a few standout Argentines helping out this week, and one Chilean via Punta del Este.
1 – Luciano Montivero (Medicei) Just when we were short on prop candidates this week the big man from Mendoza steps up with a good game against Calvisano. It wasn’t a winning result, but he held up his end of the bargain in the scrum and scored a first half try, the third of his professional career.
2 – Joe Taufete’e (Worcester) Came on in the second half against Bath and made an impact though the game was already lost. Picked up a try from the back of a maul, his first in the Premiership this season and fourth across all competitions.
3 – Juan Pablo Orlandi (Bayonne) His club has a huge amount of ground to make up if they have any hope of challenging for a spot in the Top 14 last season. Earning a draw on the road at Dax at least gives them some points. Orlandi scrummed and tackled well until coming off around the hour mark.
4 – Greg Peterson (Glasgow) His first start of the season for the Warriors was a winning one as they outclassed Zebre in Parma. Peterson was subbed mid-way through the second half but put in a solid shift beforehand particularly in defense.
5 – Pablo Huete (Bayonne) A full 80-minute shift for the tall Chilean who was rewarded with a try in the second half. With Bayonne out of the running for promotion and reasonably safe from the drop, could we perhaps see him turn out for the Cóndores again this year?
6 – Evan Olmstead (Newcastle) We were a bit short on options in the back row so we’ve yanked Olmstead to the blindside, a position he’s played a few times before. Came on as a replacement just after halftime and helped an inspired Falcons team defeat Premiership leaders Exeter with a big defensive effort.
7 – Aladdin Schirmer (Seattle Saracens) His team were always up against it but the Seawolves signing put in his best effort and made sure the Saracens weren’t completely blanked. One of several young loose forward set to strut their stuff in Major League Rugby.
8 – Pago Haini (Houston SaberCats) Talk about impact! Came off the bench and scored two tries and put in a highlight reel hit that somehow landed him in the bin. To be fair the referee did not have the benefit of instant replay… if he had he would have seen Haini bounce his target so hard he didn’t have time to get his arms around.
9 – Marcelo Torrealba (Chile) With no halfbacks to choose from in Europe we had to cheat a bit by drafting in a sevens player from the Punta del Este tournament. Torrealba’s playmaking skills helped the Cóndores to another great victory over South Africa in the pool stage and a second overall finish.
10 – Juan León Novillo (Calvisano) On the right side of victory over I Medicei, the two-time Pumas cap landed three conversions and two penalty goals while directing traffic. AJ MacGinty was playing well for Sale before being carted off with a knee injury.
11 – Axel Müller (Oyonnax) The lowest team in the Top 14 denied La Rochelle from claiming the top spot with a stunning 38-all draw at Charles Mathon. Müller put in a season-best performance, breaking clean through on four occasions and beating defenders at will. Scored on try early in the second half.
12 – Conor Mills (Houston SaberCats) One of many players who could benefit immensely from the step-up in competition. Mills was a junior All-American but has been stuck playing amateur club rugby for years. On Saturday he showed some of what he can do with some hard running, hard hitting, and strong all-around play at the core of the SaberCats backline.
13 – Joaquín Paz (Calvisano) Brought his season tally up to an impressive eight tries in just 10 games with two more scores on the weekend in the win over I Medicei. Could well catch the eye of Guinness Pro 14 clubs in this kind of form.
14 – Jeff Hassler (Ospreys) His first half intercept try proved absolutely vital in a single-point victory over Cardiff Blues. A fine game overall for the in-form winger who is just a couple weeks away from wearing a Canadian jersey for the first time since 2015… fingers crossed.
15 – Zach Pangelinan (Houston SaberCats) He was the first MLR player in our weekly selections before the break, and he’s back at it to start the New Year. One try scored and 15 points in a man-of-the-match effort in the historic exhibition curtain raiser at Constellation Field.