On Sunday, April 22nd, for 46 players and over 4,000 fans, a dream was realized. Professional rugby kicked off on Northwest soil for the first time ever and it was nothing short of spectacular. The Seattle Seawolves faced off against the San Diego Legion at Starfire Sports in Tukwila, Washington, just south of Seattle. From the opening kick, the fans were treated to a match that embodied all things beautiful about rugby: finesse, power, agility, strength, and brutality. The Seawolves featured players from as close as Sea-Tac and as far as South Africa, and with rugby backgrounds varying from playing for some of America’s best college rugby programs to playing internationally for the Canadian national team. Led by scrumhalf Phil Mack, the Seawolves’ first ever try came midway through the game’s first half on a beautiful breakthrough by Center Brock Staller off of a scrum. The rest of the game was dominated by Seattle’s forwards who out-muscled the San Diego forward pack, leading to three penalty tries being awarded to the Seawolves. The Seattle game plan of dominating up front, thereby allowing the backs to run freely, came together beautifully as they took down the San Diego Legion by a score of 39-23. Seattle’s Phil Mack, who has represented the Canadian national team in both 7s and 15s over 50 times, was awarded “Player of the Week” by Major League Rugby and the Seawolves as a team were named “Team of the Week” in the league’s weekly awards. It was a fantastic way to kick off the season and has the Seattle rugby community hungry for more action.
The Seawolves are competing in Major League Rugby’s inaugural season. The league consists of seven teams based in Seattle, San Diego, Austin, Houston, New Orleans, Glendale (Colorado), and Utah, all of whom are competing in an 8-game season with a four team playoff system to follow. This league looks to be different from previous attempts at establishing a professional rugby league in the U.S., namely ProRugby which lasted just one season in 2017 before going under. The league secured TV sponsorships deals with ESPN, CBS Sports, and ROOT Sports and all games will be televised and available nationally and internationally. The teams in the MLR are team-owned rather than league owned (as they were in ProRugby) and are responsible for generating their own sponsorships. The Seawolves are co-owned by Seattle-based entrepreneurs Shane Skinner and Adrian Balfour and have additional financial backing from one of New Zealand’s top SuperRugby teams, The Crusaders. This gives them both stability and pedigree, spelling initial success for the Seawolves and Major League Rugby at large.
The win for Seattle’s new favorite sports team on Sunday was merely icing on the cake. It has been a long time coming for pro rugby in the U.S. and the sold-out crowd at Starfire Sports Complex proved that rugby has a home in the Northwest. The Seattle rugby community has waited for a team like the Seawolves and from the opening kickoff, it was plain to see that the city had fallen in love with its home team and players. The Seawolves’ next match is this Saturday against the Glendale Raptors at 7:30 p.m. PST, another home game that will be broadcast nationally on CBS Sports Network. This game is sure to be filled with excitement as Glendale also won their opening match in convincing fashion, 41-26 against the Austin Elite, and will no doubt add another promising and exciting chapter to the Seawolves’ and Major League Rugby’s opening season.
So glad that pro rugby is getting a foothold in the US.