By Liam Poach
Another Saturday has come and gone, and the hype building up to the debut of Major League Rugby has reached a near fever pitch. The Utah Warriors saw over 9,000 people in attendance at their first game ever, NOLA steamrolled their way to a victory over the Austin Elite, and RUNY notched its second straight victory over Boston in a much closer game than anticipated.
New Orleans Gold vs Austin Elite
After nearly staging an improbable comeback last week against San Diego, the Austin Elite crashed back to Earth this weekend when they found themselves on their heels for much of their match against the Nate Osborne-led Gold.
The Gold experienced most of their success through the use of their forwards, especially Cam Falcon and Sebastian Kalm, who were more impressive than your average scrummie in their ball-carrying today. Throughout the match, the Gold were able to methodically move the ball up the middle against a weak Austin counter-ruck, while their versatile set of backs (Bobby Johns went and had himself a day) though not flashy, were able to do just enough to gain valuable ground when it was needed.
The counter-ruck wasn’t the only glaring weak point for Austin today. While the second half saw some slight improvement in all facets, overall their performance came up sub-par in the lineouts and scrum, losing them valuable time of possession, especially while threating in NOLA territory.
It wasn’t all bad from the group that calls themselves ‘Elite’, though. At times, their passing was some of the most crisp and fluid that I’ve seen in the MLR pre-season, especially when it came to tight windows. In fact, I would feel confident in saying that the Elite’s backline possesses more big play potential than NOLA on either team’s best day, all they need is more time to build chemistry. Unfortunately, a laundry lists of mistakes coupled with the aforementioned problems in the line out and scrum didn’t make for a good winning formula; or even a competitive one.
Austin experienced a ton of problems inside the 22 as well, both offensively and defensively. Offensively, their average meters gained per pass seemed at times to be in the negatives thanks to a solid NOLA defensive front that rarely seemed to find itself out of position all game. Meanwhile, defensively, they tended to get drawn into the middle by the stampeding forwards of the Gold, and if that didn’t result in a try, then all NOLA would have to do is be patient while waiting for a numbers advantage to materialize on the outside.
Austin had its moments at times when their backline was working well, and I can’t say enough about their tight window passing, but in the end it was their defense and bad tackling that did them in. Two yellows in the second half didn’t help either. Despite the positives they can build upon for the future, they couldn’t seem to finish when it was most crucial. 48-17 final.
Mystic River vs Rugby United New York
God DAMN IT! I was so close to having some bragging rights on Reddit and Twitter, but in the end for my Mystics, it was RUNY’s ability to capitalize on and turn Boston’s mistakes into points.
Coming into the game, RUNY was hoping to duplicate their performance from last week when they defeated this Mystics team to the tune of 50-0. Too bad for them, Boston had former Club Rugby Coach of the Year Josh Smith making adjustments in the meantime.
Mystic tightened up on defense a ton, especially on the outside where they were able to apply more pressure on the RUNY backline while forcing them to commit a few handling errors. This cut down on the big-play factor that put New York so far out ahead last week.
On offense, Mystic was able to get the ball in the hands of their key playmakers a bit more, players such as Vinnie Daley, Steven Dazzo, and Paolo Aukuso. Steve Dazzo in particular had himself a great night, scoring two tries for Mystic to keep them in the game until RUNY hammered in the last two nail-in-the-coffin tries within the final two minutes.
Despite the improvement by Mystic River, RUNY still demonstrated how they could be a real force to be reckoned with come 2019. Above all else, the play of their forwards, with guys such as Anthony Parry, were able to gouge Mystic River up the middle for most of the night, there by opening up some room for the wings on the outside.
Their maul had to be the most impressive aspect to their game overall, though. While Mystic struggled to win in the lineouts, RUNY made them pay by gaining valuable meters with their ability to shift Boston into reverse. This not only allowed RUNY to control the pace, but it ate up clock when Mystic was desperately trying to stage a comeback, which at one point was only six points away.
In the end, Mystic couldn’t get it done, and allowed the two aforementioned tries to happen within the final three minutes. And just like Austin’s game against NOLA, two yellow cards in the second half wasn’t exactly a big help. It’s going to be interesting to see how each of these teams respond in their upcoming respective games against the Ontario Arrows, who are another likely candidate for MLR’s 2019 expansion.
By Liam Poach
Last night, the Utah Warriors took the field for the first time ever to do battle with the visiting Glendale Raptors, and what a night it was.
The match began with an unexpected development, and that was the Utah Warriors getting the first score of the night thanks to the Whippy brothers setting up space for Ben Nicholls to take it in for the try. Unfortunately, that would be the only lead of the night held by the home team.
For the rest of the game, so many things seemed to go wrong for Utah, as they found themselves on the wrong end of more penalties (THREE yellow cards) than scoring opportunities, which allowed the Raptors to find their footing even in instances where it seemed like Utah was beginning to gain momentum. And I’m not just talking about simple handling penalties (although there were plenty of those too), I’m talking about a plethora of high-tackles, as well as ruck and scrum violations. These are things that could be easily avoided with greater discipline awareness.
However, Utah’s misfortune wasn’t entirely their fault, perhaps more-so their training staff, as it seemed as if the Warriors had a player down on the field every couple of minutes. So if you take into consideration all the yellow cards and time spent with players down on the grass, Utah was playing outnumbered for nearly half the match.
Glendale, meanwhile, certainly didn’t look a lot like their normal selves…at first. Yes, it started out pretty slow in the first twenty or so minutes of the first half (I mean, it’s the Raptors, so the standard is kind of high), but Utah was playing a physical and fast game, which may have initially caught Dave Williams’ squad off guard. One of the Warriors few bright spots in this match was their counter rucks in the first half, a facet of their game which allowed them to close out the first with a hard fought try from inside the five-meter.
But, it became clear, especially in the second half, that Utah wasn’t capable of keeping up that pace. Every so often, you would have a Warrior player break away for a huge run. but they tended to out run the support which always seemed to be lagging behind, leaving the runner without a chance to retain possession once a pack of Raptors had set upon him like a scene out of Jurassic Park (Clever girl…yes I’m aware they’re not those kinds of raptors, but they should be!).
Meanwhile, Glendale displayed their usual fluidity in the passing game, at one point scoring a try thanks to a crazy cavalcade of quick passes and offloads that left Utah players all over the field wondering what hell was happening. Scrumhalf Shaun Davies was especially on point last night, showing some great touch on his passes that allowed his runners to catch them at the perfect point to attack the gaps in Utah’s defense.
In the end, Glendale marched to victory with a final score of 42-15, with Will Magie going a perfect 6/6 on conversions, satisfying fans who may be more accustomed to football-style scoring.
Main things I took away from this game:
-Utah has some bright spots, but they need to learn how to finish. In the second half they seemed to fall asleep or else just got tired. They might not have been able to pull an outright victory over the Raptors, but they could have had the score a lot closer had they been able to keep up the same kind of pressure that they did in the first half.
-Utah’s Jared Whippy went 0/3 on conversions. That’s six points left off the board which could prove crucial against teams less competitive than the Raptors.
-Discipline. Although Utah took the cake with all the yellows and other violations, Glendale had their own fair share. Although, most of them tended to be knock-ons. But, if Utah wants to take full advantage of the massive amount of talent on their roster, they need to make sure their players on the field to do so.
-This league is Glendale’s to lose…at least in 2018.
By Liam Poach
Currently, it's 12:45 am, and I have to drive to Boston tomorrow morning. Or...this morning. God, I'm tired. Anyway, not to disappoint, here's a preview of Saturday's (today's?) match between the Elite and the Gold:
Austin Elite vs NOLA
Last week, New Orleans took a huge step forward in their development by tying the Houston SaberCats 32 all in front of their home town fans, after previously falling to them 31-12 a few weeks ago. Now, the Gold will get another crack at a Lone Star State representative when they host The Austin Elite on Saturday.
The Elite made their debut in front of MLR fans last week when they lost a thriller to the San Diego Legion, 32-24. Austin did well to dig themselves out of a hole in that match, at one point even facing an 18-5 deficit at halftime.
Although the comeback attempt ended up being too little, too late for the Austin team, the game revealed some bright spots that are sure to come in handy against the Gold this weekend. For starters, The Elite’s Captain Mason Pederson (prop) scored the team’s first try while facing a 10-0 deficit, at least giving his squad a chance to keep it close.
The Gold, meanwhile, have to be feeling pretty high on themselves after being able to show marked improvement in every one of their matches thus far. Especially scrum-half Holden Yungert, who was able to capture Man of the Match honors at the game’s conclusion.
However, the game easily could have gone the other way had Houston been able to come up with just one more successful conversion on the night. And while the Gold displayed a much sounder, more fluid offensive attack, their defensive play needs to become tighter if they want to keep games under control, especially when they have a slim lead.
It will be interesting to see how the Elite respond after having a week to watch some actual game film on themselves. The squad is still laden with players who posses a huge amount of potential, such as fly-half Timothee Guilliman and scrum-half Michael Reid, who together can create havoc on the wing with the way they lead.
The Gold, meanwhile, are poised to take another leap in this game and hopefully capture their first outright victory since their dominating performance over the Capital Selects. To do that, they’ll have to keep building on the things they’ve been doing since the beginning. Which is relying on a strong scrum with an ‘elite’ front line, while playing a ball control style of attack in the offensive phases. But, it’s going to come down to whether their defensive play can hold up better than it has in these first few exhibition matches.
By Liam Poach
The build up to the inaugural season of Major League Rugby gets kicked up another level this weekend, with five teams, including New Orleans, Austin, Houston, San Diego, and 2019-entrant Rugby United New York, all set to play a preseason match this Saturday/Sunday. So I decided to throw together a series of ‘quick’ previews to help you folks get geared up for this refreshing and exciting weekend of American Rugby action!
I'd also like to let you folks know that if you 'like' Penguin Tundra Rugby on Facebook, you can follow me and new Tundra-Podcaster Dan 'Pugsley' Preston's adventures through New York on the way to RUNY vs Mystic.
First up, Saturday’s games (I’ll get you the Austin/San Diego one soon, chill out.)
NOLA vs Houston
When: Saturday, 5pm EST I Stream: Gift-Time Rugby
Rematch time! A month ago, Houston and New Orleans made history by competing against one another in the first ever MLR club-on-club game, which Houston emerged from victorious by a score of 30-12.
In that match, both Houston and NOLA tried their hands at variations of the blitz-defense to different degrees of success. While NOLA was certainly able to apply more pressure than past competitors on the Houston offensive-attack, the ‘Cats were able to adapt by allowing Connor ‘Quick-Tap’ Murphy to do what he does best in letting loose a barrage of chip kicks over the heads of oncoming NOLA defenders, often with little to no clearance space around him.
This time around, The Gold will hopefully be better prepared to defend the backfield and not allow Houston the opportunity to eat up so many meters using the boots of Murphy, Zach Pangelinan, and Sam Windsor. Two weeks ago in a loss against Glendale, we saw NOLA employ a three-man umbrella defense in the backline, which allowed them to keep the heavily favored Raptors scoreless for more than twenty minutes, and could be a tactic utilized in tomorrow’s contest.
The scrums of both these teams will be a fun watch for sure, but it’s also where much of the Gold’s strength comes from, with them having looked more and more competitive in the pack in each of their three games thus far (vs SELECTS, vs HOUSTON, vs GLENDALE). To begin the match on Saturday, capped-Canadian teammates Hubert Buydens and Eric Howard will be seeing the field together at loosehead and hooker respectively, while Coach Osborne is making a switch at the tighthead spot by allowing New Orleans native Cam Falcon to step out there first.
Meanwhile, Houston has their own much-ballyhooed trio of Paul Mullen, Diego Maquieira, and Adam Macklin in the front row, all of whom have been pretty stalwart in their performances this season. Along with the aforementioned trio in the frontline, you have Pago Haini stepping in for Matt Trouville at eight-man, while Cecil Garber, former Ohio Aviator/teammate of the Gold’s Sebastian Kalm, returns to the starting lineup at flanker.
When it comes to the backline, Houston is looking more complete than NOLA at this point, but that might just be based on the fact we’ve seen more actual play from them over the last couple of months. But, you have to give it to them, fielding a lineup sporting players like Windsor, Osea Kolinisau, and JOUSA-FREAKING-VICI does seem pretty, uhm…complete. Every one of the names mentioned has put big plays on tape in turn has helped them earn the trust and respect of Coach Fitz.
NOLA isn’t without their own big play threats, either (Vincent Jobo anyone). Scrumhalf Holden Yungert has proven himself capable of distributing the ball to his fly-half and wings quickly, and it works when he’s able to catch people like Captain Taylor Howden or Sebastian Kalm in a gap. Unfortunately, through each of their three games, Yungert has also shown instances in which he’s too eager or else too late to pull the trigger out of the ruck, resulting in a bevy of knock-ons and drops.
I want to say this game will be closer than the last, but with the last two weeks off to rest and game plan, I say Houston gets the sweep on NOLA this exhibition season.
Man of the Match: Josua Vici (two tries, 60+ minutes)
RUNY vs Mystic
When-Saturday, March, 2nd, 7pm EST
Ahhhhhhhh yeeeeeeaaaahhhhhhhhhhh! Let’s go BOSTON! This Saturday, me and new Penguin Tundra Podcast Reporter Dan ‘Pugsley’ Preston will be heading down to NYC to watch my hometown (home-region, whatever) Mystic River Rugby Club take on the newly minted Rugby United New York.
Yes, I get it, RUNY is slightly favored heading into this one, but don’t tell me that. I’m putting on my New England blinder-sun glasses that force you to stare at pictures of Tom Brady and Ryan Donato instead of what’s in front of you. But don’t worry, more often than not when I take them off, one of my teams is in the playoffs. How you doing Jets fans?
However, I’ll give credit where credit is due, and it’s definitely due to a few guys on this RUNY roster. Anthony Parry (prop) has been a name on the USA Rugby circuit for a few years now for organizations such as the Aviators (PRO), NYAC, and now the MLR. Pairing him with Dylan Fawsitt and Kirk Hamilton is going to make for a tough day in the pack for Mystic. Worth mentioning, bringing up the back of the scrum is Ross Deacon, who's almost Marshawn Lynch-like in the way he can carry the ball, especially when inside the 22.
The backline only gets more impressive, starting with the presences of Jack Fitzpatrick at fly-half, and Greg Voigt on the wing (Harry Bennett would usually be mentioned here, but he is reportedly out with a concussion). Voigt and Fitzpatrick will be two of Coach Mike Tolkin’s main chess pieces on the board Saturday, both possessing explosive capabilities with the ball to go along with great on-field awareness in all phases of the game. Unfortunately, RUNY will be without the services of Seamus Kelly this week.
Mystic definitely isn’t going down without a fight, though, as they have reloaded their roster with some youth to pair with the returning veterans after what Coach Josh Smith called a “tough fall season.” In the pack, they have added a pair of forwards from the Auckland Rugby Academy in Leopino Maupese and Micheal Kaivelata, who are both only twenty years-old with ceilings as high as anyone else on an MLR roster.
The backline and midfield for Mystic features a mix of both new and veteran players, with stalwart names such as David Mckenna, Jon Kokinda, Stephen Dazzo, and Vini Daley being familiar to North East Rugby fans. Then, we have some new faces, including international players Santiago Bertranou (Los Tordos, Argentina), Matias De Paolis (Los Tordos, Argentina) and Paulo Aukuso (Rugby Olympique-Grasse France). Each player is coming in with not only a decent base of experience in high-profile rugby settings, but with the chip on their shoulders that comes with being the game’s underdog.
For this one, I’m going to give two predictions. One is the rational Rugby-reporter in me, the other is the kid from Swampscott loyal to his state and region.
Man of the Match
Rational: Ross Deacon (1 try, 80 minutes)
Masshole: Vini Daley (50 tries, defeats the Villain Bane who tries to crash the game)
MAJOR LEAGUE RUGBY AND ESPN ANNOUNCE RIGHTS AGREEMENT
SALT LAKE CITY (March 20, 2018) – Major League Rugby (MLR) and ESPN today announced an exclusive distribution agreement for MLR’s inaugural season, launching April 2018. The deal is a vital part of providing rugby fans access to all 31 regular and postseason games of MLR’s first season, carried LIVE across all devices.
ESPN will carry an 18-game package covering regular season games to national and international audiences across its platforms. In addition to the game coverage, ESPN.com will feature MLR content creating a prominent destination for fans of rugby globally for the American startup League.
Regional sports networks in the seven markets with teams in 2018 will also broadcast the 18-game package. Earlier this fall, MLR announced a 13-game lead-television package with CBS Sports Network including coverage of the semifinals and championship game.
“We are excited to have ESPN as a partner of ours,” said Major League Rugby Commissioner, Dean Howes. “ESPN is one of the most powerful brands in sports, and we couldn’t be more pleased to provide our fans with access to MLR content through ESPN platforms.”
Major League Rugby will launch with seven teams in 2018 including Austin, Houston, Glendale (Colorado), New Orleans, San Diego, Seattle and Salt Lake City (Utah). Additionally, New York has joined as an associate member for 2018 commencing regular season play in 2019. Each market has a long history of support for the game of rugby. The members have strong local and civic-minded ownership groups with deep ties to their communities and have established grassroots programs, venues in place or in development, and a player pool featuring the best players in North America, reinforced by up to five international signings in the 15-player, Rugby Union format.
ONTARIO ARROWS FALL TO MAJOR LEAGUE RUGBY ASSOCIATE CLUB RUGBY UNITED NEW YORK
(NEW ROCHELLE, NY) - It was a tale of two halves in the Ontario Arrows’ defeat to Rugby United New York in New Rochelle, NY, on Mar. 17, 2018. Despite a strong second-half performance from the visiting Arrows, the young Ontarian side wasn’t able to overcome a 26-point halftime deficit, dropping the match 36-19 at Iona College’s Mazzela Field.
RUNY prop Anthony Parry opened the scoring for the host side just five minutes into the match, the first of four first-half tries for New York. The second half began much like the opening frame, with No. 8 Ross Deacon powering over three minutes after the restart.
Showing strong resolve, the Arrows responded with three consecutive tries in a 17-minute spell of play, with lock Josh Van Horne, centre Shawn Windsor, and substitute No. 8 Andrew Wilson all crossing over to bring the match to a two-score game with 10 minutes to play.
Despite a strong push from the visiting Arrows, New York did well to quell Ontario’s comeback efforts, with a late Jack Fitzpatrick penalty goal sealing the victory for the hosts.
“There are many lessons to take from our first meeting with Rugby United New York,” said Arrows head coach Chris Silverthorn, following the match. “The start wasn’t what we wanted, but we showed a lot of character to dig deep and make a game of it. We had a lot of young players in our squad, and they’ll take a lot from this match, and they’ll learn from these experiences. We’ll have plenty to work on before heading to Utah in a few weeks.”
The Arrows will resume their six-match spring season on Apr. 6, when Ontario travels to Sandy, UT, for a Friday night fixture against Major League Rugby side Utah Warriors.
Ontario Arrows Score Report
Tries: J. Van Horne (52), S. Windsor (65), A. Wilson (69)
Conversions: S. Windsor 2 (53, 70)
Rugby United New York Score Report
Tries: A. Parry (5), S. Kelly (26), M. Walsh (29), C. Wallace-Sims (39), R. Deacon (43)
Conversions: H. Bennett 2 (6, 27), J. Fitzpatrick 2 (40, 44)
Penalties: J. Fitzpatrick (78)
Ontario Arrows Lineup vs. Rugby United New York
1. Pat Lynott
2. Jack McRogers
3. Tom Dolezel
4. Josh Van Horne
5. Paul Ciulini
6. Mike Sheppard (C)
7. Peter Milazzo
8. Kolby Francis
9. Alex Gliksten
10. Will Kelly
11. Kyle Lagasca
12. Shawn Windsor
13. Josh Campbell
14. John Sheridan
15. Aaron McLelland
16. Andrew Quattrin
17. Rob Brouwer
18. Mike Smith
19. Tom Van Horne
20. Marcello Wainwright
21. Mario Van Der Westhuizen
22. Jamie Leveridge
23. Mitch Richardson
24. Andrew Wilson
Head Coach: Chris Silverthorn
Assistant Coaches: David Butcher, Aaron Carpenter, Cory Hector
General Manager: Mark Winokur
Performance Analyst: Rodin Lozada
Athletic Therapist: Chris Kelly
Team Doctor: Dr. John Gillis
By Liam Poach
Just what we, the American Rugby Public, need. Rugby on St. Patrick’s Day!
The most recent addition to the entity known as Major League Rugby, Rugby United New York, will take on the Ontario Arrows, a professional side that many expect to join New York as a 2019 entrant into the league.
United is heading into this game with a few of the same players who, while representing NYAC, fell short by one point to the Houston SaberCats just a few weeks prior. One name in particular to watch is Harry Bennett, who captained the NYAC side vs Houston. While his performance against the Coach Fitzpatrick-led SaberCats earned him a fair amount of praise, Bennett is also stepping into the backline with an already decent base of experience in an American professional rugby setting, having proven himself a fierce competitor for the Sacramento Express during the lone PRO season.
Another member of the squad who fits almost the same bill as Bennett is Anthony Parry, a former Ohio Aviator who nearly helped NYAC upset the heavily favored Houston team a few weeks ago. Parry will be stepping in at loosehead prop to make up a formidable front line that also includes Captain Dylan Fawsitt at hooker, and another NYAC alum Kirk Hamilton at the tighthead spot.
Even with the recognition that many of the names mentioned above have garnered, the smart money on potential tries scored in this one goes to the duo of Seamus Kelly (wing) and Luke Hume (fullback). Both of them possess a combination of speed and physicality that is sure to make them a focus in any opponent’s defensive game plan, as well as an asset to their own. Hume and Kelly have both seen caps for the USA National team. .
Then, we have the Ontario Arrows, who managed to actually tie the SaberCats in their matchup two weeks ago. While their training this off-season was severely limited, the Arrows were miles ahead of where they were against Glendale when they took on Houston.
While this NYAC scrum looks pretty imposing, the Arrows’ pack to their credit were able to provide more pushback and fight against the SaberCats than any of their other opponents this season. The Arrow scrum is headlined by such players as Mike Sheppard (flanker), the Captain of today’s squad and one of the three players who earned himself a try against Houston.
Meanwhile, props Rob Brouwer and AJ Quattri, who started against Houston, will be starting this game on the bench, instead giving way to Pat Lynott and Jack McRogers respectively. However, this could probably prove to be an advantage more than anything, especially when it comes to getting in fresh legs if things get close. Eventually, Brouwer and Quattri will be able to come off the bench and join the pack seamlessly and effectively.
The Arrows’ backline ain’t looking too shabby neitha’. Shawn Windsor is the first name you might see out of the lot, with his leg having played a big part in the close contest at Sugarland (3/3 on penalties). He’s also been a stalwart presence for the Ontario Blues for a number of seasons, and is regarded by some as one of the best club players in North America.
Meanwhile, my fellow fullback Aaron Mclleland proved vs Houston that he can be an explosive ball carrier when given the space and opportunity. If Mclleland can keep opponents on their heels, even from the way, way back, he could prove deadly not only in this match, but in many more to come.
One more to note, coming off the bench for the Arrows backline was someone who I thought performed very well against Houston, Marcello Wainwright. Like Mcllelland, Wainwright sounded as if he was a beast in traffic with the ball. If he can come off the bench late in the game and allow the Arrows to play a competitive possession-style game, it could be what seals the deal.
New York: 33
What do you want from me? It’s almost 1 am, I’m three drinks deep, and I need to publish this. New York gets this on the strength of their backline coupled with a dominant front row in the scrum. The Arrows commit a litany of handling penalties that end up killing a TON of entertaining, seemingly productive phases. Bennett gets Man of the Match.
14 March 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ONTARIO ARROWS ANNOUNCE YORK UNIVERSITY AS 2018 HOME VENUE (TORONTO, ON)
The Ontario Arrows Rugby Club has announced its home venue for the club’s 2018 spring season. The Arrows, Canada’s first privately-funded high-performance rugby team, will play and train at York University for its inaugural season.
The club’s two home matches will be played at York Lions Stadium, while training sessions will be held at the adjacent Alumni Stadium. “We are very excited to begin this new partnership with York University,” said Arrows general manager Mark Winokur. “To be able to put our players and fans in such a top-class environment is a massive step forward for our club. York Lions Stadium is both a perfect high-performance facility for our athletes, and will provide a great game day experience for our fans.”
The Arrows’ first home match will be played on Saturday, Apr. 14 (4:30 p.m. kickoff) against the newly announced Major League Rugby side Rugby United New York. Three weeks later, the Arrows will host Boston Mystic River Rugby Club for a fixture on Saturday, May 5 (4:30 p.m. kickoff).
Built for the Toronto 2015 PanAm Games, the 3,700-seat York Lions Stadium is a state-of-the-art LEED certified sport and athletics complex. Beyond hosting the Arrows’ inaugural season, the facility is host to the track and field competitions for the 2017 North American Indigenous Games, the 2017 Invictus Games, the 2017 North America, Central America & Caribbean Masters Track & Field Championships and the 2018 OFSAA Track & Field Championships. “York University Athletics & Recreation is very excited to be part of this year’s Ontario Arrows rugby plans and we look forward to hosting two scheduled games at York Lions Stadium this season,” said Jennifer Myers, Executive Director, York University Athletics & Recreation. “These two games will represent the first rugby competition held within the former Pan Am Stadium, future home to York Lions Varsity Athletics. We wish the Ontario Arrows great success in 2018 and thank them for including us in their exciting plans.”
York University’s facility provides superior ease of access for Arrows fans travelling to matches from across the Greater Toronto Area and surrounding regions. For those taking public transit, York Lions Stadium is steps from the newly-opened Pioneer Village subway station on the Toronto–York Spadina Subway Extension of Line 1, while the Highway 400 / Highway 407 intersection is less than five kilometres away for those driving to matches. Ticket pricing and packages will be announced in the coming days.
By Liam Poach
Two weeks ago, fans in Texas were able to witness a historic weekend in which the first ever all-MLR game took place between the Houston SaberCats and the NOLA Gold. Now, this Saturday, the league will take its next step forward in presenting the first ever live-streamed contest featuring an all-MLR card.
The NOLA Gold, who were the first MLR team to live stream one of their matches (vs Capital Selects) are heading to Rugby Town, USA to take on the Glendale Raptors at Infinity Park, the unofficial capital of stadium-rugby in the United States.
The NOLA Gold- Potential and Pitfalls
NOLA’s game versus Houston two weeks ago was the beginning of what the team is calling its Cup Series, with Glendale being the next stop on that list. Their game against Houston also brought with it plenty of excitement, but it left a few questions needing to be answered.
Most important of which, is can the Gold take the next step in the scrum? Against the Capital Selects, they were often able to get the better initial push, putting the Mid-Atlantic visitors on their back foot. As the match progressed, it became apparent that Coach Osborne’s pack was clearly the fitter side.
However, that dominance didn’t completely translate to their game versus Houston, against whom they faced a level of competition in the frontline trio of Macklin, Stevens, and Mullen that was a few steps above that of the Selects’. Although the Gold were able to put up a good fight, probably one of the better ones throughout the entirety of the SaberCats’ exhibition season, one couldn’t help but notice the plethora of restarts and scrum violations that went against the men from the Big Easy. If the Gold hope to pull off the upset in Glendale, they’ll have to be way more consistent in how they play in the pack.
Luckily, the likelihood of this group becoming more cohesive is pretty high, being that the Gold aren’t short on veteran talent. Their scrum features a solid frontline containing internationally-capped Canadian teammates Hubert Buydens (prop) and Eric Howard (hooker). Then, there’s Ben Tarr, a former PRO Rugby Champion and capped-USA Eagle.
Behind them, they have two other commanding presences in Sebastian Kalm (8-man) and Vincent Jobo (flanker). Kalm has proven through these last two games for the Gold to be a potential game changer whenever he’s near the ball, be it on offense, defense, or in the scrum. In fact, much of the Gold’s success vs Houston came when Kalm was able to get some last minute takes despite getting driven back by the Cat-pack.
Jobo, meanwhile, has proven to be much of the same, but with a few drawbacks. While the young South African is definitely a power-house and a home-run-try waiting to happen, he’s been known to get a little ahead of himself, literally. In both the Selects and SaberCats game, Jobo has been penalized for catching a forward pass in instances he could have avoided had he just slowed his pace down by a hair. Penalties like that, along with the many handling penalties from that game vs Houston, could be a killer against a team as tight-knit as the Raptors.
Another aspect to note, is how the Gold sounded as if they were able to show relatively good execution on the blitz defense, but in the end, it yielded mixed results. While they definitely succeeded in putting more pressure on Connor Murphy and Sam Windsor to get the ball out quickly, the ‘Cats were able to adapt quickly, often times allowing Murphy to pull out some amazing chip-kicks over the heads of incoming NOLA defenders.
If the Gold want to remain competitive against Coach Williams’ well-oiled machine of a squad, they’re game plan is going to have to rely just as heavily on a productive passing game. That means much of the responsibility is bound to fall on the shoulders of fly-half and team-Captain Taylor Howden. Howden will be catching passes from scrum-half Holden Yungert, who himself was able to hold his own against a suffocating SaberCats blitz.
Once the possession is theirs, it will be about setting the pace, and not letting the Raptors take back control with their own solid lineup of forwards and backs. Speaking of which…
Glendale Raptors: Favored, but can they fall?
There’s no doubt that no matter what the makeup of the squad Coach Williams trots out onto the field Saturday afternoon looks like, it will be favored against the visiting Gold team. But, just how favored they are will depend on a few variables.
At the time of me writing this piece, the Raptors have yet to put out an official game-day roster. However, we do know that Glendale had four regular starters play in the final round for the recently crowned ARC Champion Eagles. Those names included: Ben Landry (flanker) Shaun Davies (scrum-half), Will Magie (fly-half), and Bryce Campbell (center).
The loss of each of these players isn’t a death blow to this Raptors team, but it is significant none the less (assuming, that is, that they aren’t playing). The potential loss of Davies in particular could prove to be the most noticeable when it comes to fans who are familiar with the Raptors usually fluid pace of play.
However, it’s not like the Raptors would be left with a bare cover if they are in fact playing without the four aforementioned players. While their scrum wouldn’t be one I would consider ‘unimposing’ (especially with my man Brian Wanless in there), it’s the strength and depth of their backline that makes this team so deadly and apt to put up 40 points on any given day.
One name the NOLA Gold will have to pay attention to is that of Ata Malifa, a capped-Eagle originally hailing from Samoa who has experience in both Sevens and Fifteens play. Malifa has the uncanny ability to turn something into nothing with amazing footwork in traffic, that if it isn’t getting him to the try zone, it’s opening up holes for his teammates.
Complimenting Malifa nicely is Chad London, a center from South Africa who had a great run with the Denver Stampede during their Championship run. London comes in as a player who’s been noted in the past as having a high rugby-IQ and great situational awareness.
Oh, and since you know I have to prop up my fellow fullbacks, Maximo de Achival is an exciting show of athletic prowess every time he takes the field. Should the Gold hope to keep up in the back line, they need to be ready to compete for a lot of kick-and-chase opportunities that de Achival is sure to provide his teammates.
NOLA came up short of some people’s expectations vs Houston a couple of weeks ago, but I think this week they’ll exceed them. Unfortunately, that still doesn’t translate to a win.
Even without the potential presence of the ARC players, I think Coach Williams will have his players dominate this game schematically, opening up holes on the NOLA defense while creating plenty of scoring opportunities.
New Orleans: 20
By Liam Poach
Photo: Judy Teasedale Photography
The Houston SaberCats’ last home game from Sugarland may have ended in a tie, but it definitely went out with a bang.
Once again, analysts across the rugby online world got it wrong, with many (sigh, myself included) predicting a SaberCat blowout. What we ended up getting was a match with so many twists and turns that fans felt they might miss something even if they went to the bathroom at halftime.
So what was it that that made this game so close? Well, it was a result of the best and worst aspects of it. First, both teams saw their fair share of extremely efficient phases in the passing game that showed off the high level of skill in both backlines. The Ontario duo of Marcello Wainwright and Aaron McLelland in particular proved to be extremely dynamic in the way they fought through defenders physically and effectively.
However, Houston wasn’t without its own share of impressive skill sets on display last night. The first try of the match came relatively early for the home team. Player and SaberCat Academy Director Matt Trouville (8-Man) was able to move through traffic before a dummy toss in the direction of Sam Windsor opened up the gap for him to take it in.
There were also many instances in which both teams tried their hand at the pick-and-go strategy to varying degrees of success, but some very exciting moments none the less. Kolby Francis (8-Man, Ontario) was definitely worth the hype. As highlights posted by The Arrows will show you, when this guy got moving with the ball, traffic or no traffic, there were meters to be gained, and all Ontario had to do was follow in his wake. He also performed valiantly in the scrum itself, securing his fair share of takes even when it sounded like Houston had got the better push.
Those efficient phases also tended to get matched up with great defensive play, but I might have to give the edge to the Arrows in this respect. Those listening to the broadcast might’ve noted that much of the game transpired in Ontario Arrow territory, yet this still ended in a tie. Game highlights will show you as well, the counter-ruck ability by the Arrows and the defensive positioning was worlds beyond what we saw from this team against Glendale in September.
But, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the great defensive efforts put in by SaberCats Alex Elkins and Connor Murphy. Elkins, who not only put on a hell of a show with the ball in his hands, but it seemed that every try saving tackle by the ‘Cats was accredited to him moments later. For a guy who played only his second game with this club, that’s damn impressive.
Then, there was Murphy, who played a different kind of defense but none the less effective. In fact, you can kind of lump it into the “the best defense is a good offense” category. ‘Quick-Tap’ Murphy has this uncanny ability to get kicks off with little to no space in front of him, yet they always manage to find the gap of defenders. Whenever the Arrows seemed to be one successful counter-ruck away from securing possession in SaberCat territory, Murphy would come through in relieving the pressure and in turn give his team the chance to maintain possession, be it through chase or lineout.
Then, there were the not so good aspects. First of all, it sounded from the broadcast as if the referee’s definition of a ‘dangerous tackle’ varied from moment to moment and from player to player. I’m not trying to start a Nigel Owens style witch hunt here (which was a f**ked up way for England fans to treat a legend like him, glad we beat you this weekend), but…Connor Murphy getting TWO dangerous tackle calls? The dude can barely reach the neck of the average wing. No offense to ‘Quick-Tap’ on that, but I’m not buying it one bit. Then there was the non-call on the alleged high tackle on him. But anyway…
Another NSG aspect that came into play for both sides was the constant handling issues that always seemed to strike when things were getting good. One side would come away with the take in the scrum, get it down the line to the point where the numbers were in their favor, then right when it seemed like a homerun play was imminent-(whistle), knock-on, or- (whistle), forward-pass. At a certain point towards the end of the first half, it was maddening.
The scrumming for both sides definitely sums up this idea of ‘the good and the bad’. From listening to Grant Cole’s commentary (and you know he’s a man who knows the art of scrummage), it sounded like each side surprised the other at times with how effective they could be. And let’s be honest, that Ontario frontline of Rob Brouwer, Andrew Quattrin, and Tom Dolezel gave the trio of Adam Macklin, Paul Mullen, and Skeeter Stevens the biggest run for their money all season. While it sounded like Houston may have won the scrum battle overall, it wasn’t without a hard fought challenge from the visitors.
But, with all that being said, it sounded as if the referee had as hard a time getting each forward side to set the way he wanted them to than he did with anything else that night, including the traffic heading home. Constant problems with spacing and early-engagement forced so many resets that I used the time spent on them for two bathroom breaks and a refill on my cocktail. If this was something that happened more in the second half I would’ve called ‘wasting-time’, but nah, it was all game.
All in all, it was a great game by both sides. Each team demonstrated the things they do well, and the things they need to work on, which is exactly why Coach Fitzpatrick has this squad competing through such a long exhibition season. If all goes according to plan, they should have as many wrinkles out of their game plan as possible by the season’s start.
The Arrows, meanwhile, have their own exhibition schedule ahead of them with five matches to play against teams such as RUNY, Mystic River, and another MLR club participant the Utah Warriors. If they can build on the many positives from last night, they should do just fine. At least, it will be interesting.
SaberCats: Matt Trouville, Zach Pangelinan, Jake Turnbull, Josua Vici
Arrows: Mike Sheppard, Jon Sheridan, Andrew Quattrin
SaberCats: Sam Windsor (2/5)
Arrows: Shawn Windsor (1/2)
SaberCats: Zach Pangelinan (0/1), Sam Windsor (2/2)
Arrows: Kelly (1/1), Shawn Windsor (3/3)
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Penguin Tundra Sports Blog was created in 2016 by a very bored college student who was obsessed with Rugby and Football. That same college student knew how to write pseudo-intelligently, so what better way to show off than to create a blog. Along your journey though the Tundra's domain, you may come across outlandish opinions, horrible spelling errors, and some shit that is just outright wrong. Well then, you should comment, give my blog more attention, and we will have our day in internet court. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy talking about sports as much as I do.
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