By Liam Madigan-Fried @madfried95
The rain was falling on an otherwise warm day in Malden, Massachusetts, a city located in the urban outskirts of Boston. The Glendale Raptors, riding an eight-game winning streak going in, walked onto the home pitch of the Mystic River Rugby Club, the current defending USA Club Champions, intent on extending that streak to nine games the same way they did with the Austin Huns and Rugby Utah Select XV squads in recent weeks. That mission was accomplished, but it was easier said than done.
The match began in an aggressive manner for Mystic River, as they were able to keep the ball inside Glendale territory through the use of a fluid and precision-laced passing game.
“They had a lot of continuity on offense.” Said Glendale flanker Brian Wanless. “They held their phases well, something that other teams haven’t been able to do so successfully against us.”
Mystic River Head Coach Josh Smith echoed that sentiment when asked what about his squad kept this game so tight. “I thought we did a pretty good job with our line speed (by the backs). That’s something we really identified the last couple of weeks.”
That speed created a fast-paced start for Mystic (at first), which seemed to pay off when winger Spike Armstrong connected with the first penalty kick of the day (he had three in total), putting the home team up 3-0 early in the first. However, Glendale would respond soon after when fullback Maximo De Achaval took an edge-of-the-touch-line run in for the try. The subsequent kick-after would be no good, something that would plague the Colorado squad for the remainder of their rainy, windy New England day.
Mystic River saw plenty of phases when it seemed they were on the verge of a try deep inside Glendale territory thanks to the efficiency of their wings, continuously putting the PRP Champs on their toes at the goal line. However, despite amazing efforts made by such players as Mystic winger Vini Daley, who was smashing through the Raptor defense all day, the experience and bulk of the Glendale defense (along with some ill-timed knock-ons) would prevent many of those phases from resulting in points.
As the game progressed, fans were held on the edge of their seat as each team would seem to gain enough meters to make a score appear inevitable, only to see an heart-wrenching turnover or penalty kill the momentum, thanks in large part to the wet and slippery conditions. Though Glendale was able to find the try zone a total of three times throughout the match, Mystic River was able to keep it close by taking successful advantage of three penalty kicks, at one point pulling ahead 16-15.
That lead, however, was not to last long. Many phase killing mistakes in the second-half resulted in the Sir calling for a scrum, something both teams saw their fair share of success and failure in. However, as the clock began to wind down in the match’s final minutes, many scrum penalties and subsequent free-kicks began to go Glendale’s way at a time when Mystic was desperately looking for points.
However, once it became clear the match was nearing its final breath, Glendale eventually stopped with its silly attempts at quick offloads and switches, opting for a ground-and-pound style to run down the clock.
When the match came to a close with a final of 22-16 in favor of Glendale, one thing was clear: Mystic River is a real and legitimate threat to any team hoping to claim elite status. “They’re a good team.” Says Raptors Head Coach Dave Williams. “And good for them. They won the National Championship last year for Division 1, (that’s why) we want to come out and play them, we’re always looking to play the best opposition we can.”
Mystic River will now look to the playoffs, where it hopes to defend its standing as Club Champions.
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