At long last, the Ontario Arrows have secured their first ever win as a team, and it was the result of an exciting back and forth affair against the hosting Utah Warriors. Rio Tinto Stadium, usually home to the MLS club Real Salt Lake, hosted the match along with a rambunctiously loud crowd.
If you want to even begin to discuss this game, you have to talk about it as a tale of two halves, because I could have sworn I saw four different teams playing last night. The first two, I’ll call Bad Utah and Pretty Good Ontario, and the latter I’ll call Good Utah and Barely Okay Ontario.
Bad Utah was the way they were because they didn’t seem to be playing on the same page at any level. Their positioning looked awkward, and not at all what you would expect from a professional side, and that resulted in a truly unproductive passing game, which barred the Warriors from maintaining possession long enough to set up any meaningful scoring opportunities.
Their scrum was (and for the most part continued to be) a hot mess, failing to win a single push in the first half, and particularly in the front row where it caused the referee to call for a multitude of scrum violations and restarts. Which, when resulting in a free kick for Ontario, allowed Will Kelly to use his massive boot to find touch deep in Warrior territory, keeping the pressure of themselves.
Meanwhile, Pretty Good Ontario ended up doing just enough to prevent Barely Okay Ontario’s eventual second half-collapse from completely sinking their ship, putting up two tries and a penalty inside the first 40 minutes. By using a methodical, forwards-attacking strategy, the Arrows succeeded while playing it relatively safe in what equated to an NFL ‘ground and pound’ kind of game plan.
That’s not say their passing wasn’t impressive, though. Ontario showed off the chemistry they’d been building together through a dazzling display of tight-window switches that allowed their runners to hit gaps Utah didn’t even know were there. Mitch Richardson and Will Kelly in particular were great on the outside whenever they got the chance, often forcing Utah’s defense to shift closer to defending them, meaning their forwards had an easier time tearing it up when the ball came quickly back their way.
The first half would come to an end with a score of 17-3, in favor Ontario.
Luckily for the crowd at Rio Tinto, the second half provided them some much needed hope for the future, when apparently, Good Utah decided to come storming out of the tunnel. Spear-headed by the ever-entertaining Jared Whippy and Paul Lasike, the Warriors seemed to open up the throttle (is that something car-people say?) in terms of how they moved the ball.
It began with just maintaining possession a lot better than they did in the first, staying solid in the rucks and lineouts. They increased the spacing between the backs, which in turn opened up larger gaps in the Ontario defense, allowing their naturally fast and physical players like Whippy and Lasike to take advantage when they ripped off some huge runs. And unlike the Glendale game, they actually had people there to support them when they went down.
The faster pace of play presented by the Warriors forced a bevy of Ontario mistakes, which only further added to the woe of a game plan that was now crumbling around them. Once Ontario started becoming desperate to stop the fast moving assault by Utah, their discipline in the rucks suffered, forcing them back ten time and time again, while Utah used many of those opportunities to kick for touch deep in Ontario territory, just as the Arrows did to them in the first.
Utah would take the lead just once this game, after a try by Josh Whippy that was set up by a Paul Lasike run followed by a great pass from his twin brother Jared. At this point, it seemed as if Utah would pull off a comeback that seemed impossible in the first half, but it ultimately wasn’t meant to be.
In the last few minutes of the match, Ontario seemed to get it together, getting back to the style of play that saw them dominate in the first half. Using a consistent, forward-heavy attack, they were able to chew up enough clock on a drive that ended in them barreling over the try-line from the one meter, leaving Utah very little time to respond to a 4-point deficit.
Not that they didn’t try, of course. Utah gained possession from Ontario after another penalty forced the Arrows back ten. They followed up with a drive that took them just to the edge of the Ontario side of the field. Unfortunately, a great counter ruck by the Arrows would result in a turnover for the Warriors, and a kick for touch would end the game with a final score of 24-20.
In the end, this game presented many good signs that this Utah team is heading in the right direction, all it’s going to take is more chemistry. Their scrum definitely has to improve, but once that happens, that will open things up for their backs to do the damage they are capable of by giving them more opportunities with the ball.
Oh, and all the respect in the world to Jared Whippy, but this shortcomings kicking at the post NEED to be addressed. 1/3 kicking tonight for conversions, which had he made would have left this game tied, and a missed penalty kick in the first could have meant a victory. Still, he did amazing on the outside, and deserves credit for creating opportunities for his teammates in that regard.
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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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