Major League Rugby: Week 10 Recap

Bryan Ray
Rugby 15s Senior Men

It was a good day for the Toronto Arrows on Saturday. The Major League Rugby scoring records were re-written as nine different players scored tries in a comprehensive 64-31 win over the Utah Warriors in Salt Lake City. Toronto’s forward pack was completely dominant with the offense firing on all cylinders. Only some brief lapses in defense were marks against the team.

Toronto got off to a blistering start with Rob Brouwer, Mike Sheppard, and Dan Moor all touching down as fans were still finding their seats. Utah returned fire with two of their own, though their second was a bizarre penalty try that landed Andrew Ferguson in the sin-bin for a mystery offense.
The Warriors would score once more with the extra man but then unanswered tries from Kolby Francis, Lucas Rumball, Marcello Wainwright, and Avery Oitomen put the game on ice. Oitomen’s was his 6thof the campaign, putting the 19-year-old on the top of the MLR leader board. Gastón Mieres and Kainoa Lloyd would grab their first tries as Arrows to round out the scoring.
Celebrating their professional debuts for the club were a trio of replacements. Americas Rugby Championship starters Jamie Mackenzie and Theo Sauder got 30 minutes each to stretch their legs while hooker Jack McRogers, a recent graduate of the national under-20 program, had a couple strong carries in his 8-minute cameo appearance.
The longest road swing in MLR history is now over and the Arrows will play the remainder of the regular season at home. Their historic first league match in Toronto will take place at York Alumni Stadium on Sunday against a formidable opponent – the league-leading NOLA Gold. Tickets are available now the Arrows website.
Speaking of the Gold, their road match against the Glendale Raptors will go down as one of the games of the season. Glendale ran out to an early 17-0 score but the tables were quickly turned as NOLA scored 21 unanswered points to push ahead at halftime. The lead would change four times during the match, with a last-gasp penalty goal from Robbie Petzer giving the Raptors a dramatic victory.
Noah Barker started at loosehead prop for Glendale and experienced his first MLR win. NOLA were captained by Eric Howard, who led from the front with two tries. Also starting for the Gold was Hubert Buydens in the No1 shirt and Kyle Baillie again at the back of the scrum.
In other action on Saturday, Austin Elite hosted Rugby United New York at the wonderful Toyota Field. It was the first ever MLR match played in San Antonio, a change organized by Austin to expand their fan reach. Despite the picture-perfect conditions both teams struggled for continuity with the final score reading New York 19, Austin 11.
All five of Austin’s Canadians featured in the match. The Larsen brothers reprised their roles with vice-captain Josh in the second row and Travis at No8, while Moe Abdelmonem played openside flanker. Aidan McMullan got his second start on the left wing while Doug Fraser came off the bench as Austin continue to experiment with their midfield combinations.
Sunday evening was largely one of frustration for Canadian viewers as the international broadcast of the Seattle Seawolves match against the San Diego Legion was ruined by technical difficulties. What the fans couldn’t see was another dramatic contest as a first-half red card to San Diego lock Keni Nasoqeqe left the Legion shorthanded for much of the match. In fact they were reduced to only 13 players with two further yellow cards handed out, and yet somehow managed to pull out a 28-22 victory on the road.
It wasn’t the best day at the office for Seattle’s Canadian contingent either. Cam Polson was sent to the bin for an off-the-ball tackle early in the second half, and Brock Staller landed only one from four conversions. Staller’s 90 points are still the best in MLR but his lead is now only two points over Toronto’s Sam Malcolm. Phil Mack came off the bench and made a positive impact but it was too little, too late for the defending champions.
Two Canadian match officials were on duty, both in assistant referee roles. Moe Chaudhry was on the sideline for the spectacular Glendale match while Robin Kaluzniak was doing his best to help out Welsh referee Elgan Williams in his first MLR contest in Seattle.
The league has now rolled over into the second half of the season with six teams vying for the four Semi Final spots. NOLA holds a slender one-point lead over New York at the top, while Toronto are five points behind 4th-place Seattle.
There are four games on tap this weekend. Friday night will see Utah hosting Seattle, with Saturday night’s game a road match for Houston at Glendale. Toronto’s grand opening against NOLA is one of two matches on Sunday, the late in San Diego where Austin will try for their elusive first win of the campaign.
Friday’s match and the two on Sunday will be available on the MLR Facebook page. The league has posted an apology for this past weekend’s problems and has assured fans that the streams will be available this week. Toronto’s game will also be broadcast nationwide on GameTV, while the game in Glendale can be streamed live on the 9News website.
Seattle Seawolves at Utah Warriors
Friday, April 5
6pm PT, 9pm ET
Houston SaberCats at Glendale Raptors
Saturday, April 6
6pm PT, 9pm ET
NOLA GOLD at Toronto Arrows
Sunday, April 7
11am PT, 2pm ET
Austin Elite at San Diego Legion
Sunday, April 7
7:30pm PT, 10:30pm ET