The 16th week of the Major League Rugby regular season was a big one for the Toronto Arrows. After their crucial victory over the San Diego Legion last weekend, the Arrows had to play two matches this week. The first was a make-up fixture, originally scheduled for April 14, against Austin Elite on Thursday evening at York Alumni Field. It was played in damp weather but the rain forecast mostly held off for the duration of the game itself.
Austin were winless heading into the game but jumped out to a 6-0 lead on a couple penalty kicks from Uruguayan centre Andrés Vilaseca. They came against the run of play as Toronto controlled the vast majority of territory and possession throughout the game but couldn’t quite make the final pass stick on several occasions.
They finally broke through when Andrew Ferguson found enough space on the corner to make the line. That seemed to spark the team and before long they were in again. This time Shawn Windsor’s offload found Leandro Leivas, and Toronto’s own Uruguay star stepped on the gas. After beating two defenders for pace he bowled over the fullback and sprinted clear for a superb 65-metre try.
A bit of fortune gave them a third try as Ferguson’s chip kick was deflected into the welcoming arms of Rob Brouwer early in the second half. The bonus point came when Kainoa Lloyd muscled over on the short side from a scrum. Austin grabbed a consolation try at the death but the final score read Toronto 24, Austin 13.
On Sunday it was back downtown to Lamport Stadium, and there would be no such luck with the weather as the wind and rain blasted into the brave faithful in attendance. The players would have to soldier on as Toronto were now on four straight victories and needed a fifth to keep them in a good position to qualify for the fast-approaching Semi Finals.
Utah were the oppoonents and as did Austin, the Warriors struck first. A try in just the second minute of the match from Brazilian forward Arthur Bergo was not the start the Arrows were hoping for, but there was a long way to go yet.
Four scores came before halftime, two from each team. Morgan Mitchell blasted over for Toronto to give them a short-lived lead, but Utah responded with a try from winger Jeremy Misailegalu. Tim O’Malley added a penalty goal to make it 15-7. Warriors lock Saia Uhila was sin-binned for a cynical penalty and Johnny Sheridan made them pay dearly as he crossed just before the break.
O’Malley landed his second penalty goal early in the second half push Utah further ahead. The Arrows fired back through their scrum, which had been in control all match. A penalty try was awarded to give Toronto a 3-point lead heading into the final quarter.
A third O’Malley penalty drew the scores level but the Warriors were running out of steam. Some inspiring play from Dan Moor, on as a replacement, pushed Utah back deep in their own end. When they got the ball back, Spencer Jones ripped through a gap on the left side and showed his pace to slide into the corner for the bonus-point try with Sam Malcolm’s sideline conversion making it a 28-21 final.
With five wins in a row the Arrows are now the hottest team in the league and have pushed up into third overall, just four points back of league-leader San Diego. They will enjoy a week off after the gruelling week before returning to play Glendale on May 26 followed by New York on June 2. Both are huge matches with a Semi Final spot in the balance.
Glendale were meant to play Houston in one of three scheduled matches on Saturday but heavy right in Texas forced the game to be postponed until May 29. The other two games came off as planned and both came right down to the final whistle.
The league’s top two teams faced off in New Orleans and it was visiting San Diego Legion who came away with the 26-19 victory. The two sides traded scores throughout until former US Eagles flyhalf Tai Enosa stepped through for the winning try in the 70th minute. Hubert Buydens and Eric Howard both started for NOLA though Kyle Baillie remains sidelined with an ankle injury and looks unlikely to play any further part in the regular season.
Djustice Sears-Duru and Nakai Penny were in the Seattle Seawolves lineup to play Rugby United New York in Brooklyn. The Seawolves stunned their hosts, flying out to a 31-7 lead at the break. George Barton came on as a first half replacement and Phil Mack arrived in the second half, the latter scoring what turned out to be the game-winning try. It didn’t come without drama as New York somehow came back to make it 38-31 and came within inches of a tying score only to knock-on at the death.
Toronto won’t be playing this weekend but there are four games on tap in the third-last weekend of the regular season. New Orleans will host the Houston SaberCats in the first of three matches on Saturday. Seattle heads to Glendale in the second, with San Diego packing their bags for Utah. Sunday’s afternoon’s match will see Austin Elite making the trip north to New York.
All matches will be streamed live for Canadian viewers on the official Major League Rugby Facebook page, with the Seattle game also available on CBS Sports Network.
WEEK 17 SCHEDULE
Houston SaberCats at NOLA GOld
Saturday, May 18
2pm PT, 5pm ET
Seattle Seawolves at Glendale Raptors
Saturday, May 18
3pm PT, 6pm ET
San Diego Legion at Utah Warriors
Saturday, May 18
6pm PT, 9pm ET
Austin Elite at Rugby United New York
Sunday, May 19
10am PT, 1pm ET