On Saturday the Toronto Arrows defeated the Utah Warriors in their first official pre-season. The Arrows won the contest 33-5 with tries from Manuel Diana, Spencer Jones, Steven Ng, and 2 from captain Dan Moor. Conversions were added from Guiseppe du Toit (1/1), Will Kelly (2/3), and Tayler Adams (1/1).
Unfortunately, there was no stream of the game, so only those in attendance were able to witness the match. If you did not make the trip to Nevada, here are 5 takeaways from the Arrows victory over the Warriors:
1. The Arrows Scrum Dominated
Right from the get go the Arrows scrum dominated Utah. Regardless of who was in the pack, Utah seemed to have few answers for a strong Arrows scrum. The Arrows were frequently able to earn penalties, create a solid attacking platform, and disrupt Utah set piece plays before the ball was out. A few of the penalties came with the Arrows in the shadow of their own goalposts.
The Arrows powerful scrum never allowed Utah to take advantage of good field position. Utah also made some mistakes that allowed the Arrows to use their scrum to keep momentum and attacking pressure. After three separate Arrows tires, Utah sent the ensuing restart out on the full giving the Arrows scrum and attacking platform on the halfway line. The Arrows had a strong scrum last season and it looks like that trend will continue into 2020.
Earlier in the week, the Arrows had a controlled scrimmage with the Colorado Raptors who were in town to play their own pre-season match with Rugby ATL. By all accounts the Arrows scrum was dominant during that session as well.
2. Who Was in The Front Row
The scrum was able to maintain its dominance even as the front row was switched up throughout the match. The Arrows used a few different combinations throughout the match: Pat Lynott-Andrew Quattrin-Cole Keith, Rob Brouwer-Steven Ng-Tyler Rowland, and Richie Asiata-Steven Ng-Tyler Rowland. Quattrin and Ng are realistically set in their roles. Both played well in the match (Ng picking up a try) and the Arrows should be happy with this combination at hooker.
At tighthead, Keith played the first 40 with Rowland on for the second half. Keith’s scrummaging technique looks improved from last season (perhaps the result of the RWC campaign) and won a few penalties. Rowland had a solid game as well. With Mike Smith staying at home for the Vegas trip, tighthead looks to come down to these two (with Keith starting).
Loosehead will be an intriguing battle. Lynott received the full first half followed by twenty minutes of Brouwer and 20 minutes of Asiata. Lynott had a solid first half and he alongside Quattrin and Keith helped the Arrows’ establish early dominance in the scrum. Brouwer came in and picked up where Lynott left off. Brouwer’s work rate in defense was excellent as well. Asiata had an impactful first 20 minutes in an Arrows jersey. He has a running style that is not typically associated with a prop and Utah was having some difficulty stopping it. He also demonstrated his hands by setting up Moor for his 2nd try. This will be an intriguing position to watch in Buffalo next week.
3. Fullback Experimentation
With Sam Malcolm not in the lineup, the Arrows experimented with some personnel at the fullback position. Gaston Mieres started the match in the 15 jersey as he did on numerous occasions last year. He performed well and clearly remains an option for fullback.
The other fullbacks in the game were Mitch Richardson and Tayler Adams. Mieres was the better of the three fullbacks. He is the more experienced at the position, but it was good to see Richardson and Adams demonstrating some versatility. The lone Utah try was scored when Adams gambled and went for an interception, but missed. However, if he succeeded it would have been a certain try for the Arrows.
4. Centres Are Deep
The Arrows have four centres that any MLR team would be happy to have. Guiseppe du Toit, Ben LeSage, Mitch Richardson, and Spencer Jones were all factors in this game. The Arrows used a few different combinations in the centres: du Toit-LeSage, Richardson-LeSage, du Toit-Jones, Jones-LeSage.
The combination of Richardson-LeSage worked very well on the Arrows’ second try. Richardson combined with Lucas Rumball for a tackle. Richardson made contact first and Rumball jackalled the ball away. Rumball offloaded to Jamie Mackenzie who passed to LeSage. LeSage drew in the final Utah defender and sent a well time pass to Moor who finished off the counter attack try. Jones had a solid game and picked up easily the nicest try of the match (but more on that later).
Much like last year, Jones and du Toit seem to have terrific chemistry on the pitch which is vital in the centres. Du Toit also began the game by handling the kicking duties where he slotted his only attempt of the game. In my article Projecting the Arrows’ Starting XV, I had du Toit and LeSage starting, but they genuinely have no bad options in the centres.
5. Tayler Adams and Will Kelly
Flyhalfs Tayler Adams and Will Kelly were both brought in over the Arrows' off-season. As training camp unfolds, they look to be in a healthy competition for that number 10 jersey (especially since it appears Malcolm will shift to fullback). Both players had solid games. They each were given opportunities to showcase their boot. Kelly was 2/3 on conversions and Adams went 1/1. Both players also saw the ball pass through their hands on the way to tries.
Kelly was well positioned as the first receiver for Andrew Ferguson and hit Asiata in stride before he dished to Moor to finish off that try. Adams allowed Jones to score one of the nicest tries no one will ever see.
The Arrows used the scrum to set up a platform for their attack. The ball came to Adams after the first phase and he sent a kick over the top of the defensive line. All Utah defenders were immediately caught flat footed as the ball soared over their heads. Jones collected and had an escort as he jogged in from just inside the halfway line. Adams has a very dynamic style of rugby. Every time he touches the ball it looks like he could score a try. He demonstrated that he is capable of facilitating try scoring plays from anywhere on the pitch. He also seems to enjoy wide cutout passes. Kelly’s style was a bit more subdued, but equally as effective.
The Arrows were in complete control of the game no matter who was on the pitch.
The Arrows next preseason match will be in Buffalo against Rugby United New York this Saturday. For all your Toronto Arrows and MLR news in the buildup to the 2020 MLR season, follow @BressetteTheJet and @LaymansSports on your favourite social media network.