Source: Norma Salinas/Houston Gilgronis
What a way to start the MLR season! This game had a bit of everything; a laser show, a streaker in a giant orange cowboy hat that had one too many Gilgronis, and a dominant scrum were among the highlights of an eventful match at Bold Stadium.
The Arrows got off to a strong start to their 2020 MLR campaign with a 38-10 victory over the Austin Gilgronis. The Arrows were able to earn a bonus point on their first hit out this year thanks to tries from Manuel Diana, a penalty try, Dan Moor, Jamie Mackenzie, and Peter Milazzo. Additionally, Sam Malcolm added 9 points from his boot and Tayler Adams contributed one conversion.
The Arrows dominated this game wire to wire. Richie Asiata pounced on a loose ball after a broken lineout and carried the ball deep into Austin territory. Diana would be the one to cross over on a pick and go to give the Arrows a 7-0 lead (Malcolm converts) just under 2 minutes into the match. From there, the Arrows would never look back and be the dominant team throughout the entire 80 minutes.
However, just because the Arrows were the dominant team does not mean there were no negatives in this match. Obviously, there were a lot of positives in the match too and we will get to those in a minute. The lineout struggled throughout the match and it started on that opening try. The Arrows actually lose their own lineout when Lino Saunitoga steals the ball.
Fortunately, he just bats it backwards and Asiata is able to use his speed to recover the ball and carry it down to the Austin line. Lineout issues continued as Andrew Quattrin had a handful of overthrown balls or not straight throws. Steven Ng had similar issues. Now, Austin was also struggling with their throws. Since it was happening to both clubs, perhaps the wet and windy conditions played a factor. Either way, the Arrows will look to clean this up against Houston next week.
Handling errors were also too frequent for the Arrows. The score ended at 38-10, but realistically, it could have been more. Far too many times, the Arrows would knock the ball on inside the Austin 22 and end scoring threats. Of course, the Arrows also committed handling errors in other areas of the pitch.
Ultimately, the players and coaches will not be too thrilled about their execution errors. Again, the conditions may have played a factor. As Chris Silverthorn said in his halftime interview “we can play a lot better”. It’s true. If the Arrows clean up those errors, they will be a terrifying team to play against.
The handling errors does allow us to segue nicely into the positives. A lot of handling errors means a lot of scrums. The Arrows scrum came as advertised and was absolutely dominant. Three of the Arrows five tries came directly off the scrums. The penalty try was the result of a big scrum push that Austin could only take a penalty to stop. They pushed them across the line anyway.
Jamie Mackenzie used the scrum as a platform to back himself for a try. The Arrows scrum did a nice job to give Mackenzie a clear path to the in-goal area. Late in the game, the Arrows had a big push against the feed that resulted in a turnover ball. Milazzo waltzed into the in-goal area from just outside the 22. Tries aside, this scrum was so dominant that it basically nullified any handling errors the team had.
The Arrows would have a knock-on, then simply win the ball back by either a clean turnover or earning a penalty in the scrum. Ultimately, the net result would be the Arrows having the ball in the same spot they knocked-on anyways. The scrum was absolutely dominant and it’s a trend I expect to continue throughout the year.
The attacking structure the Arrows played was beautiful at times. This was extremely evident on Dan Moor’s try. Moor is the man that gets the credit in the end but it was the epitome of a team try. Zinzan Elan-Puttick sent a high ball up that was taken beautifully by Adams. Mackenzie initially goes to Asiata on his left.
In the next phase he goes back to Sheppard on his right. Sheppard sends the ball through the hands of the Arrows backs all the way to Moor on the touchline and he has plenty of space. Moor eventually gets hit, but de la Vega and Ben LeSage have good support and secure the ruck. Mackenzie comes back inside to Sheppard who passes to Cole Keith. Keith has a massive hole opened up by the expansive play of the Arrows back line, as Austin defenders have not reset yet.
Adams and Malcolm then work the ball toward the far touchline which spreads the defense more. Mackenzie then works the ball back to the inside as big carries from Mieres and LeSage bring the Arrows to within metres of the ingoal. Mackenzie now has options at each ruck and wears down the Austin defense while sucking in defenders. One last play out wide and a beauty pass from Adams puts Moor away for the try.
The Arrows expansive attack opened up a lot of holes in the Austin defense and kept the scrambling. On this try it took two phases to go from the middle of the pitch to the touch line, another two to get back over to the opposite side of the pitch, two hard runs to get to 5m out, another 3 breaking down the defense on the line.
In just 75 seconds the Arrows go 60m for the try while going east-west across the pitch 3 times in just 9 phases. It was beautiful. I hope the Arrows can bottle that 75 seconds and use it later because that was perfect rugby.
The attack gave Austin fits the whole game. A big part of that try was Mackenzie had a tonne of options at each breakdown. Furthermore, the first receiver always had a few options of his own to keep the defense on their toes. Austin appeared to struggle keeping pace with the constantly changing directions as well. A few occasions saw the Arrows overload one side with their two wingers. This created a handful of mismatches allowing the Arrows to have big carries.
The broadcasters gave the MOTM honours to Dan Moor, but I would have to respectfully disagree. The MOTM should be every player that lined up for at least a second in the pack today. The Arrows pack as a unit (all 13 men) gets my MOTM. The pack’s domination was the catalyst to an Arrows victory and it will continue to be throughout the season.
The Arrows will travel to Las Vegas to take part in the first MLR Vegas weekend in Round 2. The Arrows will take on Sam Windsor and the Houston SaberCats. For all your Arrows coverage, be sure to follow @BressetteTheJet and @LaymansSports on all your favourite social media platforms.