Source: Richard Lynch vis @torontoarrows
The Toronto Arrows ended their 8 game road trip on the highest possible note. The Arrows ran in 9 tries and set the MLR record for most points in a game in a 64-31 annihilation of the Utah Warriors. Going into this game there was a lot of talk about the Arrows finally having their full roster available to them. And wow, did they ever deliver in the biggest possible way.
The Arrows got off to a roaring start. Rob Brouwer opened the scoring on a great set piece play from the lineout. Soon after Sheppard capitalized on some terrific work from all the forwards who put a lot of pressure on the Warriors defense. Lucas Rumball made a great play to pull down Ng’s lineout throw, and the ball worked its way to Sam Malcolm who made a great pass to Dan Moor who scored in the corner. Just like that, it was 19-0 Arrows 16 minutes into the game. However, Utah would not go away without a fight. The Warriors stormed back with 19 unanswered points of their own. Jackson Kaka got the Warriors on the board first. Then Tonata Lauti raced down the sidelines where he was tripped by Andrew Ferguson and the Warriors were awarded a penalty try. Vainikolo then snuck by an unguarded side of a ruck and just like that it was 19-19 in the 29th minute.
Now it is difficult to criticize anything in a 64-31 victory. However, if you had to it would be those 14 minutes for the Arrows. The Arrows defense was constantly scrambling and struggled to regain their structure. There was plenty of missed tackles and even a player earning a yellow card for a trip. In particular, the Arrows really struggled to defend Lauti and Don Pati during these 14 minutes. The two were constantly able to pick up plenty of metres as the Arrows struggled to put a hand on them. Ultimately, the Arrows appeared to be stunned that Utah was able to erase their lead so quickly.
However, the Toronto Arrows did what all good teams must do. They bounced back from that adversity. Just prior to the end of the first half, the Arrows began deploying of the best defensive strategies you can do as a rugby team; scoring 6 more tries. Kolby Francis (who was a late addition to the starting lineup after Jack Nay became unavailable) scored his 4th try of the year on a pick and go play to give the Arrows a bonus point and a 26-19 lead going into halftime. After the break, Lucas Rumball ran over 3 Warriors’ defenders to score his first try of the year. Then it was Marcello Wainwright who picked the ball out of the back of the scrum for his 2nd try of the year. The wingers would then take over as Avery Oitomen, Gaston Mieres, and Kainoa Lloyd all added their name to the score sheet. Mieres had the nicest try of the match as he perfectly read a Tim O’Malley pass, intercepted it and jogged in for the try. As all of this was happening, Sam Malcolm went 8/9 on conversion and added one penalty goal for a 19 point game. The game would end 64-31 (Lauti and NolanTuamoheloa had 2nd half tries for Utah) as the Arrows set the MLR record for most points in a game. They set that record against a team that had allowed the 3rd least points all year heading into this game.
The most impressive thing about the Arrows offensive output against Utah was that they had 9 different try scorers. Brouwer, Sheppard, Moor, Francis, Rumball, Wainwright, Oitomen, Mieres, and Lloyd all found their way across the try line. All 9 of the tries also came from different looks. The Arrows found ways to constantly attack the Utah defense and avoided tipping their hand by always changing the angle of attack. The tries were also split evenly between the forwards and backs. The forwards had 5 tries and the backs had 4 proving that the Arrows are capable of scoring from anywhere on the field and in a variety of ways.
In a 64 point performance, it is clear that everyone played great. However, I would like to highlight a few performances. First off, the Arrows are one of the deepest teams in MLR and the Arrows’ wing is easily the deepest position in the league. Moor, Oitomen, Mieres (who was playing wing after Sauder came on), and Lloyd all had tries in this match. It’s scary to think that Leandro Leivas is the man who has to stay in the press box. It is even scarier to think that teams have to attempt to defend this. I say “attempt” because I’m not too sure you can.
The two Kiwis had great games as well. Morgan Mitchell was a force in the scrum once again. He also had a number of big carries and linebreak that would eventually lead to Sheppard’s try. Perhaps, Mitchell’s shining moment came in the 43rd minute. Ferguson picked up the ball from the back of a ruck and looked to pass to Mitchell. The pass was well short, but Mitchell made an unreal diving catch and kept the ball alive for the Arrows. Sam Malcolm was excellent with the boot once again. He was 9/10 on the day. He also had a fantastic try assist on Moor’s try, as he hit Moor in stride with a perfect wide pass. Malcolm did all of this after being laid out on a late hit from Saia ‘Uhila. Malcolm appeared to be hurt on the play as he was certainly shaken up by the hit. He shook it off though and was once again one of the best players on the field.
In previous game recaps, I have often mentioned that the Arrows struggle in the lineout. Well, the Arrows’ pack certainly put in some hard work during that bye week because the lineout was fantastic against Utah. To open the scoring just 5 minutes in, Ng placed a beautifully thrown long ball to Peter Milazzo. After Milazzo came down with it, Francis popped the ball off to Brouwer who scored his first try of the year on a perfectly executed set piece play. Similarly, Moor’s try also began with a great lineout. Mitchell and Paul Ciulini had a great lift for Rumball. Rumball made a nice one-handed catch to haul in Ng’s throw. A few phases later Moor would score. Rumball was excellent in the lineout especially when the Arrows were in an offensive position. Milazzo is simply a beast on the defensive side. Milazzo added 2 more lineout steals to increase his league-leading total to 6. After some early season struggles, it was great to see that the lineout was probably the strongest element of the Arrows game tonight.
It was a fantastic way to end their 8 game road trip. The Arrows set an MLR record scoring 64 points. They had 9 different try scorers in the game and their kicker was once again automatic. The lineout looks to be in fine form and they have their full-strength squad together. They end their road trip with a 4-4-0 record and are coming home with their eyes on a playoff spot. There has been plenty of talk about running the table at home. Now it’s time to do it. The Toronto Arrows will finally have their home opener on Sunday, April 7th at York Alumni Stadium versus the NOLA Gold.