Source: @Rugbeeprop via @TorontoArrows
“It’s a privilege to captain. We got a great group of boys” said Sam Malcolm about being named the first non-Canadian captain in Toronto Arrows history. Malcolm took the lead by example approach to his first game with the captaincy. On the final play of the game, Malcolm teamed up with usual captain Dan Moor for a thunderous hit that drove Gannon Moore back into the Utah ingoal area ending the game. The Arrows would extend their winning streak to 5 as they defeated the Utah Warriors 28-21. The Arrows received tries from Morgan Mitchell, John Sheridan, one penalty try, and Spencer Jones to earn a critical bonus point as well.
The game did not get off to the best start for the Arrows. Utah kicked off and Jeremy Misailegalu was able to recover the ball with a nice take. Utah began immediately putting the pressure on. Eventually, Arthur Bergo would be the one to dot down for the game’s opening try just 2 minutes in. Soon after, the horrendous conditions would start to take their toll. Both teams had their share of knock-ons and other handling errors. This would be a trend that would continue throughout the match. Plenty of knock-ons lead to plenty of scrums and the Arrows had the upper hand in that area of the game. Morgan Mitchell was causing all kinds of problems for Franco van den Berg. Mitchell would draw a penalty that put the Arrows in attacking position. The Arrows would have one more great scrum before Mitchell would receive a pass from Jamie Mackenzie and proceed to absolutely bulldoze van den Berg for the Arrows first try of the match at the 21-minute mark. The Arrows would fall behind once again on a bizarre sequence. Tim O’Malley would knock on and the referee called advantage. Guiseppe du Toit would then send an errant pass to John Sheridan and Misailegalu would scoop it up and run in for a try. This gave Malcolm his first real chance to argue with the referee as captain. The Arrows felt that the advantage was too short and they have a case. Regardless it was 12-7 Warriors after 29 minutes. O’Malley would extend that lead to 15-7 shortly after. Spencer Jones would find his way through the Warriors’ defence and pass to Mike Sheppard who would be brought down. Mackenzie would then try to pass to Malcolm from the ruck, but Saia ‘Uhila would break it up from a very offside position earning himself a yellow card. With the Warriors’ scrum down a man, the Arrows obliterated it so the Warriors brought in Misailegalu to flank. The Arrows obliterated them again and John Sheridan picked up their 2nd try. The Arrows would trail 15-14 going at halftime.
The 2nd half began with O’Malley slotting another penalty. The handling errors on both sides continued as players struggled to find their grip in the cold, wet conditions. “One thing you can’t control is the conditions. You just have to deal with it on the field”, said Malcolm regarding the miserable weather throughout the game. The Arrows would begin to adapt to the conditions a lot better and some of the reserves (Rob Brouwer, Paul Ciulini, and Dan Moor) would enter the game and provide some energy in the 51st minute. The Arrows would immediately put pressure on Utah and Utah was forced to ground the ball in their own ingoal area. The Arrows flat out destroyed Utah in the ensuing scrum and earned a penalty try for their efforts. The penalty try gave the Arrows the lead for the first time in the match. As the game continued, both teams made execution errors as they continued to battle this weather. With the Warriors down 3 and 15 minutes remaining, O’Malley opted for the corner following an Arrows penalty. The Arrows would put together a nice goal-line stand featuring some big hits from Sheppard, Malcolm, Mieres, and Moonlight. Unfortunately, they would be called offside. O’Malley decided he wanted no part of that defense again and took the points tying the game at 21. With just 5 minutes remaining Malcolm created a hole and sent Jones through it. Jones got by Josh Reeves and scored in the corner. “Couple of phases to get into their territory. All of a sudden, we saw a bit of an overlap. And we’re just calling to Sam and just said “look there’s a bit of a hole there” and he ran his line, and everyone ran their lines and a hole opened up. Just got lucky, got the ball in the hand and finished”, Jones said of his pivotal try. The Arrows would close the game out with some solid defensive work to keep the Warriors pinned in their own end. Sheppard laid out Reeves with the biggest hit an Arrow has thrown all season. Ultimately, it would end with Malcolm taking down Moore in the Warriors ingoal area sealing a 28-21 victory for the Arrows.
The weather was a big factor in this game. Both teams had plenty of knock-ons, passes were slipping out of hands, the wind was carrying balls away from intended targets, and it made it challenging for both teams at times. However, when a game has plenty of knock-ons, there will be plenty of scrums. The Arrows scrum certainly made a difference today. Mitchell was handily winning his matchup with van den Berg early on. After van den Berg left the game with an injury, Mitchell continued his dominance over Huluholo Moungaloa. Ultimately, the scrum directly created two tries for the Arrows. The first was when the Arrows rolled through Utah to set up Sheridan’s try. The 2nd was the penalty try where the Arrows dominance in the scrum (especially with Brouwer back on the pitch) was far too much for the Warriors to handle. Additionally, the scrum also earned the Arrows the penalty that allowed them to gain significant territory in the build-up to Mitchell’s try. The Arrows scrum was dominant in this game and it was a major reason why the Arrows came out on top.
The final 10 minutes of this game was by far the best part of the game for the Arrows. They were able to execute effectively with the ball in hand. Moor had a great kick to pin the Warriors deep in their end. The Warriors won their lineout and cleared but the kick did not find touch and Moor started the counter-attack. The counter-attack led to Jones’ go ahead try. The Arrows did some great work in the phases to put themselves in a good position. After Jones’ try, the Arrows would lock the game down defensively. There were a number of big hits from Milazzo, Malcolm, Moor, Brouwer, Jones, and of course Sheppard. “It shows the want of the team. We wanted to hold them out. The boys had an extremely good effort in that last 10 minutes. We knew we had to defend. We put a lot of pressure on them with our line speed and forced them to make a mistake”, Malcolm said of the final play of the game that ultimately sealed the Arrows victory. The “want” to win this game was on clear display in the final 10 minutes when the Arrows found another gear and closed out the victory. The Arrows once again demonstrated patience in their game. They were patient in dealing with the poor conditions and they were patient in trailing most of the game. However, they played their best rugby when it mattered most and came away with a bonus point win because of it.
With the victory, the Arrows close out one of their toughest stretches of the season. The Arrows win 3 games in 3 days picking up 14 of a possible 15 points. “We’re real happy, real happy!” Jones exclaimed when asked about the Arrows current streak. The Arrows have plenty to be happy about. The win keeps the Arrows in 3rd place as they head into a much-deserved bye week. With 48 points, the Arrows are 4 points up on 5th place Rugby United New York. However, the Arrows are also just 4 points back of the San Diego Legion for first overall in MLR. The Arrows now head into their final bye week. After the bye, they will close out the season with two critical matches with the Glendale Raptors and Rugby United New York. The Arrows can be thrilled about how they have progressed in the last 5 weeks, however, there is still plenty of work to be done to hang on to that playoff spot and those final two games will be massive.