Source: Prensa UAR via Flickr
The Arrows continued to restock their quiver for the 2021 season. On Tuesday afternoon, the Arrows announced that prop Richie Asiata, hooker Steven Ng, lock/No. 8 Kolby Francis, centre Spencer Jones will all be donning the blue and white in 2021. The Arrows also officially introduced the first new face to the club by signing flyhalf/fullback Juan Cruz González.
It did not take long to find a replacement for Sam Malcolm. González occupies both the flyhalf and fullback positions much like Malcolm. However, they both play contrasting styles as Malcolm is a more defensive minded player whereas González is always thinking about offense. Ultimately, González should be a good fit at fullback if paired with Tayler Adams at 10. Adams’ “x-factor” play style combined with González offensively minded style of play should make for some exciting rugby.
González played his club rugby for Club Universitario de Buenos Aires (CUBA), the same club as Arrows’ flanker Tomás de la Vega. In 2013, he played an integral role in helping CUBA win the URBA Top 12 Championship. González has also represented Argentina with both the Los Pumas 7s and Argentina XV. It is with Argentina XV (17 appearances) where he has had the most success of his career.
He has repeatedly stared at the Americas Rugby Championship earning a spot on the ARN tournament Dream Teams in 2016 and 2018. Perhaps González’s best individual performance came during a match with Toulon in July 2017. González had 25 points (2 tries, 6 conversions, and a penalty) as the Argentina XV dispatched their Top 14 foes 45-24.
Despite the high totals, arguably his best play of the match did not count toward his point total. González had a beautiful chip over the top that he regathered himself, and just before taking a massive hit, he made a perfect pass to Bautista Delguy on the wing who cruised in for the try. You can watch the highlights of that match here.
González was showing plenty of promise early in his career. Unfortunately, a back injury forced him into an early retirement 2018 at just 25 years old. However, retirement did not last long. González persevered and returned to the pitch for CUBA’s 2019 season. Most recently he was playing with CAU Madrid prior to COVID-19 shutting down the Spanish competition’s 2019-2020 season.
Richie Asiata was a great addition to the squad after Morgan Mitchell departed the club following the 2019 season (Kamaishi Seawaves just take everyone). Asiata took over the role as the Arrow’s ball carrying prop. His unique running style is dynamic for a prop and that makes him an incredibly exciting player to watch. Asiata finished the shortened 2020 season with 40 carries for 198 metres and 25 tackles.
Asiata also played a major role in the Arrows scrum dominance this year. He can play both loosehead and tighthead prop (but I prefer him on the loosehead side). Arrows fans should be excited about what he can do over the course of a full season.
Steven Ng often comes off the bench in relief of Andrew Quattrin and has thrived in the role. Ng has played in all 22 Arrows games and has played a vital role in some big victories. Most notably, Ng scored a 78th minute try to defeat the San Diego Legion in week 15 last year. Ng had 17 tackles in his 103 minutes during the 2020 season.
Ng’s try against San Diego was set up by a terrific lineout steal by Kolby Francis that allowed the Arrows to get the ball back. Francis is capable of playing both lock and in the back row for the Arrows. Following Mike Sheppard’s suspension, Francis saw his minutes increase as he took Sheppard’s place in the Arrows’ engine room. Francis has amassed 5 tries in his Arrows career (all during the 2019 season). At the end of the 2020 season Francis had made 28 tackles at a 93% completion rate.
Francis has thrived as an impact sub in MLR. His ability to play both lock and No. 8 provides the Arrows with plenty of versatility off the bench. Francis can always be looked to have a big impact late in the game (such as that lineout steal to set up Ng’s try). However, he has also demonstrated that he is more than capable of starting in MLR. Lock and back row are incredibly competitive spots on the Arrows. I look forward to seeing if Francis can stake a claim on either the 4,5, or 8 jersey in the future.
Spencer Jones missed all five games in 2020 due to injury. It’s unfortunate as Jones had a terrific year in 2019. Jones worked well with Guiseppe du Toit in the centres and had a massive impact on the club. In the 2019 season, Jones scored 3 tries, ran for 719 metres, and made 159 tackles. The Arrows added Ben LeSage for the 2020 season which gave the squad insane centre depth. Due to Jones’s injury, we never got to see how that competition for the 13 jersey would have played out. Hopefully, we will get to see it next year.
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