Source: Gavin Napier via @TorontoArrows
The Toronto Arrows picked up their 4th straight win in a row as they defeated the Austin Elite 24-13. With the win, the Arrows improve to 8-5-0 on the season. Most importantly they got tries from Andrew Ferguson, Leandro Leivas, Rob Brouwer, and Kainoa Lloyd to pick up a bonus point. With that, the Arrows vault themselves into a playoff spot and now sit 3rd overall as we head into the rest of week 16.
The Toronto Arrows got off to a slow start in the opening half. Austin was able to jump out to a 3-0 lead thanks to the boot of Andres Vilaseca. Despite Toronto controlling the bulk of the possession and territory, they just could not capitalize on their early chances. The wet conditions led to a few knock-ons and that would be a trend that would continue throughout the game for both sides. The Arrows squandered a few opportunities and Austin would eventually extend the lead on another penalty by Vilaseca. The Arrows pressure would eventually pay off. Andrew Ferguson would call his own number and score the Arrows first try of the match. He would then convert his own try as he took over the kicking duties from the absent Sam Malcolm. The Arrows would strike again as Shawn Windsor made a nice offload to Leandro Leivas. Leivas ended up in a one-on-one situation with Soheyl Jaoudat. Leivas dropped his shoulder and turned Jaoudat into a minor inconvenience, a speed bump on his way to scoring his 3rd try in as many games. It was an amazing display and one of the best Arrows tries of the year. Leivas’ try would send the Arrows to the sheds up 14-6 at halftime.
The 2nd half would see some of the Arrows regulars start to trickle back onto the pitch as Mike Sheppard replaced Josh Van Horne right at halftime. The Arrows would continue to put pressure on the Austin defence. Eventually, Rob Brouwer would pounce on a Ferguson kick to score the opening try of the 2nd half. Despite not having a lot of the usual starters in the lineup, the Arrows were clearly the better team in this game. This was especially evident in the scrums where they routinely blew through the Austin pack and were winning the ball against the feed. As the Arrows continued to build pressure. Juan Echeverria was sin-binned. On the ensuing scrum, the Arrows dominated again. Ferguson sent one pass to Lloyd. Lloyd was then faced with 2 Austin defenders in front of him. In hindsight, Austin probably should’ve had 3 or 4 because Lloyd powered his way through both of them. This try was vital because it allowed the Arrows to pick up the 4 try bonus point. Austin would salvage some pride with a late try from Simon Bienvenu but it would be far too little, too late. The Arrows would defeat Austin 24-13 and move up to 3rd in the MLR standings.
Ultimately, the Arrows did exactly what they needed to do. It wasn’t exactly pretty, but the Arrows picked up 5 points in the standings against the Austin Elite. The victory puts the Arrows back into a playoff spot. “It feels great to finally get up into that top 4” said captain Dan Moor following the game. The bonus point victory vaults the Arrows into 3rd place overall in MLR.
The wet conditions did lead to plenty of execution errors on both sides throughout the match. The Arrows squandered a few try-scoring opportunities with ball handling errors. “It wasn’t perfect. It was a bit ugly at moments”, admitted Moor and it’s true. At times the game did look sloppy and there was a lack of execution at certain moments. However, Moor also pointed out a glaring positive about this game. “We showed some good progression with how we manage the game”. The Arrows game management has been terrific throughout this winning streak. Once again, the Arrows had the lion’s share of the possession and territory. Ferguson and Parfrey did a solid job ensuring the Arrows were always in the right part of the park. The Arrows are the ones that are dictating the pace of play and always seem to be in possession of the ball at key moments of the game.
Shawn Windsor had a fantastic game at fullback. He had a few dynamic runs and created plenty of scoring opportunities for his teammates. Windsor’s offload is what sprung Leivas en route to his try. He also had a filthy behind the back pass to Lloyd that will be on all the highlight reels at the end of the year. Windsor’s last time out was when he replaced the injured Sam Malcolm at flyhalf during the Arrows win over the Houston SaberCats. After that game, the Arrows announced the signing of Parfrey. Parfrey was at flyhalf against Austin and played well. Parfrey had a number of nice plays and tried some really wide cut out passes. Ultimately, Parfrey seems to have emerged as the 2nd option at flyhalf. His play accompanied by the fact that Windsor had a great game and looks far more comfortable at fullback might solidify this.
The Arrows seem to be playing with a lot of confidence right now. The Leivas’ and Lloyd tries were two key examples of it. On both plays, they just seemed to decide that there was no way Austin could prevent them from scoring this try and ultimately, they could not. The Arrows have every reason to be confident right now. This is their 4th win in a row and they are back in a playoff spot. They have knocked off the defending champions and a top 2 team in the league. Despite not having their full squad truly available to them due to the short week, their depth really stepped up and earned them the much-needed bonus point victory. Now the Arrows short week continues. They have just 2 days off before they take on the Utah Warriors on Sunday afternoon. Moor believes that the Arrows need to “look after our bodies. Recovery is key if we want to put a performance together on Sunday. So that’s the most important thing right now”.
The Arrows take on the Utah Warriors at 2pm on Sunday. The bodies will need to recover quickly, but many of the starters should return to the lineup. In a tight playoff race, the Arrows will once again need the bonus point victory.