The Toronto Arrows found themselves down 20-3 early in the second half. The San Diego Legion were in complete control of the match. They had all the possession, all the territory, and the Arrows were struggling to contain the Legion offense. The Legion boasts one of the best defenses in the league and it was on full display in the first half as Toronto only managed to put 3 points on the board. The only reason the Arrows were even in the game at this point was the fact that San Diego was taking an abundance of penalties. A Joe Pietersen drop goal gave the Legion a 17 point lead in the 43rd minute of the game. Things were looking very bleak for the blue and white. Then Avery Oitomen took over. The 19-year-old dominated the 2nd half of this game. Oitomen had 2 tries and led the way as the Arrows scored 24 unanswered points to defeat the Legion 27-20.
The Toronto Arrows played a dreadful opening half of this game. Right from the opening kickoff, Marcello Wainwright dropped a Sam Malcolm pass that led to a big line break from Dylan Audsley. Joe Pietersen then set up the Legion’s newest addition Jordan Manihera for the game’s opening try just 45 seconds into the game. Pietersen would slot the conversion and the Arrows were down 7-0 before all the fans could make it to their seats. The first half went downhill from there. San Diego completely dominated every aspect of the game. They controlled all the possession and all the territory as the entire half was played in the Arrows end. They were finding holes in the Toronto defense and were exploiting them frequently. Psalm Wooching would pick up the Legion’s second try despite the questionable grounding (however Andrew Ferguson definitely deserved a high tackle for on the play so it was probably fair to award it). Peitersen would add a penalty as the half ended 17-3 in San Diego’s favour.
Toronto made numerous errors in the first half. Whenever they managed to gain possession of the ball, they would immediately cough it up. Simple handling errors cost them possession of the ball far too frequently. Usually, the Arrows dominate the scrum but found themselves outmatched against Paddy Ryan and the Legion. Most of all, the Arrows struggled mightily against the MLR’s best lineout throughout the entire game. Manihera stole a number of the Arrows lineouts, and the Arrows struggled to defend when it was San Diego’s ball. For myself, the Arrows lineout struggles were really highlighted by the lineout at the 45th minute of the game. Andrew Quattrin sets up for his throw, the Arrows begin to move and then no one really seems to know who is supposed to jump or where the ball is going. Just mass confusion. Quattrin eventually just throws it over everyone. Fortunately, Kolby Francis was able to make a nice play to keep possession. However, things would begin to turnaround for the Arrows soon after that.
Six minutes later Spencer Jones would find Avery Oitomen with a slick pass as Oitomen hit a hole in the Legion line with pace. After the line break, Oitomen beat Kyle Rogers 1-on-1 for the Arrows first try of the match. Oitomen’s speed was on full display and Rogers really had no chance at defending him. Not even two minutes later Guiseppe Du Toit would lead a counterattack that sent Dan Moor deep inside the Legion’s 22. After some great work and a few phases, Ferguson found Oitomen who sprinted through a gaping hole between Rogers and Jasa Veremalua for his 2nd try of the game. Oitomen was once again able to utilize his incredible speed and took a great line for the try. Oitomen’s 2 tries in this game increase his season total to 5 which ties him with the Glendale Raptors winger John Ryberg for the league lead. Oitomen is off to an incredible start to his professional rugby career. We are now 6 games into the season and Oitomen leads his team in try scoring as a 19-year-old. If he can keep up this level of play it won’t be long before Kingsley Jones comes calling. Unfortunately, Oitomen’s night would end early as he appeared to hit his head when attempting to tackle Rogers and looked dazed getting back to his feet. Hopefully, he is good to go next Friday against Rugby United New York.
Oitomen wasn’t the only Arrow making massive line breaks, as Andrew Quattrin found a hole in the Legion’s defense. He was stopped just short of the try line, but Mike Sheppard was there in support and scored the try to give the Arrows the lead for the first time in the match. Sam Malcolm would add a penalty to finish of his perfect 5/5 night to give the Arrows the 27-20 lead. Soon after, Ryan was subbed off and the Arrows scrum looked dominant again. The scrum was able to win a number of key penalties late in the game. In the 79th minute, the scrum won a penalty and the Arrows kicked for touch. With a chance to seal the game at the lineout, Steven Ng’s throw was off and the Legion stole the ball. Fortunately, San Diego would knock it on ending the game. The Arrows have every right to be excited about the impressive comeback and they deserve to celebrate it. However, their lineout is becoming a big area of concern. In that situation you want the forwards to be able to close the game out, not give the opposing team one final shot.
Ultimately this is a massive win for the Arrows. Scoring 24 unanswered points to come back from being down 17 is no easy task. To do it against the MLR’s best defense at home is even more impressive. The Arrows will be looking to build off this win moving forward. Up next is fellow expansion team Rugby United New York. It will be a quick turnaround as the Arrows will take on RUNY in the first MLR game in the Big Apple on Friday night. The game will give Avery Oitomen a chance to take sole possession of the MLR try scoring lead.
Also shoutout to Bryan Ray for coming up with the Oitomen Empire and Dan Power for working it into the broadcast. This is an amazing nickname and we should stick with it.