Source: Colorado Raptors
John Ryberg and Mika Kruse each ran in a try as the Colorado Raptors handed the Toronto Arrows their first loss of the 2020 season by a score of 22-19. In doing so, the Raptors have also ended the Arrows regular-season winning streak at 11 games dating back to their 35-21 victory over the Houston SaberCats on April 21st last year.
The match did not come to a close without some controversy. Throughout the 80 minutes, the officiating was questionable. After numerous calls, you could see the general confusion in the body language of both players on the Arrows and Raptors. In particular when captains Lucas Rumball and Luke White were speaking with the referee. The most egregious mistake was on the final play of the match. The Arrows had an attacking lineout just metres from the Colorado tryline.
They set up a maul and began to drive. The official used a bizarre combination of two hand signals leading some Arrows to believe that they had an advantage. In reality, he was just indicating to scrumhalf Riley Di Nardo to use the ball. His arm was halfway between the signal for both a penalty advantage and use it. Understandably some players on the pitch thought there was an advantage, others did not. Ultimately, not having a clear call just created mass confusion on a critical play in the match.
Although the officiating left something to be desired, the loss can not be pinned on that. It was a fairly sloppy game from both sides. The Arrows made a handful of uncharacteristic errors throughout the match. The Arrows struggled to effectively move the ball through the hands of the backs. Often times passes would go to the deck, be out of reach, or otherwise just inaccurate. The precision with the ball in hand that we are accustomed to seeing from the Arrows just wasn’t there throughout the match.
The biggest handling error in the match came from Leandro Leivas. The Raptors had the restart after halftime and Ata Malifa sent the ball high in the air. Leivas misplayed the ball allowing it to spill forward. Mika Kruse scooped it and ran in the Raptors 2nd try of the match just seconds into the half. It was a bizarre play to watch as Leivas typically has steady hands but also because no Arrow seemed to be in a position to make a tackle on Kruse as he ran untouched into the in-goal area.
The Arrows attack seemed out of sorts throughout the match. There was one play where Lucas Rumball and Tomas de la Vega were both set up to receive a pass from Andrew Ferguson. Both Rumball and de la Vega looked like they thought they were receiving the ball. The end result was they ran into each other resulting in an obstruction penalty. The play just goes to show how out of sync the Arrows attack was throughout the match.
To give credit where credit is due, the Raptors defense was great. They had numerous big moments throughout the match. After Rene Ranger concede a yellow (for a rather dumb cynical play) the Arrows set up a lineout just 5m out. The Raptors defense held strong with White, Kruse, Sam Slade, Chad Gough, and Robbie Petzer all making some big tackle during a lengthy goal line stand while down a man. Kruse ultimately ended it by dragging Malcolm into touch. Slade would have a big linebreak to get the Raptors out of danger (and Andrew Quattrin would get a yellow of his own on the play).
The Raptors defense had a big impact throughout the match. Gough helped start a try scoring play with a massive hit on Kolby Francis. Francis would spill the ball and Conor Cook would begin the counter-attack. Ultimately, the play would end with Ranger passing to an open Ryberg on the wing to finish off the try.
The Arrows attack seemed disjointed throughout the match, but part of that was some solid line speed from the Raptors. White, Slade, Ranger, and Gough all had great games on the defensive side of the ball. Toronto struggled to generate much on attack. The Raptors had two yellow cards throughout the match leaving them to play a combined 13 minutes down a man with the Arrows only able to muster up 3 points during that time.
Despite it being a subpar game from the Arrows, there are still elements that they can be pleased with. The set-piece looked solid throughout the match. The scrum was not as dominant as we are used to it being, but it still created a solid platform. The Arrows lone try was scored using the scrum as a platform. The pack was steady and the backs ran a well-executed play from the set-piece. Tayler Adams sent Gaston Mieres through a gaping hole in the Raptors defense and Mieres cruised in for the try.
The lineout was solid as well. De la Vega had a huge night with take after take. He also added a steal for good measure. The Arrows did seem to struggle a bit on the maul following the lineout. Long withstanding drives were rare and one occasion Slade made his way completely through the maul to steal the ball. The Arrows had a few opportunities to put points on the board following penalties. The opted to go for the corner and came up empty-handed on a few occasions.
Sam Malcolm was once again fantastic with his boot as he was 5/5 for a total of 14 points. Malcolm was also excellent in defense throughout the match. Adams also had a great game with his boot. Every kick he made just seemed to soar. Adams was able to give the Arrows quality field position, maximize Raptors penalties, and get his squad out of danger.
Prior to the match, the Colorado Raptors or the staff at Infinity Park failed to play the Canadian national anthem. This is not the first time that this has happened to the Arrows, but it is possibly the first time it has actually been caught on the broadcast.
Understandably, many Canadian MLR fans were upset about the move. The Raptors took to twitter to individually apologize to some fans. They also apologized to the Arrows profusely in person. Ultimately, not playing the Canadian anthem is a terrible look for the Raptors and MLR. Hopefully, it does not happen again.
The Arrows have a bye week in week 6. They will return to the pitch on March 20th to take on Rugby United New York. For all your Arrows and MLR news follow @BressetteTheJet on your favourite social media network.