Source: Seth McConnell
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!
You couldn’t see a single line on the pitch. There were snow banks on the touchlines. You could easily lose sight of the white ball against the white backdrop that mother nature provided. On this snowy Glendale night, the Raptors dominated the Toronto Arrows to earn a 22-0 bonus point victory in their home opener. The Raptors received tries from Chad Gough, Dylan Taikato-Simpson, Harley Davidson, and Zach Fenoglio en route to their victory. The Arrows suffer their first shutout loss in franchise history.
Early in the match, the Arrows earned a penalty in the scrum. Sam Malcolm stepped up for about a 35m kick at goal (I think it was 35m. Honestly, I have no idea, you couldn’t see any lines). Malcolm missed the kick, ending his successful streak at 14 kicks. This was in the 4th minute of the game and that was the end of the Arrows offensive push. At that point, Glendale began to take over. The entire game was played in the Arrows half as the Raptors had complete control of the ball all night. At the 10 minute mark, Connor Cook received a yellow card for a dangerous tackle. During his 10 minutes in the sin bin, the Arrows never threatened to score once. Mainly because the Arrows never had the ball. With Cook still in the sin bin, Chad Gough was able to score the first try of the game. The Raptors were able to string together a number of phases, breaking down the Arrows defense leading to Gough’s try. This would soon become a major theme in the game.
Simply put, the Arrows could get absolutely nothing going with the ball in hand last night. Every time the Arrows got the ball there would be one, maybe two phases before there would be a knock-on. The Arrows were never able to effectively move the ball through their hands and they failed to string together phases for any sustained pressure on Glendale’s defense. Inevitably, if there was no knock-on, an Arrows possession would end with a clearance kick. Those clearance kicks were often handled by Dylan Taikato-Simpson, Harley Davidson, or John Ryberg. The Raptors back 3 were able to completely control the territory in this game. If they chose to kick they found space and made it incredibly challenging for Shawn Windsor, Avery Oitomen, John Sheridan, or Sam Malcolm to handle. Taikato-Simpson, Davidson, and Ryberg were also very effective when they ran with the ball often finding holes in the Arrows’ defence or in Ryberg’s case just plowing through a few Arrows players like the Juggernaut. At times the game became a kicking dual, with the Arrows ending up on the wrong end of the majority of those exchanges. While the Arrows struggled to put together some phases and hold onto the ball, the Raptors had no such trouble. Taikato-Simpson and Davidson’s tries were the result of some great ball movement through the hands of the Raptors back line. Obviously, the weather was a major factor in the amount of handling errors the Arrows had. However, the Raptors were able to simplify their offensive schemes and execute their passes down the back line to create those tries and control the play the rest of the game.
However, despite the tough loss, there was one radiantly positive element of the Arrows game. Prior to all of Saturday’s MLR matches, usmlr.com released their brand new 2019 stats page (team stats, player stats). If you looked at the stats page before the Glendale Raptors played the Toronto Arrows on Saturday night you would have seen that the Raptors own the number 1 ranked scrum in MLR. This brings us the overwhelming positive element of the Arrows’ game in the face of a 22-0 defeat. The Arrows absolutely obliterated the number 1 ranked scrum in MLR. Right from the start of the game, the Arrows were driving back the Raptors’ scrum. Malcolm’s penalty attempt came as the result of a scrum penalty. The Arrows repeatedly won the ball against the feed. They did so by shoving Glendale so far the eventually Kolby Francis was standing on top of the ball. Glendale simply had no answer for it. Every single member of the pack was outstanding in the scrum last night. When all the subs came off the bench, they continued to dominate. It was like watching a polar bear push Bambi across a frozen pond. The loss may be difficult to swallow, but the scrum will provide the Arrows with a reason to optimistic going forward.
The Arrows will look to bounce back from this tough loss when they take on the San Diego Legion next week.