Arrows Drop Season Opener To Host RATL, 21-14

Source: Major League Rugby

The Arrows didn’t exactly receive a warm welcome from their new roommates on Saturday night. Rugby ATL came out on top in a physical affair to open the 2021 Major League Rugby season.

All the scoring came in the game’s first 40 minutes. Jack McRogers opened the Arrows’ 2021 account almost immediately. He started the play with a brilliant line break and later ran a wonderful line while receiving a perfect pass from Taylor Adams. Under the new rules, this looked to be the Arrows first 7-point try (at the very least no conversion was shown on the broadcast). Chance Wenglewski immediately answered of the back of the RATL pack’s work at the lineout.

Tomás de la Vega and Johan Momsen would then trade tries as the rolling maul seemed to be the way to go for the game’s first 23 minutes. The game would stay 14-14 until the final play of the opening half. Neethling Gericke found Momsen at the lineout yet another maul was on. The Arrows were driven back and Jason Damm dotted down for the try. Bautista Ezcurra would add the extras to bring the score to 21-14 RATL.

The second half would see the Arrows relinquish their initial control of territory and possession. Momsen, Connor Cook, and Matt Heaton made life difficult for the Arrows at the breakdown. Of course, Lucas Rumball, de la Vega, and even Guiseppe du Toit would return the favour. However, in the end, it would be RATL that would win their share of the battles and grind out the victory, despite a last-ditch effort from Leandro Leivas down the wing.

One of my questions going into the match was who would be the Arrows kicker? We received our answer on Saturday night. Scrumhalf Andrew Ferguson stepped up and slotted one conversion following de la Vega’s try. Ferguson had one penalty attempt to follow a dominant Arrows’ scrum which they earned against the feed. Unfortunately, Ferguson pushed the attempt wide to the right. He would finish 1/2 on the day.

As a side note to Ferguson’s kicking, he also had a number of strong box kicks that allowed the Arrows kick chasers the time to recover the ball or put serious pressure on RATL’s back three.

Another question I had going into the match was how would the new laws look. Well, there was a moment in this game that was certainly a poor advertisement for the new scrum resets rule. Toronto had the upper hand in the scrum throughout the game. When RATL was dinged for being offside in the 48th minute, Rumball elected for the scrum right away.

The first scrum went down right away resulting in the first reset. The second scrum saw Gastón Cortes and Paul Ciulini steamroll through Wenglewski and Marno Redelinghuys resulting in a penalty. Rumball wanted another scrum. The referee informed him that no, he can’t do that anymore.

After some deliberation, they opted for the 5m lineout. RATL’s defensive lineout was causing some issues for Toronto with Cook and Momsen, in particular, causing some disruptions. Toronto did win this lineout but failed to score on the play.

I think what we saw here, was a team with a strong scrum lose out on an attacking option when being awarded a penalty just 7m out. By only allowing one reset, I think you are taking a weapon out of a lot of teams’ arsenals. RATL’s lineout is better than their scrum, but the Arrows could not take advantage of a perceived strength over their opponent.

Ultimately, I feel that at this moment, the Arrows were awarded a penalty, but RATL actually benefited from it. The measure is supposed to increase more action. Does the next scrum take much longer to set up than Adams kicking the ball to touch, a quick huddle, and the lineout? A side effect of the rule may also be that referees start calling penalties on things that they would have otherwise let go of and simply reset the scrum. Regardless, it is the rule now so teams will need to adjust to it.

Despite the loss, I don’t believe there is too much to be concerned about for Arrows’ fans. Skills and execution both with the ball in hand and at the lineout will need to be shored up. Two of RATL’s tries came off the back of a lineout maul. However, I didn’t see a great cause for alarm either. It’s the first game back in over a year, the execution will return. Same for many of the other teams across the league.

Rumball was a menace as he created plenty of turnovers for the Arrows. Ben LeSage played well, although probably not as much as desired due to a cut sustained on his forehead. LeSage did have a great try-saving tackle on Cook, some great kick chases, and a good line break during his shift. The two newly appointed co-captains are already showing why they received those honours.

Of note in the match was an incident in the 28th minute where RATL teammates Martini Talapusi and Harley Davidson collided going for a high ball. Davidson stayed down for quite some time. Medical staff immediately called for the stretcher and Davidson was taken to a nearby hospital. Hopefully, Davidson will be alright and have a speedy recovery.

*As a late amendment to this article, Bryan Ray is reporting that there was a red card given to prop Gastón Cortes in the 68th minute. The broadcast did not show the referee giving the card to Cortes, nor show a replay of the incident. Therefore, it is difficult to comment on. However, it would be interesting to see what additional discipline comes from this.

The Arrows (0-1-0) will look to bounce back against the Utah Warriors (1-0-0) next Saturday at 9pm.

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