Arrows Drop Final Game As World's Longest Road Trip Comes To An End
Source: Justin L. Walker / New England Free Jacks
The Toronto Arrows dropped their final game of this grueling 2021 to the New England Free Jacks by a score of 28-17. The loss ultimately means that the Arrows conclude the world’s longest rugby tour with a 5-11-0 record finishing 6th in the Eastern Conference.
The game got off to a great start for the Arrows. They had complete control of the possession and territory throughout the opening 25 minutes. Unfortunately, the Free Jacks defense was up for the challenge and all the Arrows had to show for it was a Sam Malcolm penalty in the 18th minute.
The game began in the 27th minute. Poasa Waqanibau stole the ball in the breakdown and the Free Jacks quickly made their way up the field thanks to a Harry Barlow run. Mike Sheppard actually managed to get the ball back, but John Sheridan was called for a side entry at the ruck. Stephan Coetzee would score through the maul at the ensuing lineout.
Joe Johnston would soon get a steal of his own. A few Arrows’ penalties later and Vili Toluta’u would score from another lineout maul. Before the half was out, Coetzee would be penalized for a high-tackle on Malcolm. Malcolm then kicked to 5m and the Arrows’ set up a lineout. Unfortunately, Jack McRogers’ throw was not straight and the Arrows squandered the opportunity.
Ultimately, despite having 67% territory and 57% possession at the break, the Arrows went to the sheds down 14-3 thanks to two turnovers that resulted in tries.
Injuries began to pile up early in the second half. Malcolm did his best to battle through a leg injury. He limped around to his position on the pitch. Eventually, he was reluctantly removed from the game. Malcolm talked to all the Arrows’ backs on his way off truly illustrating why Dan Moor said he has the heart of a lion. Jason Higgins was the replacement and Andrew Ferguson moved to flyhalf.
The Arrows would soon have to empty the bench. In the 56th minute Ronan Foley was replaced by Alex Russell meaning the Arrows were going to need to close out the final 24 minutes of their season with seven forwards and eight backs on the pitch. Captain Guiseppe du Toit stepped up to cover flanker for the remainder of the game.
Harry Barlow and Conor Kindregan would add tries to give New England a 28-3 lead. Both tries once again using the lineout as the platform. Although, there was certainly a questionable call from the AR on Barlow’s try, which is a shame since the initial call from the referee was a New England forward pass.
Full credit to the Toronto Arrows as they showed incredible heart toward the end of this match. Tomás de la Vega had a lineout take, a brilliant carry and ultimately, pulled the ball out of the back of a ruck to smash through the New England defense for a try in the 62nd minute. Los Pumas would soon be at it again. De la Vega would earn a penalty and Manuel Montero would go quickly. Joaquín Tuculet followed up in support as Montero drew in the last defender to put Tuculet in the clear for a 7-point try.
As the game reached its closing moments, Wain Conradie broke free following a turnover and looked destined to score. Russell, playing in his first MLR game, tracked him down and made the try saving tackle forcing a knock-on in the process. It was the second brilliant try saver of the game following a heroic effort from Malcolm to prevent Mitch Wilson from scoring in the first half.
Ultimately, Russell’s tackle epitomized the Arrows’ season. They faced immense challenges throughout the year and things did not always go their way despite doing plenty right. In the end they never gave up and fought hard until the final whistle of the 2021 season.
After the match, well wishes and messages of thanks began pouring in for the Arrows on social media. Everyone in the Arrows’ organization sacrificed so much just to make the 2021 season happen and it is something no one will ever forget.
In a year where we spent most of the season in lockdown (in Ontario at least), the Toronto Arrows gave their fans something to look forward to each and every weekend. To close out the final match report of the season, I will echo all of those statements following yesterday’s match and say thank you to the Toronto Arrows! I cannot wait until that first home game in 2022.