Arrows End Legion's Streak
Source: MARK JANZEN/THE CANADIAN PRESS
The Toronto Arrows defeated the San Diego Legion 23-19 in an absolutely thrilling game to open up their tenure at Lamport Stadium. The Arrows have now won three in a row for the first time in their franchises’ history. The Arrows received tries from Leandro Leivas and Steven Ng and the boot of Sam Malcolm was perfect once again.
The Arrows dominated the opening half of this game. They came out of the gate strong and did plenty of excellent work as they built up some phases. Eventually, Paul Ciulini crossed over the line, but it was called back for a forward pass. They continued with much of the same. The Arrows would put constant pressure on San Diego, but would always come away empty handed. San Diego finally got their chance. Joe Pietersen broke through the Arrows line after a turnover. He offloaded to du Plessis and the Legion opened the scoring in the 19th minute despite barely having any possession. Sam Malcolm’s boot would get 3 of those points back quickly. San Diego would begin to run into some penalty trouble and started to rack up some intentional knock-ons. Eventually, JP du Plessis would pick up a yellow card for committing another intentional knock-on. Malcolm would add another penalty during du Plessis’ 10 minutes in the bin. The Arrows looked to be heading into halftime with a narrow 6-5 lead. However, Mikey Te’o would pounce on a dropped pass and dash 70m for a try right on halftime. Pietersen made the conversion this time and the Arrows were down 12-6 at halftime despite being the better team for the entire 40 minutes. The entire half was played inside the San Diego end. San Diego barely had the ball. However, they got 2 chances and they capitalized on those 2 chances.
The second half opened with Malcolm slotting another penalty to cut the lead to just 3. Soon after San Diego would have a few try-scoring chances. The first ended when Paddy Ryan attempted to crawl across the line and was penalized for the double movement. The second ended when Patrick Parfrey made an outstanding diving play to break up an offload from Pietersen to du Plessis right on try line. After that big Parfrey play the Arrows began to build up some pressure on San Diego again. However, they still could not crack the Legion defense. For the entire game, the Legion defense would bend but not break. Eventually, the Arrows would break it. Leandro Leivas was not supposed to be playing in this game. Guissepe du Toit was originally named as the starting inside centre. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury late in the week and was removed from the lineup. Parfrey replaced du Toit in the starting lineup and Leivas took Parfrey’s spot in the reserves. Leivas entered the game at the 2nd half hydration break. With Nate Augspurger in the sin bin (high tackle), Parfrey would suck in 3 Legion defenders before finding Leivas with a pass. Leivas exploded through that hole and beat Te’o to the corner for the Arrows first try of the match. “We know they have a very fast defense. So, when I see the gap at full ball and I had a run right to the ingoal” Leivas said of the play. Leivas also added, “That’s the only thing on my mind; just make tries”. Leivas’ mindset put the Arrows up 16-12 at a crucial juncture in the game. Pietersen would waste no time getting Leivas’ try back as he capitalized on a set piece play from a 5m scrum just minutes later. This try put San Diego up 19-16 with 7 minutes left. The Arrows battled back, determined to leave Lamport Stadium with a win. Leivas had another solid run and found Oitomen with an offload, but Oitomen would be hit into touch. The ensuing lineout was stolen by Kolby Francis who tipped the ball down to John Moonlight and the Arrows kept the pressure on. That pressure led to Aaron Mitchell being sent off for cynical play as he tried to slow the Arrows down. San Diego earned their 3rd yellow card of the game. This set up a 5m scrum for the Arrows. Francis took the ball from the back of the scrum and crashed towards the Legion line. He came up short, but Steven Ng followed up the play, scooped and scored to put the Arrows on top with just 90 seconds left. Ferguson would boot the ball into touch and the Arrows earned a hard-fought 23-19 victory over the San Diego Legion.
This was easily the most entertaining game of the Arrows season. It was two excellent teams going toe-to-toe for 80 minutes. A great offense vs a great defense. It came down to a try with 90 seconds left. That try was the 3rd lead change in the final 15 minutes. Just a lot of fun!
San Diego did two things that really stood out in this game. They played some great defense (as you would expect from the best defensive team in the league) and they took a lot of penalties. The Arrows had the ball for essentially the entire first half. The Arrows made two mistakes in that half. The two mistakes became tries. This, accompanied with San Diego thwarting all try scoring attempts from the Arrows, saw them head into halftime with a 12-6 lead in a game where they barely touched the ball. The Arrows had pressure on San Diego for the entire half, yet could solve their defense. The only points the Arrows could muster were off of Sam Malcolm’s penalties. Which brings us to point number 2. Oh my goodness did San Diego take a lot of penalties. They got 3 yellow cards in this game for an intentional knock-on, a high tackle, and cynical play. The odd thing was is that there seemed to be plenty of more opportunities for more yellows and other penalties. In the 33rd minute, while du Plessis was still serving his yellow for an intentional knock-on, San Diego appeared to once again intentionally knock-on to break up an Arrows scoring chance. Moor spoke with the ref but to no avail and it was ruled simply as a regular knock on. The Legion also appeared offside on a number of occasions. Especially, in the backs. There seemed to be a very blurred offside line throughout this game. Regardless, you can’t blame San Diego for using what the ref would give them and they were able to keep the Arrows tryless for 65 minutes before they finally cracked under the immense pressure the Arrows were applying all game.
The Arrows did a great job of staying patient despite their dominant play not yielding results early on. “We knew that it’s going to be a full 80 minutes and the game would be resolved in the end,” Leivas said following the game. The patience paid off as the Arrows picked up tries from Leivas and Ng late in the game to earn the victory. Dan Moor also believes that more patience was among the crucial halftime adjustments for the club. “In the 2nd we took a little bit more depth, we were a little bit more patient, didn’t force things and ended up on the right side of the scoreboard.” Those adjustments can really be seen on Leivas’ try. The backs are playing in a deeper line than the first half and Parfrey had the patience to wait until Pietersen committed as well before passing to Leivas. The Arrows never seemed deterred by the fact that they were dominant at times but not coming away with the points. The coaches and players made the appropriate adjustments to counter San Diego’s defensive tactics (most notably how fast the got off the line) and it allowed them to come away with the win.
There were plenty of strong performances from Arrows players in this game. Leivas was excellent when he came on after the water break. He scored the try, but also nearly set up a few others. Francis had the big lineout steal that eventually led to Ng’s try. Mitchell, Sheppard, and Moor were all great as usual. However, when assessing the individual play of these players, sometimes it’s best to just let their teammates do it for you. Captain Dan Moor had some massive shout outs following the game: “The thing about our team is we get such great contributions from guys that are unsung heroes. One guy is Pete Milazzo. Marcello Wainwright. They get through so much work, they do so much on the pitch and probably don’t get the recognition that they deserve. Those two boys had another big game. Marchy particularly carrying the ball. I thought Pat Parfrey came in and played awesome. John Moonlight is such an incredible athlete and really played well today. And you know, Sam Malcolm. He’s got the heart of a lion. Some guys underestimate him because he is a small size guy. But he’s got the heart of a lion and showed it again today. Just putting us in the right areas of the park to play, being really physical, making nice breaks, and putting boys through holes. Fantastic team effort across the board”. Milazzo has been an absolute beast this season and is the only Arrow to have played every second of every game this year. Wainwright was coming off of a First XV appearance and was a monster again today. As Moor alluded to, he had a number of incredibly strong carries. These guys certainly deserve more recognition. Parfrey had the big defensive play and the pass that sprung Leivas for their first try. Moonlight continues to grow his legendary status every game. Malcolm was a perfect 5/5 from his boot today and was once again one of the best players on the pitch. Additionally, Moor mentioned the unsung heroes of this team. It speaks volumes of the depth on this team that a critical try in the game was set up by a guy that wasn’t supposed to start and scored by a guy that wasn’t originally in the lineup. Everyone on the Arrows is capable of stepping up when needed and creating a few magic moments during each game. It truly was a fantastic team win and it came against one of the best team’s in the league.
The Arrows will look to keep their winning streak going as they take on the Austin Elite this Thursday at York University.