Arrows Face Uphill Battle To Playoffs

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The Toronto Arrows dropped a tight contest to the New England Free Jacks by a score of 14-12 on the weekend. With the loss the Arrows drop to 4-6-0 on the season. They now have 23 table points and sit last overall in the Eastern Conference, 11 points behind Rugby United New York for the final playoff spot in the East.

The game itself was a frustrating one and conditions did not make for the greatest spectacle. The Arrows left a handful of points on the board through missed penalties and trips inside the Free Jacks 22 that went unrewarded. Many of the stats suggest that the Arrows could have come out on top.

Of course, for a brief moment it appeared as if they would indeed pull off the victory. Down by two with a few minutes left, the Arrows battered away at the Free Jack line. Tomás de la Vega appeared to ground the ball. However, it was called back and de la Vega was assessed a penalty. Unfortunately, at the moment it was quite unclear what the penalty was actually for. The lack of clarity surrounding a major decision added to the frustration.

The Arrows played well defensively. There were incredibly few missed tackles and scoring opportunities for the Free Jacks were few and far between. They gave up a few penalties early, but only gave up the one try scored by Josh Larsen. Ben LeSage did a great job shutting down the usually dangerous Free Jack backline.

The defensive highlight of the match was an epic tryline stand that ended with a big Cole Keith hit that caused Vili Toluta’u to knock-on in the 73-minute.

I think that is where I’m going to end the analysis of this match. As I said, it was a frustrating match. The Arrows played well especially on the defensive side of the ball, came out on top in many statistical categories that suggest they could have won, had some opportunities to add points that missed, and some calls didn’t necessarily go their way. A frustrating day overall.

The Arrows are now faced with a huge uphill battle. And the hill is steep. At 4-6-0 the Arrows can ill-afford a loss now. A record of 9-7-0 is unlikely to be good enough to crack the top two teams in the conference. Simply put, the Arrows are now in a situation where they need to win the remaining six games to have a shot at the post-season.

Their schedule is as follows:

Week 12 vs San Diego Legion Week 13 @ Austin Gilgronis Week 14 vs NOLA Gold Week 15 vs Rugby United New York Week 16 vs Old Glory DC Week 17 vs New England Free Jacks Week 18 Bye

Only one road game remaining is a positive. Even if the home games are not truly at home, at least it saves on constantly traveling. The way the schedule works out, the Arrows are also given an opportunity to hand everyone that they are chasing for that final playoff spot a loss before the season is out.

The unfortunate thing is the impact of the summer test series. Rugby Canada just announced their initial 40-man roster and Kingsley Jones has selected 13 Arrows to head to Europe in July. The 13 players included are Lucas Rumball, Ben LeSage, Cole Keith, Andrew Quattrin, Tyler Rowland, Paul Ciulini, Mason Flesch, Siaki Vikilani, Ross Braude, Will Kelly, Giuseppe du Toit, Spencer Jones, and Pat Parfrey.

Ultimately, the split is seven forwards and six backs. The remaining players (and any that may join) will need to dig deep to continue the playoff push.

The Arrows are not out of this yet. In 2019, they put together a massive 7-game winning streak to make the playoffs. It can be done. Quite frankly it is a bizarre year. Are the Arrows the worst team in the East? No, in fact they are far from it. In all my time watching sports, I have never seen a team be last in their division while simultaneously having one of the best points differentials in that same division.

Rugby ATL is a +60, Toronto is +53, New England is +1, New York and Nola are even, and DC is -60. Not only is the point differential high, it is far ahead of most of the division. Ultimately, that could come into play if the Arrows go on a run to close out the year as points differential is the 2nd tie breaking in the standings.

The Arrows are not out of playoff contention yet. I still believe they are capable of being one of the top teams in Major League Rugby. It’s been a bizarre year, but it is time to dig deep.

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