Arrows Fall To Legion In High Scoring Affair
The Toronto Arrows’ playoff hopes took a major blow on Sunday afternoon as the fell 40-30 to the San Diego Legion. The match proved to be a strategic battle with plenty of kicking as both teams looked to gain that tactical edge.
Joe Pietersen came out the gate guns blazing as notched two penalties and a drop goal early on as the Legion got out to a 16-6 lead by the 25-minute mark. After Tian Loots was assessed a yellow card, some quick hands from Manuel Diana, Leandro Leivas, and Ben LeSage put Joaquín Tuculet away to bring the score to 16-13 at the break.
The first 20 minutes of the second half saw the club’s trading points. Tayler Adams tied the game on a 47th minute penalty before Josh Furno and Gastón Mieres traded tries bringing the score to 23 all. San Diego would pull away soon after. Furno picked up his 2nd try to take the lead and Loots would add the insurance try in the 74th minute. Leivas would add a consolation try (which was thoroughly deserved), but it would be too little too late.
It’s obviously a disappointing loss, however let’s start with some positives. The Arrows back three (Mieres, Leivas, and Tuculet) along with Adams were terrific. The back three tallied all three Arrows’ tries in the match. Mieres’ try is particularly special. Mieres scored after a brilliant run and offload from Mason Flesch. The try marked Mieres’ 12th for the club passing Dan Moor for the most in franchise history. Manuel Montero rounds out the top 3 with 7 tries all from this season.
The game was an incredibly tactical kicking battle throughout. Pietersen and Santiago González Iglesias battled Adams and Tuculet through the air all match long. Each flyhalf-fullback combo came out on top in various exchanges gaining that precious territory.
Mieres was excellent in the kick chase throughout the match. He was constantly putting pressure on the Legion players receiving the kick. He was able to regather in the contest or force a knock-on on a number of occasions. Adams, Tuculet, and even Higgins did well to place the kicks so Mieres could apply that pressure.
When they kept the ball in hand, they were buzzing. Leivas was rattling off big carries throughout the match. Every time he touched the ball something positive happened for the Arrows. Leivas was able to capitalize on a Mieres line break to score a try late in the match. It was a try you could sense coming throughout the game, just based on how well he was playing. Tuculet also got on the board as he finished off the previously mentioned end-of-the-half try.
Lucas Rumball also deserves a shout out. Rumball was his typical self as he was a menace at the breakdown and made plenty of tackles. Rumball received a cut and had to briefly leave the game. Upon his return, his face was wrapped up like a mummy. He had a turnover on his first breakdown after returning to the game.
The Arrows were plagued by injuries in this game. Rumball left as a blood-sub for a period of time. Cole Keith was forced to leave the game after just six minutes. Tyler Rowland left in the 36th minute meaning both starting props were out of the game incredibly early. Mike Sheppard saw his afternoon end earlier than planned as well. Of course, Tomás de la Vega and Manuel Montero were added to the injury list before the match.
Ultimately, it made for a difficult outing for the Arrows. The loss of Keith and Rowland early saw San Diego gain an edge at the scrum. When the Legion bench entered the match, they looked full of energy that helped them pull away on the scoreboard.
The Arrows saw a handful of the same issues that they have been struggling with this season. The lineout lacked execution once again. Furno was able to get some steals, but when he didn’t the ball was overthrown or otherwise untidy. Credit to Mason Flesch and Paul Ciulini though, as they ensured the Legion lineout wasn’t exactly firing on all cylinders either. However, San Diego would be much happier with their performance.
The Arrows also saw plenty of handling errors, which to be fair, can be partially attributed to the conditions. The Legion also had their fair share of handling errors (actually more than Toronto) in the match. Part of that was due to Mieres’ kick chase pressure. Regardless, there still seemed to be some opportunities missed following line breaks that would see the ball hit the deck.
The road to the playoffs was already an uphill battle, but that hill became a mountain on Sunday afternoon. Of course, there is always a chance. A good run with a lot of help from around the league will be required. The Arrows will look to put an end to this losing streak next Saturday night when they travel to Austin to battle the Gilgronis.