Arrows Get First Win of 2021, Defeat OGDC 40-19

Source: Norma Salinas/Canadian Press

The Arrows are back! For the first time in 2021, we got a look at why the Toronto Arrows are considered favourites to win the East and are contenders for the Shield. The Arrows received five tries from Tyler Rowland, Manuel Diana, Ben LeSage, Gastón Mieres, and Jason Higgins as they more than doubled up Old Glory DC 40-19 to earn their first win of 2021. Old Glory’s tries came courtesy of Thretton Palamo, Jamason Fa’anana-Schultz, and James King.

An area that the Arrows were struggling with within the opening two matches was the lineout. For that reason, it was great to see the Arrows’ first 12 points of the match come directly off the lineout. After a linebreak from Diana, Mitch Richardson attempted an offload that was knocked-on by Danny Tusitala. Taylor Adams kicked to the corner to set up a 5m lineout.Paul Ciulini pulled down the ball and the Arrows started the driving maul. They pushed Old Glory over the line and Rowland picked up his first career try.

Barely a minute had passed when Tomás de la Vega stole a lineout and the Arrows worked the ball through the hands across the pitch. Ross Braude did well to generate a quick ball and a LeSage run set up Diana’s try at the end.

The confidence in the lineout seemed to grow as the game wore on. In situations where Old Glory gave up penalties in their own half. Lucas Rumball would look to Adams to kick for points or go to the corner. We have become accustomed to the Arrows opting for scrums on penalties. However, in this game, the Arrows didn’t opt for a single scrum. Perhaps, the club is making an adjustment to the new scrum reset laws that seem to hinder teams with strong scrums anyway.

This game was won and lost at the breakdown. Lucas Rumball and Tomás de la Vega were absolute monsters in this game. Rumball was able to add to his already immense league-leading breakdown steals count. He had a terrific work rate throughout the match as well as getting to a number of rucks on both sides of the ball.

De la Vega started the game strong as Old Glory was in control of the possession for the opening sevens minutes. Every time their attack was stopped it seemed to be de la Vega. Throughout the match, the Arrows counter rucks were timed beautifully completely disrupting the flow of the Old Glory attack. A prime example of this was a play in the 35th minute where Cole Keith counter rucks and knocks Renata Roberts Te-nana back into Tusitala forcing a knock-on.

Ultimately, Tusitala was unable to get the quick ball he is typically accustomed to. The Arrows’ work at the breakdown combined with quick line speed really disrupted the Old Glory attack.

The only blemish of the first half was when Old Glory created a situation where Palamo was one-on-one with Adams off a set-piece play. Palamo is one of the league’s most powerful runners and an absolute giant who made Adams nothing more than a speed bump on this try. Adams displayed great character as he dusted himself off, marched up the pitch and (aided by quick line speed and a turnover created by Mieres and LeSage), and slots a drop goal at the stroke of halftime. This was all during a yellow card handed out to Stan South, meaning the Arrows were down 7-3 while up a man.

The second half started where the Arrows left off as they generated plenty of go-forward. Big carries with good support and quick ball from Braude got the Old Glory defence out of shape. Braude used Keith as a decoy and passed to Adams who sent LeSage through the gap for a 7-point try (LeSage’s first career try).

Fa’anana-Schultz powered his way over the line after the Arrows brought down a lineout maul to cut the lead to 25-12. Fa’anana-Schultz had a number of big carries throughout this game and was finally rewarded. However, after that try, the Arrows broke out the champagne.

The Arrows’ used the lineout as a platform again and worked the ball across the pitch. LeSage offloaded to Higgins who had a diving pickup and pop to Mieres for his first try of 2021. Barely two minutes would pass before Jack McRogers would take the ball right out of Mike Dabulas’ hands. Rumball would pass to LeSage who offloaded to de la Vega who one-handed offload to Joaquin Tuculet and finished off by Higgins.

It was magical in an indicator of how this game went. Great Arrows’ defence creates a turnover and beautiful, expansive rugby that had the forwards and backs integrating well in a cohesive attack.

The Arrows had the number 1 ranked defence in MLR before the cancellation of the 2020 season. Today it shinned and showed that when the defence is on its game, they create plenty of opportunities for the attack.

The Layman’s Sports Man of the Match has to go to Lucas Rumball. He was an absolute monster in the breakdown (which as I mentioned was where this game was won). Great in defence, completed his tackles, strong ball carries, and some great off-loads in the build up to tries. For my money, Rumball is the best openside flanker in Major League Rugby and he showed why on Saturday.

Up next for the Arrows is the star-studded LA Giltinis. The Arrows will look to extend their winning streak and hand the Giltinis their first loss in MLR.

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