Arrows Head Into Bye With A W
The Toronto Arrows put an end to their two-game losing streak with a 19-10 victory over the Houston SaberCats. The Arrows received tries from a South American trio of Manuel Montero, Tomás de la Vega, and Manuel Diana while Will Kelly added an extra four points off his boot.
The camera operator would have been forgiven for just aiming their camera at the Houston tryline and cracking a beer to enjoy the opening twenty minutes. The Arrows set up shop inside the Houston 22 and hammered away at the SaberCats defense. To their credit, Houston played some brilliant defense. Attempt after attempt was turned aside by the SaberCats as the Arrows laid siege to the tryline.
Adriaan Booysen, Diego Magno, Cecil Garber, Nicolás Solveyra, Robbie Povey, Van Stewart, and the rest of the squad set up shop and made life difficult on the Arrows. The club was making hit after hit forcing knock-ons and other errors. They even managed to hold the Arrows out following some penalties.
The Arrows remained patient throughout the opening twenty minutes. They had all the possession and all the territory so far in the match. The Arrows finally broke through the impressive SaberCats’ defense. After Magno got pinged for not rolling away, the Arrows opted for a scrum right in front of the posts.
Ross Braude moved the ball to Kelly onto Spencer Jones who drew in a pair of Houston defenders. Braude got the ball out quickly allowing de la Vega and Diana to quickly work the ball through the hands and Montero finished on the wing.
A Tyler Rowland penalty for not rolling away gave the SaberCats their first opportunity to enter the Arrows half at the 26-minute mark of the game. The Arrows quickly regained the ball and went on to continue to dominate territory and possession.
As the siege on the Houston tryline continued, the Arrows would strike again. Nick Boyer was sent to the bn for repeated infringements and the Arrows went to work. After brilliantly working through the phases, de la Vega just decided that he was going to score. He trucked over Solveyra, then dragged Stewart, Magno, and Garber along as he reached for the whitewash.
The stretch for the line was reminiscent of Michael Jordan’s famous game-winning dunk against the Monstars back in ’96. Kelly converted and the Arrows went to the sheds up 12-3 following a Sam Windsor penalty on the final play of the half.
The second half saw the SaberCats’ get the ball in their hands more frequently. However, the Arrows defense led by Lucas Rumball, Andrew Quattrin, de la Vega, and Diana held firm. The best chance Houston had came after a Veramu Dikidikilati line break where he eventually kicked ahead. The ball rolled into the in-goal area and there was a footrace between Boyer and Mieres. Mieres won the race and the Arrows received a 22 metre dropout.
The Arrows would soon return to the attack and Diana would crash the ball over the line following a lineout and a few phases from the Arrows. Kelly would once again convert and the Arrows were up 19-3 with 15 minutes remaining.
The Arrows would continue controlling the play. The lone blemish on the day would see Cecil Garber charging down a Pat Parfrey kick. Garber would follow up and dot down the loose ball for the SaberCats only try of the day.
Ultimately, any game where you have 64% of the territory, 59% of the possession, and make every 9/10 tackles will be considered a good. It wasn’t necessarily perfect, but there really isn’t much to complain about either. Perhaps, you could suggest that the Arrows could have put up more points given all the possession they had deep inside Houston territory. However, that is more of a complement to how well Houston’s defense played.
I said in my preview that the Arrows’ attack against the Houston defense, which has been poor all year, would be a big matchup. To their credit, this was Houston’s best defensive game all season and they really made the Arrows work for those 19 points.
Will Kelly did well in his first MLR start at flyhalf. His ball distribution was great, made the right tactical decisions throughout the match, was involved in the build up to Montero’s try, and made 2/4 kicks at goal. He nearly had a flying start to the match, as he looked to have put Spencer Jones away, but Jones’ ended up knocking-on. Kelly did well on the defensive side of the ball as well.
Kelly’s opposite number, and fellow Canadian, Robbie Povey was on the other end of the 10 matchup. Povey did well in defense, especially since the Arrows were pressing for most of the match. Povey made more tackles than any other back on Houston throughout the match. Additionally, he made decent metres throughout the match.
Watching the game, Kelly’s ball distribution and the effectiveness of it stood out a lot. Even though Sam Windsor was playing fullback, much of the SaberCat attack still ran through him. Boyer and Windsor are the driving force of the attack and Povey seems to become more involved if they are on the front foot. Kelly on the other hand, was frequently involved in all stages of the Arrows’ attack as they wore down the SaberCats defense.
I don’t think that the 10 jersey for the summer tests has been settled yet, but I would give round one to Kelly.
This game featured a pretty intense battle between the back rows. Toronto’s de la Vega, Rumball, and Diana were fantastic as were Houston’s Garber, Magno, and Booysen. All six players were near the top of their squads in tackles and ruck arrivals. The two back rows frequently clashed in a physical battle throughout the match. Ultimately, they also combined for 3 of the match's 4 tries with de la Vega, Diana, and Garber picking up tries.
Paul Ciulini and Andrew Quattrin also had great games for the Arrows. Ciulini apparently has the ability to teleport from ruck to ruck as his work rate was immense in this game. Quattrin was also solid on defense, making plenty of big tackles on defense.
Ultimately, the Arrows will be pleased to be heading into a much-needed bye week on a winning note. The Arrows currently hold a 4-5-0 record with 22 points. That has them at 4th in Eastern Conference, two points back of Rugby United New York for the final playoff spot. The Arrows do have a game in hand on everyone, so we will get our clearest picture of where all the clubs stand after everyone has 9 games under their belts.