Arrows Return To Top Of East With Win Over RUNY
After a bit of a rocky start, the Toronto Arrows have found themselves back on top of the MLR’s Eastern Conference. Led by a Manuel Montero hat-trick, the Arrows ran in 7 tries while Tayler Adams added 16 points from his boot to defeat Rugby United New York 53-12. This is the Arrows second straight game scoring over 50 points and the second straight game that they have won by at least 40.
The Arrows crafted a game plan that challenged New York throughout the match. Right from the start, the Arrows were not contesting lineouts. Instead, they would prepare for the maul that we all knew was coming. Lucas Rumball would often be positioned in a place to make a tackle once Dylan Fawsitt tried to break off the base of the maul.
This nearly worked for the Arrows instantly as they defended the maul 5m out from their own in-goal and Rumball tackled Fawsitt, just shy of the line. Good phase play from RUNY still allowed Luke Hume to score the game’s opening try. However, the Arrows would stick with it and RUNY’s maul wouldn’t result in any more points. The mauls were often stopped quickly and depending on where Conor McManus decided to play the ball, an Arrow defender would be there for the tackle.
The Arrows also returned to calling for scrums or going for points off penalties. Adams was 2/4 on penalties, with both the misses coming early in the match. The Arrows were able to use the scrum to set up Joaquín Tuculet’s try and create a solid attacking platform. Going for points or the scrum seemed to be the right call because the Arrows lineout was not clicking at all. The ball was often untidy, overthrown or flat out stolen. It’s difficult to find something to criticize when a team wins by over 40, but the lineout would be it.
Beyond that, everything else was near perfect rugby. The Arrows completely controlled the possession (60%) and the territory (63%) throughout the match. Lucas Rumball was once again in fine form ensuring he put an end to all RUNY attacking threats. As a collective unit, the Arrows defense was excellent and rarely gave RUNY much to work with.
The backline was phenomenal. It’s quite amazing to see what the backline is capable of when they get moving. Backs dotted down six of the Arrows’ seven tries. The lone exception was Mike Sheppard pouncing on a ball he charged down inside the in-goal area (a play where referee Derek Summers openly wished that he could take another look at it).
Montero led the way with three tries. Joaquín Tuculet, Gastón Mieres, and Jason Higgins added tries of their own. Ben LeSage was also brilliant in setting up many of those tries including huge linebreaks on Mieres’ and Higgins’ tries. Patrick Parfrey, Ross Braude, and Adams also added a few nice passes and setups of their own to ensure that it was full effort across the backline.
The tries came frequently, but the Arrows showed that they can score them in a variety of ways. Tuculet and Montero each had a try following a scrum, but in different situations. Tuculet’s set was a brilliant piece play off the Arrow’s scrum that quickly opened up holes in RUNY’s defense. Montero’s third try saw the Arrows’ pack win the ball against the feed and followed up de la Vega in support for his try. Montero first try benefited from a heads up play by Adams, catching the RUNY defense napping on a cross-field kick.
Montero’s second try of the game came following an untidy lineout. The Arrows ran three phases and LeSage ran a great line to bring the defense away from Montero. Mieres once again finished off some brilliant phase work from the Arrows and after a strong run by LeSage, Mieres finished it on the wing. LeSage once again had an immense carry on the restart following Montero’s third try.
All six of the tries scored by backs came from different looks and from different parts of the pitch. The forwards did a great job grinding down RUNY’s defense and securing the rucks. The backs ran great lines and forced RUNY’s defense to make plenty of decisions. Every time Braude or Adams touched the ball, they had multiple options. At that point, it was on them to make the right decision and they seemed to always put the ball where it needed to be.
The Arrows’ defense in this game was also great. Lucas Rumball came away with (by my count anyway) 3 more breakdown steals to increase his league leading total. He made a lot of tackles, and overall, just had an immense workrate. LeSage had a brilliant steal on Ben Foden that created the penalty for Adams’ cross-field kick to Montero. The pack did a great job at the breakdown to completely disrupt McManus and the RUNY attack as well.
After getting off to a bit of a rocky start, the Toronto Arrows have bounced back splendidly. The Arrows have now outscored opponents 161-80 in these last four games. That total includes the 43-16 loss to LA as well. The combined total of the three wins is 145-38. The more the Arrows’ play the better they seem to get. The Arrows 3-3-0 (16pts) record now places them on top of the Eastern Conference. Rugby ATL also has 16 points, but the Arrows +58-point differential is by far the best in the East (RATL is second with +17).
The East has been a crazy division. Unlike the Giltinis in the West, no one has been able to separate themselves in the East. With another huge victory, the Arrows now find themselves on top of the ladder in the East and bring their record to .500 for the first time this year. I would bet on it never being below that mark again all season. The Arrows have shown that they are still the class of the East and they will look to continue to prove that against NOLA next week.