Arrows the Better Team, Seattle Still Wins
The Toronto Arrows dropped to 1-2-0 on the season after falling to the Seattle Seawolves (2-2-0) 35-30 on Sunday night. Toronto is able to earn their 3rd bonus point of the year for losing by less than 7. Toronto got tries from Marcello Wainwright, Kolby Francis, and Andrew Ferguson and Sam Malcolm added 15 points off his boot. Malcolm put up a 100% success rate in easily his best game as an Arrow. The Arrows looked to be the better team as Malcolm slotted a penalty goal in the 52nd minute to give them a 13 point lead against the defending champions. The 54th minute saw wholesale changes with Seattle’s on-field personnel. Kellen Gordon, Nakai Penny, JP Smith, and Taylor Krumrei were all subbed on. Shalom Suniula and Mike Sheppard were subbed on earlier in the half and Nakai Penny came on in the 1st half. The fresh legs seemed to provide the spark the Seawolves needed. Seattle looked like a new team and rattled off 18 unanswered points as they handed Toronto their second loss of the year. Despite the loss, there are plenty of positives the Arrows can take from this game. They gave the defending the MLR Champions all they could handle and quite frankly, they were the better team in the first 60 minutes.
In my preview for the match, I highlighted Sam Malcolm as being a part of a key matchup with Andrew Ferguson against Ben Cima and Phil Mack. Malcolm was exceptional in this matchup. It was easily his best game as an Arrow. Malcolm was perfect off the tee as he made all 3 conversions and all 3 penalty goals he attempted. Malcolm’s boot was also instrumental in Toronto’s ability to control the territory for the duration of the game. When the Arrows were awarded penalties, he made Seattle pay for it by maximizing the distance on every kick to touch. His clearance kicks were deep, often forcing the Seattle fullback to backtrack and he used to his boot to ensure the ball was in Seattle’s end for most of the game. He also got creative at times including a high crossfield kick that Avery Oitomen just couldn’t reel in for a try just prior to Kolby Francis’ try. On defense he was able to get off the line quickly and was able to disrupt Cima and the Seawolves’ attack. Malcolm has played all 80 minutes in each of the Arrows first 3 games. He is the clearcut starter in the 10 jersey so hopefully, he is able to build off this performance going forward.
For the second week in a row, the Toronto Arrows’ scrum was fantastic. Although not as dominant as their performance against Austin, this game made it clear that the scrum will be the strength of the Arrows. Once again, Francis was able to pick up a try on a pick and go after the scrum gave a great push near the tryline. Captain Dan Moor displayed all the confidence in the world asking the ref for a scrum after being awarded a penalty on the previous play. Why wouldn’t he? The Arrows scrum obliterated Austin last week and gave the team with the best scrum last year fits on Sunday. The scary thing is that this scrum is not even at full power at the moment. Rob Brouwer, Lucas Rumball, John Moonlight (still a part-time player), and Jack Nay all were not in the lineup against Seattle. Mike Sheppard and Cole Keith will be returning to the ARC this week so we will still have to wait to see the true power in the Arrows’ scrum. Nay was spotted in Toronto earlier this week so hopefully, he will be joining the lineup soon.
However, despite the scrum’s dominance, the pack is not perfect. Toronto struggled in the lineouts the week before against Austin and it was much of the same against Seattle. Toronto’s lineout struggles were highlighted on two key plays of this game. First, Seattle was able to score their opening try of the match directly after dominating a lineout and the ensuing maul. In the 14th minute, Seattle set up for the lineout on the Arrows 22. The Arrows seemed confused by Seattle’s set up and failed to get a jumper in the air allowing Cam Polson to easily come down with the ball. Seattle set up the maul and drove the Arrows back 20m before the maul collapsed. With the Arrows defense scrambling, Oli Kilifi crashed across the line on the 3rd phase to get Seattle on the board. In the 63rd minute, Seattle set up for a lineout on the Arrows 5m line. The Arrows hadn’t been contesting lineouts at this distance all game and instead prepared for the maul. Seattle’s maul ran right through them. Fortunately, the ball was held up. The ensuing 5m scrum was a rare one where Seattle’s push got the better of the Arrows and Cima was able to find a hole for the try. That try brought Seattle to within 1 point of the Arrows (30-29). Staller would add two penalties late in the game to seal the win.
That scrum right before Cima’s try also pointed out another cause of the Arrows defeat. In the 54th minute, nearly all of Seattle’s subs were brought on the field and Seattle put up 18 unanswered points after that. In the final 20 minutes of the game, the Arrows struggled to keep up with Seattle’s energy and fitness level. Ultimately, this led to mistakes such as the two penalties that led to Staller sealing the game. Despite the Arrows bringing on their own subs, they were never able to regain their own level of energy that gave them a 13 point lead. I still believe the Arrows were the better team in the first 60 minutes of this game. They were leading for most of the match and controlled the ball possession and territory in the game. Unfortunately, they just ran out of gas.
The Toronto Arrows won’t have to wait long to for their opportunity to bounce back from this loss. The Arrows have a quick turnaround and will take on the Houston SaberCats (1-1-0) at 8pm on Friday night.