Arrows vs Colorado Preview
The Toronto Arrows are the only undefeated team remaining in the Eastern Conference. They will be looking to head into their early bye maintaining that title. Standing in their way will be the Colorado Raptors. The Raptors got off to a slow start this year, but so has the entire Western Conference.
The Raptors picked up their first win of the 2020 season last week when they defeated the Utah Warriors 22-14 on the back of a Rene Ranger double. The win moved them out of the basement in the West, but with everyone else struggling, they are one win away from moving up to a playoff spot. A strong performance last week should give them confidence, but they run into the one of the top teams in MLR in the Toronto Arrows this week.
Dan Moor has suffered an injury to his left knee on a play where he tackled Kurt Coleman last week against Rugby ATL. Moor is currently listed as day-to-day. With the Arrows on a short turnaround and a bye week coming up, it makes a lot of sense to just let the captain recover. Of course, the Arrow’s depth will be fully on display. Not many teams in MLR can lose the leading try-scorer in the league and replace him with a player of Gaston Mieres’ calibre.
Mieres will join fellow Los Teros Leandro Leivas, and Sam Malcolm in the outside backs. Will Kelly will take the spot that Mieres occupied in the reserves last week. The short turnaround leads to a few other changes as well. Lucas Rumball and Andrew Quattrin return to their rightful place in the starting XV. All MLR prop Rob Brouwer will make his first start of 2020 and the move sees Richie Asiata start at tighthead for the first time this year. Cole Keith will come off the bench.
Keith was outstanding in a full 80min shift last week earning a spot on the Team of The Week. The move is no doubt a for a load management reason as Keith has been playing the best rugby of his career.
After going 0-3-0 to start the year, the Raptors earned their first win of the season last week. Head Coach Peter Borlase has opted for the if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it approach. The only change to the starting XV from last week is that locks Luke White and Dakota O’Neil have swapped numbers. A handful of changes have been made to the reserves with Michael Stewart, Tomas Quinlan, and Ryan James all checking in.
Colorado’s backline is loaded with entertaining players such as John Ryberg, Mika Kruse, Robbie Petzer, and Mason Emerson (who racked up a staggering 218m carried last week). All of which are massive weapons for Colorado. For Toronto to walk away with a win, they will need to shut these players down. However, there is one player in particular that stands out above the rest…
3 Things to Watch
The MLR received an influx of elite talent over the offseason. As the league’s profile grows many players are starting to look to MLR as a viable option for continuing their rugby career. One such player is All Black Rene Ranger. Ranger received his visa clearance late and looked to take some time to settle in. However, after last week’s performance, I think we can all agree that the battering ram of a centre has done just that.
In Colorado’s first win of the season, Ranger scored two tries, ran for 79m, made 2 thunderous tackles, and kicked for 215m in a performance that earned him the player of the week. Ranger is a powerful centre that prefers to run through people instead of around them. Part of the reason I’m excited to watch Ranger this week is because of the matchup.
Ben LeSage will wear the 13 jersey opposite of Ranger in this match. The 12 jersey will feature Petzer for Colorado and Guiseppe du Toit. Both du Toit and LeSage are two of the best defensive centres in MLR. As it stands, du Toit leads all backs with 43 tackles and LeSage is not far behind at 33. I’m am incredibly interested in how they handle both the speed of the Raptors attack and Ranger himself.
Throughout the first 4 games of the season, the Toronto Arrows have been excellent at controlling the territory in the match. A big reason for that is the quality kicking game of Sam Malcolm and Tayler Adams. I would expect the Arrows to continue to utilize this strategy against the Raptors. Nearly, every opponent of the Raptors has tired to do the same.
Ryberg is an incredible active winger. He frequently comes looking for work on the inside of the pitch. However, as a result, many teams have been aerially attacking his wing. On many occasions, Ryberg has been caught out of position so far this year. No doubt Malcolm and Adams will be aware of his location and if the moment is right, they may see an opportunity to flip the pitch and gain a lot of territory.
The Toronto Arrows have, in my opinion, the best scrum in MLR. As far as scrums won percentage, they sit 3rd at 94.6% behind Seattle (who the Arrows beat), and NOLA (who got to feast on a Beast-less Old Glory DC in week 1). This presents a big problem for the Colorado Raptors as they enter this match with the 11th ranked scrum, only beating out that abysmal DC scrum.
The Arrows have asserted their dominance at scrum time frequently throughout the year already. Last season, Colorado struggled mightily against the Arrows scrum. I expect the same thing to happen on Friday night and have the scrum once again be the catalyst to an Arrows victory.
The Toronto Arrows will take on the Colorado Raptors under the Friday Night Lights at 8pm on tsn.ca. For all your Arrows news and updates on the match be sure to follow @BressetteTheJet on your favourite social media network.