Arrows vs Seattle Preview
The Toronto Arrows head into Starfire Stadium as one of just 3 undefeated teams in MLR. The Arrows will take on the back-to-back (and only) MLR Champions Seattle Seawolves. The Arrows have spoken at lengths to how they were disappointed with the way last season ended. Of course, the season ended in the MLR Championship Series semi-finals at the hands of the Seawolves.
After defeating the Arrows, Seattle went on to beat the San Diego Legion and claim the Shield for the 2nd time. The Arrows and Seawolves seasons have gotten off to polar opposite starts. While the Arrows come into the match looking to extend their franchise record road winning streak to 3, the Seawolves are reeling having dropped the first two matches of the season to the Legion and the Beast’s Old Glory DC. The Seawolves will be looking to get back on track, while the Arrows will be looking to exact a measure of revenge against them.
Life without Mike Sheppard begins as he serves the first game of a three-game suspension for his hit on Houston’s Tim Stanfill. Brantford Harlequins forward Kolby Francis will step into the 4 jersey vacated by Sheppard. Francis will be making his second appearance and first start of the 2020 season. Leandro Leivas has returned from injury and will start alongside Dan Moor and Sam Malcolm in the outside backs.
Jamie Mackenzie has been listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury. Andrew Ferguson will make the move from the bench into the starting 9 jersey this week. In the reserves we will see Riley Di Nardo make his first appearance of the season. Mitch Richardson finds himself out of the lineup. He is replaced on the bench by Johnny Sheridan. Sheridan makes room for Leivas’ return, but he had a stellar game that included a team leading 107m carried against Houston. That performance appears to have allowed him to stay in the matchday squad.
Seattle has had a rough start to the season. However, this will be their home opener and the Seawolves have turned Starfire into a fortress. Seattle was also missing some key players that returned this week. Canadian Jeff Hasler will make his season debut. He will be starting at outside centre instead of his typical home on the wing. Hassler is a dynamic player with a deadly finishing touch that will certainly bolster the Seawolves offense. He will be joined by fellow Canadian George Barton in the centres.
Hooker Stephan Coetzee also returns to the lineup. Seattle is thin at hooker. Coetzee’s absence thrust Mike Shepherd into the starting hooker role, but also forced Vili Toluta’u to line up as the reserve hooker. Coetzee, a former Super Rugby hooker, greatly improves the front row and allows Toluta’u to line up in his natural position as a flanker. Ben Cima continues to recover from an injury suffered in their preseason clash with Tasman Mako.
Central Washington University flyhalf Scott Dean has struggled in his first two MLR games. Kees Lansing will opt for a different look this week as Shalom Suniula starts at flyhalf. Dean will line up in the 21 jersey traditionally occupied by the reserve scrumhalf. Other changes made from last week include Eric Duchele in for Andrew Durutalo, Jeremy Lenaerts is in for FP Pesler, and Siti Tamaivena swaps places with David Busby who now finds himself on the bench. As always, the highlight of Seattle’s roster is reigning MLR MVP lock Brad Tucker.
3 Things to Watch
Toronto vs Seattle is always a special MLR matchup for fans north of the border as it is the game that features most Canadians. The Arrows roster, of course, is mostly Canadian. They will have 17 Canadians in their lineup on Saturday night. The Seawolves held the title of most Canadians until the Arrows entered the league in 2019. Seattle will have all 6 of their Canadians in the lineup and all of them are starting. Kingsley Jones will no doubt be keeping a close eye on this matchup as he rarely sees 23 Canadians on the pitch at the same time unless he is coaching.
This will also create plenty of intriguing positional matchups between Canadians. Guiseppe du Toit and Ben LeSage will go head to head with George Barton and Jeff Hasler in the centres, Dan Moor vs Brock Staller on the wing, Lucas Rumball will meet Nakai Penny in the back row, and Andrew Quattrin and Cole Keith will clash with Jake Ilnicki and Djustice Sears-Duru in the front row.
The latter of which may be the most intriguing. Despite being 0-2-0 right now, the Seattle Seawolves remain 100% in their own scrum. Seattle has had the best scrum in the league the last two seasons and it’s a big reason why they have won back to back Shields. The Arrows look to be gunning for that title.
The Arrows scrum looked dominant in the preseason and against Austin. Houston put up more of a fight but the Arrows had the upper hand. Keith, Quattrin, and the rest of the Arrows pack will be looking to prove they have the superior scrum. Sears-Duru and Ilnicki are coming off a great week where, despite the loss, they feasted on a weak Old Glory DC scum.
This will be an intriguing battle. Both clubs currently rank in the bottom three of their own lineout% in MLR. Seattle has won just 73% of their own lineouts in both their matches so far this season. Toronto put up a similar number against Austin, but bounced back against Houston with a solid 88%.
The Arrows lineout was bad in week 1 one, but the better conditions in Las Vegas seemed to allow them to build some confidence. In particular, Quattrin was significantly more accurate with his throws. Quattrin’s throws will need pinpoint accuracy this week as Seattle employs the perennial ballhawk Brad Tucker. Tucker was a major reason Seattle had one of the better lineouts in the league last year, However, it has not clicked at all this season. The return of starting hooker Stephan Coetzee should help settle it down and bring them back to form.
Arrows Counter Attack
You must exercise severe caution when kicking to Tayler Adams. Adam’s dynamic style of play and his “x-factor” have already created some moments of magic for the Arrows this season. In both their previous matches Adams has kick started a counter attack that led directly to a Dan Moor try (the one against Austin he also finished with a great pass to Moor).
The Arrows' speed and expansive brand of rugby has been able to create space out wide incredibly quickly once they gain possession of the ball. The Arrows counter attack is something Seattle will need to be aware of. Shalom Suniula is typically a centre, but he will play flyhalf opposite Adams in this one. When he kicks, he will need to be precise as to not allow Adams or Sam Malcolm to begin a quick counter. Of course, Malcolm is equally if not more dangerous than Adams.
Ultimately, when you put a kick in the air against the Arrows you must make sure you have a great chase. Adams and Malcolm will take advantage of any space that you give them and they do not need much. Additionally, the Arrows like to spread the ball outwide and play an expansive brand of rugby. The Seattle outside backs will need to be on top of their game to prevent it.
Fullback Mat Turner struggled in last week's game against Old Glory. He had a handful of unforced errors and Old Glory scored a few tries on the wing when he became the last line of defense. He will need to have a stronger game as he could be critical in halting this expansive Arrows attack.