NOLA Wins Tale of Two Halves
The Arrows stormed out the gate with a great opening half as they went to the sheds up 14-0. The second half saw the penalties count increase dramatically as NOLA put up 22 unanswered points. Manuel Montero was responsible for the Arrows two tries with Tayler Adams adding the extras. The Gold received tries from Cam Dolan and a double from Julian Dominguez while Damien Stevens added 7 points from his boot.
The Arrows will be incredibly happy with their first half. The Arrows did well to control the territory and possession. Ross Braude and Joaquín Tuculet did well with the tactical kicking game. The Arrows kicks frequently turned the NOLA back three around. The kick chase did well to put them under pressure frequently and the Arrows often benefited from it.
Manuel Montero is quickly proving himself to be one of the deadliest finishers in the league. Montero’s 6 tries trails only LA’s DTH van der Merwe’s 7 for the league lead. Harrison Goddard (LA) and Dougie Fife (NEFJ) also have 6 tries. The Arrows did well to work the ball through the phases. Braude got the ball out quickly and efficiently as some big runs from Ben LeSage, Manuel Diana, Cole Keith, and LeSage again drew in plenty of NOLA defenders. Adams eventually linked up with Tomás de la Vega who dished to Montero on the overlap.
Montero’s second try was a set piece run to perfection. De la Vega brought down the ball in the lineout and the Arrows got a nice maul drive. Braude brought the ball out and passed down the line to Adams, Pat Parfrey, Leandro Leivas all weaving and creating gaps. Gastón Mieres put an unreal step to get by Tim Maupin and Timothée Guillimin before offloading to Montero for the try. It was another example of how well the Arrows attack has looked in the past few games.
The NOLA Gold barely touched the ball in the opening half. They had few opportunities to put points on the board. The Gold offense started to show signs of life with 5 minutes remaining in the half. The Arrows defense did well to shut down their attack throughout the half. Lucas Rumball, Ben LeSage, and Mason Flesch all had some good moments in defense.
Rumball and Flesch ended the Gold’s late (and only) scoring opportunity of the half by holding up Devin Short. Keith, Andrew Quattrin, and Gastón Cortes finished it off for good by winning a penalty at the next scrum. Ultimately, the attack was in fine form, the defense looked good when needed, and the Arrows had complete control of possession and territory. A dominant first half performance.
The second half was the complete opposite. NOLA absolutely dominated possession and territory. Initially the Arrows defense did well to stop the NOLA attack. The defense held firm as the Arrows completed their tackles and occasionally forced some knock-ons. De la Vega made a great play to tackle and jackal the ball away from Kyle Baillie. Baillie held on, but Adams missed the penalty attempt in the game’s 51st minute. The game would dramatically change soon after.
Damien Stevens entered the match in the 46th minute and began to change the pace of the NOLA attack. The ball was significantly quicker and the Arrows defense began to show some holes. Canadian debutant centre Lachlan Kratz found the first hole and offloaded to Stevens for a huge line break. This play ended with a LeSage intentional knock-on as the Arrows penalty count began to rise. Cam Dolan crashed over on the maul following the ensuing lineout.
Stevens’ box kicking and a great kick chase from Juan Cappiello led to a bizarre play where Jason Higgins attempted a box kick in return. The wind seemed to actually blow the kick backwards, resulting in most of the Arrows being offside. The ensuing lineout saw Paul Ciulini steal the ball in the maul, but it was negated by an entering from the side penalty. NOLA got a second crack.
As they went through the phases the Gold earned advantage after setting up an in-play maul. Stevens swung the ball wide to Short then Dominguez for the try. The Gold made the most out of the second chance the Arrows gave them.
NOLA’s defense would prevent the Arrows from having any meaningful possession. Devin Short and Andrew Guerra were particular thorns in the Arrows’ side. The penalty count continued to rise and Adams was eventually binned for repeated infringements. Stevens would slot a penalty to take the lead 15-14 with just over 10 minutes to play.
The Arrows were given an opportunity after Guerra was called offside. The Arrows lineout did not connect as it continued to struggle during this match. Stevens’ clearance kick gave them a second opportunity. After a good lineout, the Gold forced a knock-on.
Julián Domínguez then had a brilliant kick chase followed by yet another Arrows penalty. The Gold worked some phases before Domínguez received a pass from Guillimin and split the Arrows’ defense. The Arrows will argue that Kratz obstructed Spencer Jones and that is why the gap for Dominguez was so big. They certainly have a case as it certainly looked to be obstruction, but was missed by the official.
Ultimately, everything the Arrows did to NOLA in the first half, NOLA did right back in the second half. The Arrows will be disappointed to not come away with at least a losing bonus point. The negatives in the game are highlighted by a high penalty count, a poor lineout, and lack of possession in the second half. The positives are nearly everything that happened in the opening 40 minutes. Rumball, LeSage, de la Vega, and Montero shined.
This was Flesch’s best game of his young career making two lineout steals and plenty of tackles. He teamed up with Rumball for that huge defensive stop at the end of the first half as well.
The Canadians on NOLA had a strong showing as well. Eric Howard had some nice carries and plenty of tackles. Baillie got to plenty of rucks and did well in his role as captain. Lachlan Kratz had a terrific MLR debut. Kratz was a late addition to the starting XV after JP du Plessis couldn’t play. Kratz made the most of his opportunity. He racked up plenty of metres, made some great tackles, and put in a full 80-minute shift.
It looked like NOLA’s game plan was designed for du Plessis and they let Kratz run it. Overall, a great debut for the Wanderer.
One other noteworthy thing is that both Tuculet and Carl Meyer left the game after they collided contesting for a high ball. Neither player has had their status updated as of yet.
The Arrows will look to find themselves back in the win column next week as they battle their roommates Rugby ATL. For all your Arrows news, be sure to follow @BressetteTheJet and @LaymansSports on your favourite social media network.