Recapping A Busy Arrows Week
The Toronto Arrows have had quite the busy week. In addition to their match with the Austin Gilgronis, 9 players were named to Rugby Canada’s squad for their summer tests in Europe, six new players have been signed, one other reinforcement arrives as well, and a massive tilt with the NOLA Gold awaits.
The Match with Austin
It was a rough night in the Lonestar state for the Arrows. The Gilgronis ran in seven tries and handed the Arrows a 47-21 loss. With the loss, the Arrows’ playoff hopes seem further out of reach. To start with some positives; Mason Flesch and Tomás de la Vega played well. Flesch led the squad in tackles and did so with a 100% success rate. Flesch put up these team leading numbers while only playing the opening half of the match. De la Vega was right behind Flesch’s tackle count and was a monster at the breakdown. He finished the game with a pair of breakdown steals.
Mitch Richardson scored his first career MLR try as he went flying down the touchline for a late try. No matter the score line, a first MLR try is always cool. Joaquín Tuculet extended his try scoring streak to three games. Ben LeSage was responsible for the other Arrows’ try on the day.
The big reason for the heavy defeat in my mind was the turnover count. The Arrows more than doubled the Gilgronis turnovers and they paid for many of them. Most notably, Austin scored two tries directly off interceptions as LaRome White and Hugh Roach capitalized on some great reads. Dom Akina was also a major factor as his explosive speed left Arrows defenders in the dust. Akina came away with two tries and Man of the Match honours.
Kingsley Jones has named nine Arrows to his traveling squad that will represent Canada when they take on Wales and England in July. The nine Arrows selected are Lucas Rumball, Ben LeSage, Ross Braude, Cole Keith, Tyler Rowland, Pat Parfrey, Spencer Jones, Andrew Quattrin, and Will Kelly. Jones only named 30 of the 32 players heading on the tour.
NOLA lock Kyle Baillie has reportedly been named as player number 31. Speculation is that the 32nd player could be either Siaki Vikilani or LA flanker Corey Thomas.
Both Vikilani and Thomas suffered injuries this past week. Vikilani was named to Toronto’s week 14 lineup, but Thomas will suit up for the Giltinis if you need an indication of their injury timeline. Team Canada is set to depart on June 27th. This combined with Leandro Leivas, Gastón Mieres, and Manuel Diana likely being selected for Los Teros means the Arrows will be without some of their top players for three games.
Ultimately, this means that it is time to bring in the reinforcements. Prop Rob Brouwer has been on the roster all season, yet was unable to travel to Atlanta for personal reasons. The 2019 All-MLR loosehead prop now joins the squad as the front row sees a handful of Canada selections.
Six new players will also join the squad. The biggest name is the return of flyhalf/fullback Sam Malcolm. A fan favourite, Malcolm solidified his place in Arrows’ history with a drop goal that clinched a playoff spot in 2019. Malcolm has been described as having the heart of a lion and was the first non-Canadian to captain the squad. Malcolm signed with the Kamaishi Seawaves last year, but always seemed positive that he would be back.
Mark Winokur has also added flanker Ollie Nott, hooker Joe Tomlinson, flanker Ronan Foley, prop Alexandre Janlin, and lock Hank Stevenson to bolster the pack. Nott has been training with the Rhinos, who he played for at the World Tens Series. Nott earned his first of two caps for Canada against Chile at the 2017 Americas Rugby Championship.
Tomlinson is an incredibly smart signing. Tomlinson has been described as Wales’ best non-professional player. He moved to Canada in 2019 and played for Burnaby Lake in the BC Premier League. With Quattrin heading to Europe and Steven Ng’s season ending injury, the Arrows are in need of a hooker to help out Jack McRogers. The man once hailed as the best non-pro in Wales should fit the bill nicely.
Also bolstering the front row will be French prop Janlin. He joins the squad from RC Auch in France’s Federale 1, which is the highest level of amateur competition in France. Janlin holds a Canadian passport and will be designated as a domestic player.
Another international with a Canadian passport will be Foley. The Irish flanker is a product of University College Dublin (where he served as captain) and the Leinster ‘A’. Foley will be a big addition to a back row that is preparing to lose Rumball and Diana (possibly Vikilani) in addition to the injury to Marcello Wainwright.
The final addition is Hank Stevenson. It has been quite the bizarre first pro season for the Laurier Golden Hawk. He was initially signed by the Dallas Jackals before they dropped out of the season. He was then picked up by the Utah Warriors, however, he has yet to make an appearance. The lock has now been loaned to the Arrows, meaning he has now been on three different MLR teams before his pro debut.
A loss to the NOLA Gold means the Arrows will be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. Heck, even if they win it might not even be enough depending on how Rugby United New York and Rugby ATL fair this weekend.
A few of the reinforcements will make their season debuts against NOLA. Brouwer immediately enters the starting lineup while Janlin backs him up. Foley will also make his MLR debut off the bench. There are a handful of changes in the pack as Quattrin and Gaston Cortes round out the front row. Adrian Wadden and Paul Ciulini get the nod in the engine room. Flesch starts at blindside flanker with de la Vega out of the lineup. The starting backline remains the same.
NOLA’s Canadians, Hooker Eric Howard and centre Lockie Kratz, will be looking to make a big impact off the bench. Kratz debuted against the Arrows earlier this season and was a major factor in NOLA’s 22-14 win. Hanno Dirksen is coming off the best MLR game of his career while the back row of Tesimoni Tongauiha, Andrew Guerra, and Cam Dolan (I will throw in Devin Short too) have been playing outstanding rugby recently.
Ultimately, the quality of both clubs’ back row should make for an entertaining battle. The battle will not only be at the breakdown, but with ball in hand as well. Diana and Rumball get the lion's’ share of the Arrows’ carries while Tongauiha and Guerra are the top carriers for NOLA.
Dolan is one of the best in the league at the lineout. The Arrows have struggled in the lineout all year, and if Dolan is on his game, it could be problematic. The Arrows counter with Rumball, who has proven he has no equal in the breakdown. If he is on his game, it could be a long afternoon for the Gold.