Raptors Kick Off Pre-Season with Tough Match against San Diego Legion, Look to Mix Things Up Against Houston

Photo Credit: Seth McConnell

As told by Raptors Head Coach Dave Williams

Coaches Blog, Glendale Rugby Date 1.11.18, the location – Glendale Infinity Park Sports Center

By Sara Wright

We are just wrapping up our last training before heading to San Diego tomorrow for our first pre-season exhibition match of 2019 on Jan. 13, against the Legion. We are very excited for this opportunity to play against quality opposition and see the things we are doing well, and of course, the areas we need to continue to work on.

This week was a weird one because of the Monday night banquet, a Sunday game and of course the snow storm that came in on Thursday evening. Our annual rugby banquet is always a top-notch event that brings together our entire Glendale Rugby Club, both past and present, to celebrate the year’s accomplishments. It was nice to see everyone get together and support all the various levels of rugby here in Glendale.

We were back into our regular week on Tuesday with a gym session for the lads, where we focus on clarifying our game plan for some of our new guys. Wednesday was our physical day, with an early gym session, then pitch session focused on bag conditioning and units, followed by a team session in the evening. Thursday was a recovery day, and then on Friday, we had our normal lifting session in the morning, but missed a skill session due to the weather that crept in overnight. Thankfully, we were able to utilize our Infinity Park Sports Center’s gymnasium as an option for this evening’s session.

There are so many different facets to this game, and I’m really proud of our coaching staff and how they’ve narrowed it down. We like to think of it as a sniper approach versus a shotgun. We have to really focus on the small things in order to accomplish what we want big picture wise. The best thing that I’ve seen from the boys so far, though, is the culture and their buy in. We have such a good squad and they are really enjoying each other and that’s not something that can be coached.

We can’t wait to see how they come together on game day.

Glendale Raptors vs. San Diego Legion

Coaches Blog, Glendale Rugby Date 1.13.18 – GAME DAY, the location – San Diego International Airport

Well, we are now heading home following a tight victory over the Legion in San Diego. The game, as you may already know came down to the last play. Both teams agreed that is really what you want out of a preseason game – quality opposition and a clean game of rugby on both sides. Of course, we are happy with the outcome; the Legion side, probably not as much, but we all concur on the objective – use the preseason to improve.

Honestly, the way we started the game was not ideal. We found ourselves down by 12 early on and allowed them a break-away try due to some poor decision making. But, we rebounded really well and swung the game back in our favor before heading to half with the score 17-12, Raptors in the lead.

We came back out with momentum on our side and touched down another one to make it 24-12 out of the gate. However, that’s when the shift started. We started making some infractions and two yellow cards later, we found ourselves neck and neck once again.

I was really proud of the grit I saw from this team. We rebounded again and again, and although things weren’t going perfectly, we restructured well and scored two more tries late in the game to walk away with a 38-31 win. This win is a big one for us. Not only were we happy with the way the players kept after it, but we also were able to break a two game losing streak in San Diego.

We were also happy to see some of the things we’ve been working on coming together. The scrum didn’t function as well as we wanted, but it keeps getting better. Our lineout worked well and our fitness held. There are definitely some things to keep working on, but all-in-all, we were happy with the game we played.

It was good to see Mika Kruse play a full game at 13. He continues to show quality and class for how young he is. I was also impressed with Max Lum, who came in and did a great job in the front row. Chad Gough had his first MLR match and it was nice to see him adjust to this level, along with the other new guys in our squad – Brendan Daly, Hanco Germishuys, Marco Fepulea’I, Dylan Taikato-Simpson, Robbie Petzer, Dwayne Pienaar and Malon Al-Jiboori. It was very good for the team to get this experience playing together and we look forward to another quality opponent this upcoming weekend in Houston.

In Houston, we will look to try and play a few other guys in various positions and see what combinations work. Notably, we hope to see a recent recruit from Australia, Will Munro, come in, along with Jason Damm who is back from an injury and we may even see some of more seasoned Raptors look to add their experience to the team. We are excited for another good game.