Raptors Look To Advance To Championship
Glendale’s Infinity Park is the venue for the inaugural Major League Rugby playoffs this weekend, with the hometown Raptors taking on the Utah Warriors with hopes of making the championship contest. MLR’s top four teams will take to the pitch in a single elimination playoff double header Saturday. The Seattle Seawolves will challenge San Diego Legion at 5pm Mountain Time, while the Raptors kick off against Utah at 7:30pm. The winners of each game will then travel to San Diego for the league Championship on Saturday, July 7.
Asked about where the Glendale side can win Saturday’s match, Raptors Assistant Coach Ted Browner says it all comes down to physicality: “We’re looking to get ascendancy in the set piece,” he said. “We look for that in every game but we think it will be particularly important on Saturday. They’re a big, physical side, so we need to match that physicality in order to play our game.” The Raptors suffered their first loss of the season against San Diego last weekend, the California side securing the third place playoff berth. Asked if the defeat changes the Glendale mindset for this weekend, Browner doesn’t feel the loss will impact how the team performs: “We plan to win every single game we play. We know how physical the Utah team is, and if we want to beat them, we have to match that physicality. The loss against San Diego might actually be a good thing in the long run. It allowed us to reset.”
Excluding the tough defeat last Saturday, the Raptors haven’t struggled with depth of talent this season, even as the side has been forced to cope with suspensions, injuries, and most recently, the absence of several starters playing on the National team as U.S. Eagles. The return of those players, which includes Flanker John Quill, should see the performance of the Glendale set piece ratchet up a notch for the playoff contest. Like Browner, Quill noted that facing the Utah team on Saturday is a contest the Raptors can’t write off: “They’re a big, physical team, so we know it’ll be a challenge, but it’s one we’re very much looking forward to. They’ve got some big lads on their side, so I’ll be focused on keeping those guys quiet this weekend,” he said with a grin. “This game will be won at the point of collision. The team who has the most positive tackles, the most positive ball carries, that team will win the match.”
With knockout rugby on the line Saturday, the Raptors will need to bring their A-game to make the championship round. With the best record in the league, and securely in the top playoff position, the Glendale side remains the team to beat in the inaugural season of professional American rugby. Both of Saturday’s playoff matches will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network, as will the MLR Championship on July 7.