By John Arthur
The top playoff seed clenched, the Glendale Raptors travel to California this weekend for their final regular season match. Taking on San Diego Legion, the Raptors will look to defend their undefeated record. Though the match won’t change Glendale’s post-season outlook, it will impact seeding for the third and fourth ranked playoff teams. San Diego has secured a position in the post season, but Saturday’s matches will determine whether the California side enters the playoffs in third or fourth place.
The Raptors secured the number one playoff berth following their victory over Seattle last weekend. After a shaky start that saw the Seawolves leap to an early 11-0 lead, the Raptors turned on the gas, scoring 33 unanswered points to storm to victory. With a bye in the final week of the regular season, Seattle’s loss still saw the team clinch second position for the post season. With the top two spots decided, Saturday’s game against the Legion has the potential to alter the playoff picture for the remaining league contenders. With a number of league-points scenarios possible, the outcomes of Saturday’s matches – Glendale at San Diego and Houston at Utah – will decide the third and fourth playoff berths.
Moving into the final regular season game, Raptors Head Coach David Williams explains that the team is focused on the task at hand, not yet looking to the post season: “It’s a normal week of preparation for the team,” he said. “San Diego is dangerous, and we have to keep progressing on both sides of the ball. We want to keep our standards high. We aren’t looking past this weekend – it allows us to prepare for our next opponents.” With several Raptors starters playing for the US National Eagles squad, and others questionable due to injury, Glendale’s deep bench will once again be tested this weekend. Head Coach Williams isn’t concerned: “That’s the nature of the game. We have the depth to deal with it and the rest allows players to get right for the playoffs. We expect to have a full compliment to select from in the post season.”
For the first time in nearly a century, the US Eagles team knocked off a world-ranked squad last weekend, besting No. 6 Scotland in a nail-biting finish. With a number of Raptors players on the Eagles side, the victory speaks volumes to the success American rugby is enjoying in the inaugural season of MLR. Williams had nothing but praise for the team: “A massive win for the Eagles. Shaun, John, and Bryce all started and Will, Dylan, and Ben came off the bench. They’ve got a chance to finish the June test series undefeated, but we’re certainly looking forward to having our Glendale boys back for the playoffs.”
Saturday’s match kicks off at 8:30pm Mountain Time, and will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network as Major League Rugby’s game of the week.