Glendale 81 – Denver 7
The Glendale Raptors delivered a badly needed win under the lights of Infinity Park on Saturday. Runners up in their inaugural season of professional rugby, the Raptors have struggled to find their footing in the off-season, falling to the Collegiate All-Americans and Ontario Arrows in exhibition matches. This weekend, the team made plain it has no intention of continuing that trend. With a decisive, even punitive victory over the Denver Barbarians, the Raptors demonstrated that they will not go gentle into that good night.
As fans watched in autumnal temps, the Raptors put on a first half show that was dominated by attack, scoring 41 unanswered points at regular intervals. Though some conversion attempts flew wide of the mark, the team displayed momentum that it’s sorely lacked in prior weeks. Coming out of the break, the Raptors wasted no time in continuing the offensive onslaught, veteran center Ata Malifa dotting down his second try just 44 minutes in. Combined with Harley Davidson’s try four minutes later, as well as two good conversions, the Raptors went ahead 55-0 against the Barbos early in the second half of play. Forwards Coach Ted Browner was at the helm on Saturday, taking over head coaching duties while David Williams travels to Uruguay for the Americas Pacific Challenge with pro Raptors prop Kelepi Fifita and emerging star Mika Kruse. He was pleased with the victory: “It’s good to get a win. There are areas that we’ve been working on, in both attack and defense, and we were happy with what we saw on Saturday.”
A never-say-die attitude is a prerequisite in the sport of rugby, and the Barbarians refused to quit, against all odds. A hard-fought push saw the cross-town team find the try zone in the 60th minute of the match, a successful conversion bringing the score to 55-7. The remainder of the contest would be dominated by the Raptors, however. Captain and veteran prop Luke White muscled his way to the try zone at 64 minutes, and then Raptors winger/fullback Nick Johnson went off, scoring three tries in 14 minutes. Though one conversion attempt was missed, the hat trick put the proverbial nail in the Barbos’ coffin; resulting in an impressive 81-7 Raptors win.
The Raptors next match will be an exhibition against a fellow MLR team, the Utah Warriors. Playing at home, the Raptors will trade their typical home pitch at Infinity Park for the facility’s newly installed and state-of-the-art turf field. Completed in early October, the turf meets the highest standards of World Rugby, and has an impressive list of technological and safety features. The match, kicking off at 5pm Mountain Time, is completely free and open to the public. Asked about this week’s contest, Browner was optimistic: “It will be a big test for us against Utah, but we’ve got a bit of wind back in our sails. We love physical rugby so we love playing against Utah.”