The Glendale Raptors showed promising pre-season form on Saturday, defeating New Orleans Gold in convincing fashion. Under cloudy skies and cool, blustery conditions, the Raptors looked impressive in their first exhibition match as a professional team. After NOLA was unable to convert an early penalty attempt, long stretches of the match proved a defensive war of attrition.
Glendale made the first offensive strike in the 19th minute, a tricky reverse of field by center Bryce Campbell resulting in a try and conversion, giving the Raptors a 7-0 lead. The Raptors offense then found its stride, capitalizing on NOLA penalties. Hooker Zach Fenoglio scored in the 24th minute but was unable to convert, and winger/fullback Harley Davidson scored and converted 12 minutes later, giving Glendale a commanding 19-point lead. New Orleans was able to put points on the board just before the half, scoring and converting in the 39th minute.
With the wind picking up and temperatures dropping, the Raptors came out strong after the break. Davidson scored again in the 42nd minute, giving the Raptors a 26-7 lead after the conversion. Glendale penalties gave NOLA good position, but the Raptors defense maintained its strength and composure. A try by center Ata Malifa in the 59th minute put 5 more points on the board for the Raptors, the conversion attempt bouncing off the goalpost.
The defensive battle raging on, New Orleans was able to score and convert a try in the 72nd minute, though Glendale’s victory was imminent. Breaking tackles on an incredible run, Glendale wing Mika Kruse scored a try that was converted in the final minute to put an exclamation point on an exceptional day of Raptors rugby. Presented by O’Brien Rugby, Harley Davidson was named Raptor of the Match, an acknowledgement of the points he put on the board and for gutsy, adept defensive play.
A taste of what’s to come, this exhibition match promises that Major League Rugby will be something to behold. The Raptors first home game is April 21 at Infinity Park, where the team will host Austin Elite Rugby at 3pm Mountain Time. Season and single game tickets are on sale now.