Seawolves Edge Legion, Glendale Bests Utah In Thrilling Double Header
By John Arthur.
Glendale’s Infinity Park was the home of Major League Rugby’s inaugural playoff contest this weekend, hosting a double header that decided professional American rugby’s first championship contenders. A welcome break from the triple-digit temps that plagued Colorado’s Front Range in the preceding days, the opening game kicked off under cloudy skies and breezy, mild temperatures. The overcast conditions proved a portent for the San Diego Legion, who fell to the Seattle Seawolves in the first of two matches at Infinity Park. The Seattle side secured the first berth for MLR’s inaugural championship competition.
As the second match kicked off just after half past seven Mountain Time, the hometown Raptors came out swinging. Number 8 Sam Figg, who has already made a name for himself in Major League Rugby, dotted down just two minutes in. Will Magie’s conversion successful, the Raptors took an early 7-0 lead. As the skies cleared, the Raptors saw two tries called back by the officiating staff – but the top-ranked team didn’t let that hardship disrupt their play.
A Raptors penalty conversion 13 minutes in put Glendale up 10-0. Penalties on both teams kept each out of the try zone in the ensuing minutes, though the Colorado side seemed clearly in control. As Raptors winger/fullback Harley Davidson said in no uncertain terms: “We had a phenomenal first half. That said, we’ve got to play a full 80 if we want to win next week.” Penalties aside, both teams had opportunities that went unrealized in the opening 40 minutes. A defensive battle saw both sides knocking but unable to touch down.
Moving forward with gusto, the Raptors took a Zach Fenoglio line out toss down the field, Davidson finding the try zone at 29 minutes. Pushing on that momentum, team captain Shaun Davies took one in on his own, putting five more Glendale points on the board. The second conversion no good, the Raptors went ahead 22-0. True to their namesake, the Warriors wouldn’t go quietly, however. Dotting down at the 35-minute mark, Utah’s successful conversion drew things closer, leaving the match at 22-7 going into the break.
Out of the half, Glendale’s deep bench proved itself once again, exceptional reserves keeping the blood flowing. Winning a line out 52 minutes in, Glendale pushed to put Zach Fenoglio in a spot to dot down. Rolling over the Utah side, Glendale looked exceptionally strong. Magie’s conversion put the Raptors up 29-7. Moments later, a gorgeous behind the back feed from Davies to Fenoglio resulted in Luke White dotting down in the 66th minute. The attempt not converted, the Raptors lead 34-7.
The Utah side found momentum as the match drew to a close, though the visiting team was ultimately unable to best the league’s top squad. The Warriors won the scrum contest and found the try zone at 68 minutes, the converted attempt bringing things to a closer 34-14 margin. Utah’s Don Pati touched down 74 minutes in; the result of a debatable call, but the successful conversional still proved too little, too late. The hometown Glendale Raptors put things away in the 81st minute to uproarious applause. The Glendale Raptors will take on the Seattle Seawolves in the inaugural Major League Rugby Championship in San Diego July 7. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.