By Colton Strickler
The Glendale Raptors entered their Week 8 matchup against the Houston SaberCats as Major League Rugby’s only unbeaten team, and by the time the final whistle echoed throughout Infinity Park, the Raptors walked off the pitch with their undefeated record in-tact and their sixth win under their belt.
Friday night’s match turned out to be so much more than just another win under the Raptors’ belt, their 37-24 victory over the SaberCats’ (1-6) propelled the Raptors back into first place while punching their ticket to the MLR Playoffs at the same time.
Glendale didn’t waste much time jumping out in front, and they did it on the back of wing Harley Davidson. In one of the Raptors most important matches of the inaugural MLR season, and one that saw the Raptors play without six key contributors currently on duty with the United States Men’s National Team, Davidson’s three tries were ultimately the difference in the match.
“It doesn’t matter who fills that spot,” Davidson said of Glendale’s depth after the match. “We have a lot of depth. We all practice against each other and we know the standard that we want to uphold. Anyone who fills that spot, they have a standard to uphold period.”
After a game of positioning ping pong, the Raptors got the scoring started when fly-half Maximo de Achaval placed into the corner and over the top of the SaberCats’ wing and into the arms of wing Harley Davidson. With a full head of steam, Davidson took the ball into the corner for the first of three tries he would score on Friday night.
De Achaval followed up his beautiful kick by nailing an equally tough conversion to give the Raptors a 7-0 lead in the 8th minute.
Davidson found his way back into the try zone for his second try of the night just five minutes later. De Achaval wasn’t able to hit the tough kick, but the Raptors jumped out to a 12-0 lead early.
The Raptors made Houston pay for a missed penalty kick a few minutes later when hooker Dylan Fawsitt rumbled in for Glendale’s third try of the match, and the one that put Glendale ahead 17-0 as halftime rapidly approached.
After a Houston try just before the half, Glendale took a 17-7 lead into halftime.
Just like they did in the first half, Glendale jumped back on top of the SaberCats early, and it was none other than Davidson who kicked off the scoring once again. De Achaval’s conversion gave Glendale a 24-7 lead, and the Glendale hit the gas.
According to Davidson, the attention to the small things in the second half ultimately made the difference.
“Doing the little things right.” Davidson said after the match. “Holding the standard. I don’t think we quite played to the standard that we wanted, but we just flushed it, kept trying to work and I was really happy with that.”
The Raptors kept the pedal to the floor, receiving a try and two more kicks from de Achaval. Houston was able to punch the ball in for three more tries of their own in the second half, but Glendale escaped with the 37-24 victory.
The Raptors face their largest test of the season next Saturday as they will take on the second-place Seattle Seawolves at 7 PM in what could likely be a preview of the MLR Championship that will take place on July 7.
According to Davidson, all the Raptors have to do is clean up some small mistakes and they will be in good shape heading into next week.
“I think we have to clean up a lot of our rugby,” Davidson said. “A lot of dropped balls today and little mistakes but we will refine those in training and get back at it.”