Glendale 42 – Utah 15
By John Arthur
The Glendale Raptors traveled to Salt Lake City Friday to take on the Utah Warriors. The Utah team’s first professional exhibition match in Major League Rugby presented tough competition against an organized and well-prepared Glendale squad. The action kicked off as the sun set on a mild, pleasant evening at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The Warriors came out swinging, with a try in the third minute scored by scrumhalf Ben Nichols, following a penalty on Raptor John Quill. Setting the tone for the evening, the Warriors were unable to convert. Glendale brought pressure offensively, capitalizing on Utah penalties and keeping the ball on their side of the field. The Raptors’ patience and experience showed, drawing penalties from the Warriors squad and controlling possession.
As the first half wore on, Utah struggled to control the Raptors’ strong, low scrum force, revealing the Warrior’s lack of playing time together in losses of possession. In the 18th minute, Glendale center Mika Kruse ripped off an exceptional run, breaking tackles on the outside of the field and showing off his explosive play. He touched down a try to tie the game at 5 points apiece. Will Magie successfully converted to give the Raptors a 7-5 lead. The Raptors would hold the reigns for the remainder of the match.
Following a determined effort to keep the ball alive by the entire squad, Glendale again found the try zone in the 24th minute, this time touched down by burly Texas native John Ryberg. Magie’s conversion attempt was successful, putting the Raptors up 14-5. In the closing seconds of the first half, and following another exciting run from Kruse, Raptors scrumhalf Shaun Davies delivered quickly to John Quill, who touched down for 5 more points. Will Magie, three-for-three in the half, again converted. Showing their prowess in the open field, as well as their determination under pressure, the Raptors put up 21 unanswered points. Though the conversion was missed, Warrior Lance Williams was able to find the try zone and add 5 for Utah just before the break. The halftime score was 10-21 in favor of Glendale.
In spite of the scoreboard, asked about the performance in the first forty minutes, Raptors assistant coach Ted Brownerindicated there were improvements to be made: “There was some indiscipline. We made it difficult on ourselves. The Warriors are a good team and they’re only going to get better.” Some bumps and bruises before the break left both teams with holes to fill. Coming out strong in the second half, an offload by John Quill led to a try by Raptors fullback Maximo De Achaval in the 45th minute. Magie’s conversion added another two points, giving Glendale a 28-10 lead.
Glendale’s long experience appeared to wear on the Warriors in the second half, seeming to work against the Utah team’s open, Kiwi-style play. Assistant Coach Browner noted that the Raptors seemed to find their stride after the break: “In the second half we got into our systems and processes,” he said. The Warriors struggled to possess the ball on the offensive side, lacking urgency and succumbing to the Raptors’ clinical play. 23 minutes into the second half, Glendale scrumhalf Shuan Davies faked the Utah line to gain ground, dumping to De Achaval to secure a second try. Will Magie knocked through a fifth conversion, and the Raptors pulled further ahead, 35-10.
The Warriors refused to quit, however, and were able to touch down a try in the 67th minute, scored by Josh Anderson, though were once again unable to convert. The Utah team entered the final ten minutes of play with a 20-point deficit. A high tackle penalty called on Raptor Peter Dahl gave the Warriors a potential advantage in the scrum, but it seemed too little, too late. Will Magie showed his form in the 75th minute, touching down a try of his own. He followed by booting through his sixth conversion of the evening, securing the Raptors a decisive 42-15 victory.
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. For more information, follow the team on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.