Rain and high intensity rugby.
By Marco Cummings
GLENDALE – The Glendale Raptors men endured both rainy weather and thousands of miles of travel as they faced a relatively unfamiliar opponent in New York-based Mystic River over the weekend. But by the end of the day, outside conditions fell to the periphery as a try in the closing minutes lifted Glendale to a 22-16 victory over the hosts.
“We wanted another solid performance with some high intensity rugby,” said Raptors head coach David Williams. “The weather didn’t help both teams, but both tried to play rugby to our credit.”
Even though the match was a friendly, it marked arguably one of the toughest challenges for Glendale this season, with Mystic River as the holders of a D1 Men’s National Championship earned last summer. But the Raptors kept their roll going, maintaining an undefeated record for matches played in 2017.
“Mystic were always going to be a challenge with their coaching staff and quality players,” Williams explained. “It was great to be able to challenge both teams with good opposition. They have some big physical forwards and then backs with speed and skill that were always going to present a threat.”
With a converted penalty, Mystic River opened the scoring at 3-0. The Raptors stormed back with a try from Maximo de Achaval to take their first lead of the game at 5-3. Another try from Ben Landry doubled the points total at 10-3, but the hosts responded with another penalty to close the gap at 10-6. The team’s exchanged tries before the half to give Glendale a narrow 15-13 lead heading into the break.
“Maximo at full back always adds class and stability,” Williams said of the effort, adding, “Our front row of James Stewart, Zach Fenoglio and Ben Tarr stood out and were dominant in the set piece.”
As the rain continued to gain strength into the second half, the game grew tighter. Mystic River took its second lead of the match, 16-15, with a third converted penalty in the 66th minute. Five minutes later, Glendale roared back as John Quill dotted down a try to make the score 22-16 in favor of the Raptors, which marked the game’s final score.
“When we went through the phases and kept the ball we were successful,” said Williams. “So some more composure and skill execution will be a big area of focus moving forward.”
The Raptors will look to fine tune their efforts as they head into their next match on May 13 against the NorCal Pelicans (a combined team including Life West) in another friendly match at 3 p.m. It will mark a welcome return to Infinity Park for the Raptors men in a full rugby day with the Raptors Women D1 facing NorCal Pelicans at 1 p.m. in the stadium and the Raptors Women Elite facing the Twin City Amazons for a friendly earlier in the day (11 a.m.) on the Turf Field.
“We have to stick to our patterns of play and keep the continued pressure on teams,” said Williams. “But it’s great to be back at Infinity Park for our next match against the NorCal Pelicans and we’re hoping for a big crowd and some exciting rugby.”