By Colton Strickler
The Toronto Arrows got their first taste of a Colorado spring snowstorm on Saturday night during their 22-0 loss to the Glendale Raptors.
If the Arrows (2-3) landed at Denver International Airport on Friday, they got to experience a day in the upper 40s before the snowstorm rolled in. By the time they kicked the ball to the Raptors (2-2-1) a little after 7 p.m. local time on Saturday night, it was 11 degrees outside, and the snow was coming down hard.
“I’ve played in snowy conditions before but nothing like that, no,” Raptors’ captain Luke White said after the match. “We’ve definitely had snow here before, but it’s never sort of continued up and right through the game. It’s always stopped a couple of hours before. Last night was definitely the most snow that I’ve played in. It was actually a lot of fun. I think we really enjoyed it. It was painful at times, but coming away with the win, I think it was exciting.”
“We just didn’t adapt well to the conditions and the environment, to be honest,” Arrows head coach Chis Silverthorn said over the phone on Sunday. “Everyone thinks we are Canadian, but in Canada, rugby is a summer sport. Our guys have never played in snow. Ever.”
For never playing in the snow, the Arrows got some great production out of their forward pack throughout the game. They won all eight of their scrums while Glendale only won four of their six, and forced the Raptors into three infringements while only committing one themselves. Unfortunately for the Arrows, they just didn’t come away with anything to show for it.
“Our scrum was dominant,” Silverthorn said. “I don’t know if we were rewarded as well as we should have been by the referee. We didn’t play as well as we should have, but after about 20 minutes our guys were just frozen up. That was tough.”
Toronto did what they could to get on the board early with a Sam Malcolm penalty goal, but the mixture of the cold and the snow made kicking extremely difficult for both sides.
Glendale capitalized on Malcolm’s missed kick with a try when hooker Chad Gough took a flat pass from fly-half Ata Malifa and barreled down the touchline and into the try zone in the 18th minute. Inside center Robbie Petzer missed the conversion, but the Raptors took a 5-0 lead into the 20-minute hydration break.
As Silverthorn mentioned, it was pretty much all Glendale from that point as the weather got to the Arrows.
“I don’t think you can,” Silverthorn said of whether or not that type of weather is something that can be prepared for. “Listen, Glendale did have a good plan and we didn’t to be honest. They really kept the ball tight and they really hammered the ball through so it was very solid for the most part for them. I don’t want to take anything away from Glendale because they played a lot better of a game than we did.”
“Obviously the weather had a lot to do with it with Toronto flying into a snowstorm and we are used to training outside and in the elements,” White said after the match. “I think we just wanted it more. We were determined to get the win and they almost at times seemed disinterested. I think we wanted it more on the day and we shut them out. I think it was a really good effort from us to do that.”
White finished the day with 101 meters gained and lead the Raptors with nine tackles.
The Raptors used tries from fullback Dylan Taikato-Simpson, wing Harley Davidson and replacement hooker Zach Fenoglio to lock up the four-try bonus point to go along with their shutout victory. That bonus point is something that the Raptors were particularly proud of according to White.
“A shutout in our home opener was huge,” White said. “I don’t think there has been any other shutouts this season from any other teams. We really stamped our authority in that game to get the shutout and then also the bonus point win with four tries. To score four tries like we did in those conditions, I think that’s a real credit to our team to get that job done both defensively and offensively.”
Glendale moved into fourth place in the league table with 15 total points. Toronto fell down to sixth place with 12 points on the season.
After a tough week in Glendale, the Arrows will look to get back on track next weekend against the second place San Diego Legion (4-1) at Torero Stadium. Unfortunately for Toronto, they will have to do so without the help of a handful of players that are either playing for Canada or Uruguay in the Americas Rugby Championship, and several players that are down with injuries.
“We just have to solidify our defense,” Silverthorn said ahead of the game against the Legion. “We really just need to put together our team. It’s the last week of the ARC, so it’s a big week. I think we have about 11 players missing through both Canada and Uruguay and we picked up two big injuries last night. But it’s Canada vs. USA and It’s a big week for the teams in the MLR. It’s kind of the weekend in the ARC for the North American field, but that’s no excuse. We still think we have a pretty good team so we will have to assess everything on Monday and take a team.”
Glendale, on the other hand, will take on the Austin Elite Rugby (0-5) back at Infinity Park on Saturday night.
Tries: Chad Gough, Dylan Taikato-Simpson, Harley Davidson, Zach Fenoglio
Conversions: Robbie Petzer (0/2), Carlo de Nysschen (1/1)
Penalty Goals: N/A
Penalty Goals: Sam Malcolm (0/1)